Archive for October, 2010

Oct 31 2010

This week’s reader questions (finding an agent, editorial jobs, copyright, etc)

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

Here are some questions and Google queries I got this week.

“Why are there no good superhero novels?I disagree with this premise–I’d recommend checking out Wild Cards, Dark Cloud Rising and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.  However, let’s say for the sake of argument that there aren’t many good ones.  I think that’s because superhero novels are very rare.  Probably fewer than 50 unlicensed adult superhero novels have been published over the past ten years.  With so few books on the market, there couldn’t be tons of  good ones.  PS: Besides presidential memoirs, I doubt that any subgenres have a higher proportion of Pulitzer winners than superhero novels.

Action novels–not enough story. Even an action story needs a central plot and character development.  And not “development” in the Dragonball Z sense, charting how much more powerful a character becomes from one chapter to the next. How does the protagonist’s quest change him? What sort of difficult choices does he face?

How to copyright a comic book. Your comic book is automatically copyrighted as soon as you write it. You’re fine.
How to copyright a superhero. Likewise.

Is “superhero” a genre? Not any more than “vampire,” I think.  To be considered a genre, I think that a concept has to say a lot about the main goal of the author and/or main character.  For example, detective stories are always about solving mysteries and romances are always about finding and/or protecting love.  I’ve seen too many superhero stories that have nothing to do with beating up criminals to think that “superhero” meets that description.  I would consider “superhero” to be a subgenre, usually of the action genre.  Another indicator that “superhero” is not a genre is that bookstores rarely, if ever, designate a shelf (or online search category) for superhero stories.  Genres usually get their own shelves.

How to tell if your superhero story sucks. Well, we’re too polite to put it like that, but having your story critiqued on  a review forum on Superhero Nation or Critters can identify potential problems and solutions.

Unused superhero names. Heh, good luck with that.  If you want original names, you probably need to come up with your own or brainstorm privately with a friend. If you use a name posted on the Web, you’re running the risk that someone else might have used it.

How to write a superhero story like [a particular series]. You are capable of better writing than glorified fan-fiction. If not, I would recommend looking into other career paths.

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9 responses so far

Oct 25 2010

Reference question: stories about job changes

Published by under Writing Articles

What are some interesting books or movies where a character struggles to adjust to a new job?  (Any genre).  Thanks, I appreciate your suggestions.

9 responses so far

Oct 25 2010

Pet Peeve: “This story has been copyrighted…”

I would highly recommend against including a copyright notice when you submit a story to a publisher or review group.

1.  It’s totally unnecessary. “Copyright notices have never been required on unpublished works.”  Also, stories are automatically covered by copyright as soon as they are written, so we already know it’s protected.

2. It suggests the author is somewhat paranoid. If your ideas/manuscript impressed a publisher enough that the publisher would actually want to use them, it’d be much easier and more professional to hire you than to give the ideas to someone else.

3. It indicates the author holds the reader/publisher in low regard. If you are so uneasy about the professionalism of a publisher or a review group that you feel the need to tell them it’s illegal to steal your ideas, don’t submit there!

No responses yet

Oct 24 2010

Writing exercise: Selling to an unreceptive buyer

Published by under Writing Exercises

Try writing a scene with a character trying to sell something to a buyer that doesn’t actually need the product.  For example, how would you convince the Swiss government it really needs the latest in doomsday technology?  (Sell it as a high-energy particle physics lab, of course).

3 responses so far

Oct 21 2010

How Rowling organized one of the Harry Potter books

Published by under Eccentric Tangent

One of the things that strikes me about her organizational scheme is that she kept track of the month of each event, information that’s was rarely referred to in-story but is very important to maintaining coherence.  If you’re not sure which month you’re depicting when you’re writing a scene, even the weather becomes a potential continuity hazard.  She and her editors were freakishly good at keeping everything logically consistent.  (The closest thing to a continuity error I found in the HP series was a student showing up at Hogwarts the year after she should have graduated, and some religious texts have pages with more continuity errors than that).

34 responses so far

Oct 19 2010

Genres, Queries and Superhero Stories

Published by under Writing Articles

The Great Geek Manual linked to a potentially helpful Writer’s Digest article about how to identify your genre and deal with ambiguous situations. In summary:

  • Identifying a genre in your query can help show the editor what sort of audience you’re aiming at and what sort of  “experience” you’re offering to them.  (My addition: identifying too many genres suggests that the author isn’t really clear why people would want to read the book).
  • Sometimes the genre isn’t 100% clear.  For example, Spiderman could be action, science-fiction or maybe romance, and Batman could be action, detective/crime, maybe horror and maybe science-fiction.  Pick a main genre.  For example, in most Spiderman stories, there’s romance and some scientific shenanigans on the side, but the main plot is usually violently stopping a villain.  In such cases, the main genre is probably action.

Some more suggestions from me…

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5 responses so far

Oct 14 2010

Update: If you haven’t received a response yet, please remind me

Published by under Uncategorized

I’ve responded to all of the e-mails and comments in my in-box.  So, if you e-mailed me at superheronation-at-gmail-dot-com or left a comment and are still waiting on a response, please resubmit.  In other news, midterms went pretty well, except for an English class in which I had to illustrate several characters in Their Eyes Were Watching God. I now have even more respect for artists that are actually good.  (When I get the assignment back, I’ll upload it, but I’m almost as bad as the average 10 year old SheezyArt user).

19 responses so far

Oct 10 2010

TemptedAdam’s Review Forum

Published by under Writing Articles

See the comments below.  Thanks!

No responses yet

Oct 09 2010

Does your story include serious violence? Check out this profile of life in a trauma ward

When a patient gets stabbed or shot, they’re usually sent to a trauma ward.  So I think this article in The Detroit News might be useful to you if you’re writing a story where a character gets violently injured.  (Ahem–such situations are not exactly uncommon in superhero stories).

“Feeling is believing,” [the head trauma surgeon] tells a glassy-eyed intern as he fishes around in a knife wound in the back of a man’s knee, trying to augur whether its damage to the vein or the artery.  Watching [the doctor] operate shatters the illusions of TV medicine….

For [one thing], when he operates it is not the stuff of daintiness accompanied by the subdued pings of the EKG machine. He is often elbows deep inside the victim’s cavity, tugging and rooting around as if he’s lost a set of keys. And then there is his bedside manner, which is not so much sympathetic clucking, but rather a combination of pugilism and cold-water truth that has an odd but soothing effect on the patient….

And in the pursuit of saving lives, [the doctor] has donated his life. At 46, he has consistently worked 100 hours per week for more than two decades, which would make him 70 years old in working years. He plays no golf, reads no novels, has few friends and spends more time at the hospital than with his wife and three children.

2 responses so far

Oct 08 2010

Dr. Malady’s Review Forum

Published by under Review Forums

Hello.  I’m working on “Scraps” (name subject to change).  Please see the comments below for more.

14 responses so far

Oct 04 2010

Does paid advertising work for small-time novelists?

Published by under Marketing,Online Novel

Probably not.

A professionally-published novelist usually makes only $1 in royalties per paperback sale.  Typically, I’d guess that a well-tailored cost-per-click Adwords campaign could get the costs per incoming reader to somewhere between $.05-.20.

If you’re selling a single book, you almost certainly can’t break even with ads*. If you spend $20 on cost-per-click advertising, you have something somewhere between 100-400 prospective customers and need to get 20 sales to break even.  That almost certainly will not happen.  If your material is good, I think you’d probably convert 1-3% of your readers into buyers.  So attracting 400 readers would probably generate between 1-12 customers.  You probably couldn’t break even with that.

However, there are several situations that might shift the numbers in your favor.

Continue Reading »

2 responses so far