Nov 06 2010

Mail call (the top reason manuscripts get rejected, classes for fiction writers, superhero Cthulhu, etc)

Published by at 7:26 pm under Writing Articles

Here are some questions and Google queries I’ve gotten this week.

–I’ve gotten rejected by every literary agent. If we’re talking about fewer than 20 rejections, I’d recommend that you keep trying.  If you’ve tried 20 times and haven’t heard back anything after a few months, I’d recommend checking out websites like Query Shark and Evil Editor (which evaluate proposals/queries) or a writing group like Critters or a review forum here.  That can help you determine whether you need to rewrite the query, overhaul the story, or both.

–(This one’s a Google search that’s apparently a synopsis excerpt).  Ultimately, I am a superhero out to save the city from criminals. With every kill, the world gets better. There are still many people out there.  Little do they know I am right there waiting for them, and they will rememb… This story does not strike me as promising. I think giving this protagonist more moral depth and/or empathy would probably make him more likable and interesting.

What’s the number one reason manuscripts are rejected? I’d say spelling/punctuation/grammar. For authors that clear that hurdle, I think it’s that the main characters and/or plot are not that interesting. For example, check out the previous paragraph. If you were an editor with 100 revenge stories on your desk, do you think there’s any chance that would be the best one?

How to humiliate a superhero. “That’s the third time this month you’ve gotten your ass kicked by the Sentry, the Golden Guardian of Suck! What next, Squirrel Girl?”

Will publishers reject you for typos? I think a query with more than 1-2 typos is dead on arrival.  Editors might be able to look past something minor, like mixing up “hoard” and “horde.”   In contrast, mixing up common words like “you’re” and “your” or “its” and “it’s” suggests that the author doesn’t yet have basic writing craft down.  Publishers want works that can succeed with a minimal amount of manpower.


Target audiences for animated superhero shows. In most cases, I think the audience for superhero cartoons would be mainly boys 8-13, much younger than the men aged 18-30 that are the main audience for most superhero comic books. Giving the show primary female characters and maybe romantic themes may help shift the audience more towards girls (as in Sailor Moon). Plot depth, characterization and humor can help bring in older viewers (a la Justice League).

How to be successful at creating comic books when you’re 12. Keep practicing.  It usually takes time to get good.  Besides the quality/practice issue, I’d recommend submitting one-shots (standalone stories) rather than series.  Publishers are more receptive to one-shots than series because a one-shot limits the publisher’s financial exposure in case the author isn’t professional or punctual enough.

What courses will help me write comic books? Mainly, I’d recommend…

1. Creative writing courses.
2. Classes that teach a job skill.  Most writers don’t start full-time right out of college, so a job skill like a foreign language or technical abilities will help keep you from starving and/or drowning in student debt.
3. An introductory drawing class? It’ll help you keep your scripts artistically doable. Otherwise, your script might need rewrites if it asks for something impossible, like a small panel that zooms in on a face and shows the character’s shoes or another far-away detail.
4. I would recommend reading as many 20th/21st century comic books and novels as possible, but I don’t think that literature classes are terribly useful.

How can I write a story about Cthulhu as a superhero? You’ll need a better disguise for his secret identity than glasses.  😉

How to write a newspaper article about a superhero. I assume we’re talking about using a newspaper in a fictional story.  I think that the distinguishing feature of news articles is that they try to sound nonjudgmental.  For example, generally a news reporter won’t directly attribute characteristics to people–for example, if the superhero is controversial at all, calling him a “superhero” would be editorializing.  Another example:  newspapers would almost never  say directly that someone was incompetent, but might quote other people complaining about how incompetent he is.  (Newspapers frequently take the pretense of objectivity/nonjudgment to extreme lengths–most major US newspapers shy away from terms like “terrorism” or “terrorist” because they think they’re too emotionally loaded).  Another characteristic is that news articles tend to avoid using the reporter’s speculation or opinions.  It’s better for journalists to quote an expert for speculation/analysis than to offer it themselves.

How to design a superhero costume that really works. A billion dollar research budget helps. This is why Bruce Wayne was able to become a superhero, but not you.

–Serial killer geckos. Geckos have many nefarious habits, such as marketing insurance and hawking overpriced vitamin water and endorsing greed, but a murder spree would be a first. Unless… they’re just really good at hiding it?

What is the character trait of someone who can’t get along with other people? Probably disagreeability or combativeness, but pretty much any flaw could create conflict with other characters. For example, an incompetent or lazy teammate, a smart-aleck student, a protagonist too confident in his own skills, etc. Even a lot of assets taken to the extreme can create social conflict, like a person being so smart that it’s impossible to understand him or so compassionate that he comes off as intrusive or pushy.

What’s the age group for an alligator novel? Are we talking about a cute kid’s book like Lyle Lyle Crocodile or something like Dial M for Mangling?

Cool superhero names for the legislative branch. Oh dear God. Now I’ll have “Fili-Busters” stuck in my head all day.  (Main superpower: invulnerability to reality).

10 responses so far

10 Responses to “Mail call (the top reason manuscripts get rejected, classes for fiction writers, superhero Cthulhu, etc)”

  1. Sean Higginson 07 Nov 2010 at 2:48 pm

    “–How to design a superhero costume that really works. A billion dollar research budget helps. This is why Bruce Wayne was able to become a superhero, but not you.”

    But yet, at some point he decided his costume needed nipples. Apparently billions of dollars and an amazingly high I.Q. can even make a leather body suit lactate.

  2. B. Macon 07 Nov 2010 at 3:07 pm

    The less I think about Batman & Robin, the better. 😉 I vaguely remember hearing a wild-eyed rumor that Alicia Silverstone (Batgirl) snapped to somebody on set, “Who do I have to f*** to get off of this film?”

  3. Sean Higginson 07 Nov 2010 at 3:16 pm

    That’s hilarious! I remember hearing post release that she refused to do a sequel because wearing the costume was too hot (temperature). I’m not upset that they will not include Batgirl in the new series, as I don’t believe the character really works in a movie setting. However I am upset that Gordon doesn’t have a daughter. That piece of continuity would be nice to see.

  4. Sean Higginson 07 Nov 2010 at 3:19 pm

    I am upset that Robin will never appear in one of the new movies. I think in a well written script, the character can appear in one movie and then move on. But then, inevitably someone would decide: “We need to do a Nightwing movie.”

  5. Lighting Manon 07 Nov 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Gordon does have a daughter in The Nolan series, or at least The Dark Knight, it’s just that his younger son appeared in both films (with a relatively notable speaking role in The Dark Knight) so he’s been made more memorable, while his daughter was simply a quiet damsel in distress as she was kidnapped by Two-Face. I think the Nolan series suffers a great deal from how quickly Christian Bale is aging, the casting from Rachel Dawes on down to Gordon implies that he is still supposed to be in his late-late twenties to early thirties, but Christian Bale is aging very quickly, even though he is only a few years beyond his early thirties, the age range we’re supposed to understand isn’t really evident.

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3060152/

    I think this is Batman: Year Three essentially, and it is setting the groundwork for Batman: Year Ten, when he stops being able to maintain Gotham by himself, or foresees a future in which he can’t, and starts creating his legacy. I think that’s the primary reason why we’ll never see a Nolan-verse Robin, because the film series won’t last long enough for Batman to hit the middle of the road, so I’m not really all that upset about it.

    However, I think that a good adaptation of Robin would be practically impossible with live action, an adult Robin is inherently off-putting, kind of creepy (Chris O’Donnell) and any reason for them to team up into the real Dynamic Duo would just be too coincidental, or forced. It might be possible with a female Robin, like a Stephanie Brown but the backlash would be too harsh to attempt it. A child / younger Robin would be even worse, as physically, an actor that could both be believably capable of taking down grown men wouldn’t be a good actor, and wouldn’t be built enough like a child for the effect to really work, No actor is nimble enough to pull off the kind of bear and cat ensemble fighting that Robin and Batman always emphasize together.

    Plus, Batman ought not to team up with short-shorts, that’s for werewolves that oddly keep them in their secret wolf-form pockets.

  6. B. Macon 07 Nov 2010 at 4:58 pm

    “an actor that could both be believably capable of taking down grown men wouldn’t be a good actor.” I agree that’s probably correct. The lead “actor” in Last Airbender was a pretty serious martial artist but absolutely horrible at everything else. However, the supporting actress in Kickass (Hit Girl) struck me as talented at both acting and violence of the most awesomely senseless variety.



    I assume they wouldn’t work in a female Robin mainly for cultural/emotional reasons. As the sane police officer in Kickass notes, turning a girl into a psycho vigilante is even worse than becoming one yourself.

  7. Contra Gloveon 10 Jan 2011 at 6:41 pm

    B. Mac, I have a couple of story ideas. Both have female protagonists; however, one is aimed at boys. Is a female protagonist a minus when writing a story aimed at males? I have a sneaking suspicion that it is.

    Any help would be appreciated.

  8. B. Macon 10 Jan 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Maybe a minus, but I don’t think that a female character will necessarily convince editors that it won’t work for male readers. If the character does things that male readers like reading about, I don’t think it’ll be a problem.

    Personally, I found it very easy to relate to Clarence Starling, the protagonist of Silence of the Lambs. Hunger Games also sold several hundred million dollars worth of tickets to men.

  9. Contra Gloveon 11 Jan 2011 at 6:38 am

    I see. Thanks for the answer!

  10. Anonymouson 06 Sep 2014 at 6:00 am

    the geckos man, they killed my family

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