Jun 14 2011

Google Searches: June 1 – June 14

Published by at 2:24 am under Uncategorized

Can you use real guns if you’re writing a book? I’m not a lawyer, but I would intuit that this is acceptable–novels and comic books can legally use brand names except in a defamatory fashion.  I can’t think of any reason guns would be different. However, I wonder if implying that criminals favor a particular type of gun may be defamatory. The Kalashnikov Concern has rights, too! 🙂


Comic book publishers that accept writing only submissions – The only one that’s coming to me right now is Dark Horse.  Pretty much everybody else that accepts unsolicited manuscripts expects illustrated sample pages alongside the script.


how to right a sperhero story – Don’t quit your day job.


Worst election slogan: “Vote for B. Mac: He puts the man in manuscript.”  I also put the man in The Taxman Must Die, although the (tax)man in question gets beaten up at various points by a hogtied alligator, a Nobel laureate that isn’t Henry Kissinger, a Nobel laureate that is, a training robot mischievously set to “Matrix” mode, a C-SPAN cameraman (by accident), a Baltimore cab-driver (on purpose), a Norwegian crime lord, a Domino’s delivery boy working for Mossad* and a Marine armed with a paintbrush.  *Mossad thought through every part of its Domino’s Pizza front operation besides plausibility.  Have you ever heard of someone actually ordering Domino’s?  “Get the door, it’s Mossad.”


Which day jobs are best for writers? A lot of companies have communications positions, like copywriting/marketing and the like.  The publishing industry is not doing tremendously well right now, but you might be able to find an opening in editing, sales, marketing or another field.  Likewise, try literary agencies.  Alternately, you can teach (up to high school) English with a bachelor’s degree.  If my background check clears on time, I’m teaching high school English abroad this year.

Can a novel have two protagonists? Yes. It’s okay to rotate between multiple point-of-view characters.


Why does fanfiction suck so much? I don’t think it’s because the people writing (or trying to write) professional fiction are that much better than FF authors.  The worst professional submissions are probably almost as bad as the worst FF out there.  The main difference is that the worst professional submissions never get published, so the public never sees them—a story has to have something going on to win over a professional publisher*.  In contrast, there’s no filter, so the pool of fan-fiction includes the legendarily awful stories a professional publisher would never publish. Then there’s the economic motive.  The best authors can sell their writing for money, so they have a financial disincentive to spend their time writing stories they can’t sell (e.g. fan-fiction).


*I’m sure you can come up with at least one example of a really bad book that got published—Twilight, Eragon, etc.  Fair.  However, even the worst professionally-published books are dramatically less awful than the bottom half of the slush pile.


Why doesn’t fan-fiction get as much respect as original fiction?

  1. As with a professional publisher’s pile of submissions, most are very bad. The few stories that are actually good are much harder to find if they’re hidden in a pile of awfulness.  But professional publishers keep the bottom 99% of their submissions from seeing the light of day and the ones that survive tend to be significantly better.  I briefly browsed through fanfiction.net and I think it could do a much better job helping readers find good stories.  For example, some other sites use pageviews and voting systems to make it easier for readers to avoid the worst stories.   Those are crude measures of quality, but they’re better than nothing.
  2. Original authors build stories from the ground up, whereas fan-fiction tends to appropriate premises, characters and settings that other authors have already created.
  3. I think people tend to perceive free things as having less value.  (Even free writing advice, sadly 😉 ).
  4. For better or worse, I don’t think most people would give a hobbyist as much respect as they do a professional (or even a prospective professional).  Consider the connotations of the word “amateur” (which usually implies incompetence) vs. “professional.”
  5. I would guess that FF authors tend to be less experienced and polished.  If you’re good enough to get published professionally, what’s your incentive to write stories that you can’t get published?  (This ties into #3: Writing for free often creates the impression that you are not professional-grade, even if you actually are).
  6. I think there’s something of a gender divide here.  Most fan-fiction authors are ladies.  (One 1970s survey found that 90% of Star Trek fan-fiction was written by ladies, even though ST’s fanbase is probably heavily male to begin with). I think a lot of guys don’t get the point of FF.  Speaking as someone that puts the man in manuscript myself, I’d encourage any talented author to focus on stories that could be sold, or to start working for the company so that you eventually write for the series in question.  But that’s just my personal view–if you’re only in it for a hobby and sharing stories with like-minded fans, potential earnings and prestige probably don’t matter to you at all.  🙂
  7. Some people think that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, whereas others think of fan-fiction as misappropriation of another writer’s labor.  Both are justifiable philosophical stances, but if you were inclined to agree with the second view, you would probably never respect fan-fiction.*   In contrast, I don’t think original fiction has to wrestle with that sort of philosophical opposition.

*This is probably overgeneralizing somewhat.  Personally, I generally feel uncomfortable about writers appropriating other people’s characters, but I am completely impressed by Hobbes and Bacon, a Calvin and Hobbes fan-fiction that really captures the spark of the original.


What if my first novel sucks? If you’ve spent months and months rewriting it and are convinced it’s going nowhere, I’d recommend writing another.  According to a survey by Tobias Buckell, only 35% of published novelists broke in with their first novel.


How many words should be on a comic page? I think it depends on the style of comic you’re writing, but 0-100 strikes me as pretty standard.  However, I think exceptions are occasionally appropriate.  For example, I think this page of Watchmen handles 200 pretty well.  I think it helps that the visuals are simple enough that they don’t require very much space.


Why did Darwin [SPOILER] have to die in X-Men First Class? I think the writers wanted to kill off a protagonist to make the villain seem more nasty.  Darwin was the easiest to kill off. 

  • Beast, Xavier, Magneto and Moira show up in the later movies.
  • Havok couldn’t have fathered Cyclops by this point.  (Otherwise, Cyclops would be pushing 50 in the later movies).
  • If you had to kill one of the protagonists, Banshee is probably the most plausible alternative to Darwin.  However, his (really young) daughter makes a cameo in X-Men 2.

PS: Given Darwin’s powers, he may come back later.  “Hey, I’d like to see you adapt to that any faster than I did!”  Note that they didn’t actually bury him.  (Admittedly, that might just be because they didn’t want to spend 1-2 minutes on a minor character’s funeral).


superheronation.org – hey, SN is for-profit!  (Theoretically).


How long does it take to get a novel published? In a survey by Jim Hines, the typical published novelist took ~10 years to get published.


Submitting comics to Marvel. Marvel and DC Comics don’t accept unsolicited scripts.  Don’t call them, they’ll call you.  (Basically, get published somewhere else and make a name for yourself.  Alternately, get a job in some other department there and then move laterally).


How to keep writing even when you think it sucks – The first draft always sucks.  I find Tiffany Reisz’s analogy helpful here: “I don’t view my first completed draft as my book any more than I view a bunch of ingredients as a meal. The first draft is just the groceries still sitting on the counter. But at least I’ve got the stuff to make the meal now. Once I have a first draft, THEN I start cooking. Cooking is the hard part… I don’t stress about the first draft, just throwing it down, any more than I stress about buying groceries. I might stress over the cooking, but not buying the ingredients.”


“he had cp” fiction romance—Oh God, no. (Also, would an author writing about a character with cerebral palsy use the phrase “He had CP”? It’s a pretty awkward phrase to introduce that sort of characteristic).

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Google Searches: June 1 – June 14”

  1. Contra Gloveon 14 Jun 2011 at 3:57 am

    I’m teaching high school English abroad this year.

    Very good! I’m sure you’ll have quite a bizarre experience, like the guy who wrote Gaijin Smash (read from the bottom up.)

    Anyway, if you don’t mind my asking:

    1) Which country?
    2) Will you still be able to manage the site?

  2. B. Macon 14 Jun 2011 at 12:41 pm

    1) South Korea, probably Chungbuk or Gyeongnam (relatively rural, rugged provinces). Possibly Jeju (a tourism/gambling island).

    2) I’ll still be managing the website, but my volunteer schedule will be affected. I will probably be able to do 5-10 hours per week. That’s less time for more people. In 2010, I had ~8000 visitors from May 14 – June 14, about 250 unique people a day. This year, over the same ~30 days, I’ve had about 22,000 visitors. That’s about 725 unique visitors per day, almost three times as much traffic.

    Requests are also up considerably, and I don’t think I can handle them all on a reduced schedule. I was trying to stave this off as long as possible, but I’ll probably have to manage new requests with a triage system. If I don’t have time for everyone, I think it’d be fairest to spend the most time on new requests that are competent and professional. Some red flags that will make me much more likely to ignore a request:

    –The writer has too many typos. I can easily handle 0-3 typos per 300 words. If you have much more than that, my advice is probably going to be limited to something like: “Here are 10+ types of typos I found in the 10 pages I read. Could you please proofread this again and send me a revised version?”
    –The writer doesn’t seem to have even a basic idea of what’s going on with his story. Keep me on your page. (For example, it annoys me when an author repeatedly refers to his work as just “a story” without ever mentioning whether it’s a comic book or a novel–I hate to guess about something that important. But it’d be perfectly fine to ask something like “I’m not sure whether to write this as a comic book or novel. Could you offer some advice about which would fit this story better?”).
    –The writer improperly shares personal information. I don’t want to know anybody’s age/sex/location, sorry.
    –The writer admits to being inspired by Dragonball Z. Not to pick on DBZ fans too much, but if you think it’s a paragon of strong writing, you and I probably wouldn’t enjoy working together very much.

    PS: I am not at all confident that my background check will finish in time. The agency in question does not yet have any record of receiving the form I mailed off four weeks ago. I sent another to be safe, but now I’m cutting it pretty close on time.

  3. Contra Gloveon 14 Jun 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Makes sense. You do seem to get swamped with a lot of requests. Also, I figured it was an Asian country you were going to.

    I am not at all confident that my background check will finish in time.

    Sorry to hear that. I hope everything turns out well for you, though. 🙂

  4. B. Macon 14 Jun 2011 at 2:12 pm

    “You do seem to get swamped with a lot of requests.” ~10-15 a week, I’d guesstimate. I think I can handle that many on my current schedule, although I’ve been letting more people slip through the cracks from one week to the next. I don’t know how elite online editors deal with a much larger pool of requests. (I think they only respond to a small fraction of their requests–I don’t know how else they could find the time for it on top of full-time editing jobs).

    “Also, I figured it was an Asian country you were going to.” Good guess! They’re looking for English-language teachers for an English-immersion program… The less Korean we know, the better, so I’m perfect. 😉

  5. Mynaon 14 Jun 2011 at 4:42 pm

    You have a Domino’s Pizza Boy working for the MOSSAD?
    That is unbelievably epic… I now know where to get my pizza…

  6. B. Macon 14 Jun 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Mossad knows pretty much everything there is to know about espionage and counterintelligence. It has a LONG way to go in terms of making pizzas, though. (People won’t eat a poisoned pizza if it looks poisonous).

    PS: If you’re running a pizza delivery in the slums, I’d highly recommend arming your pizza boys with Uzis and garrote wires. It’d be crazy to go unarmed while packing $20+ in change and several pizzas. Especially if your uniform and car identify you as someone that will have $20+ in change and several pizzas in your car.

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