Archive for July 18th, 2011

Jul 18 2011

Rapid City interviewed me…

Published by under Interview,Navel-Gazing

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.

I talked a little bit about my writing advice, amusing personal tidbits and The Taxman Must Die with the author of Rapid City, a superhero comic blog.  Among other dark secrets, you will learn which one of the following is not true:

  1. I once worked for the least badass police agency in the world.
  2. I was probably the beneficiary of my high school’s senior prank.   Either that, or everybody in my high school was ****ing blind.
  3. It’s harder for me to deal with comments like “This is really good–when’s it coming out?” than “This is awful–go die in a fire.”
  4. I think the most common problem with superhero scripts is that most authors don’t spend enough enough time developing interesting superpowers.
(#4, by the way).

22 responses so far

Jul 18 2011

How to Write a Prologue Which Won’t Torpedo Your Manuscript

1. Please don’t just write an infodump of background setup.  If your prologue reads like an atlas entry or history report, you’d probably be better off just cutting to chapter 1 and weaving the background information into the story itself.  Readers will have an easier time learning background information (and will be more motivated to do so) if they see how it relates to the main characters doing interesting things.

 

2. Please make sure the information is interesting.  For example, please don’t start with a prologue about how the worlds were created and/or epic wars that happened thousands of years ago without really making the information distinct and/or fresh. Faceless Evil Hordes getting (temporarily) thwarted by Faceless Good Armies with Elven Allies?  Probably not so interesting.  Unless there’s something so unique to this history that it really sets the tone for the work, I’d recommend just cutting to the story or somehow making it more lively.  For example, if the universe was created by gods on a drunken dare, that will probably intrigue readers more than hundreds of words about how the evil gods created the orcs and how the good gods created the elves.

 

3. Keep the main character(s) as involved as possible.  In almost every case, the main character is a better hook into the story than the setting/backstory.  To the extent that the backstory/setting is a hook, you can cover that in the backcover blurb (“In a city where even the pizza boys have superpowers and the Canadian Mafia sells cocaine-laced mayonnaise on every corner, a schizophrenic bartender and his possibly-sentient goldfish must…”). In your story, please show interesting characters doing interesting things (e.g. trying to accomplish urgent goals) as quickly as possible. If main goals are not immediately available, you can use intermediate goals–for example, before Luke Skywalker fights against the Empire, he fights with his uncle about becoming a pilot, which develops his personality and his urgent goal to pursue adventure. If the main character(s) is not present in your prologue, I would highly recommend keeping the prologue as short as possible or eliminating it.  

 

4. If the prologue functions as a chapter, I’d recommend making it Chapter One.  Mark Evans suggests that some readers are so put off by prologues that they just skip past them entirely.  A commenter below adds that readers might skip over prologues because “if the information was actually important, then it would be included in the main book itself.” I don’t know how common that is, but personally I am so used to prologues being boring that I’m filled with dread, ennui, and an intense desire to flee to Somalia whenever I see one. I have read only 1-2 prologues which have actually contributed to the work.

26 responses so far

Jul 18 2011

Why Do Good Novel Manuscripts Get Rejected?

1. It was good, but not good enough.  At major publishers, publisher’s assistants reject ~995 out of every 1000 unsolicited submissions and pass on the remaining 5 to their bosses for further consideration.  Of those five, maybe 1-3 will be offered contracts.  If you had to reject 995 out of 1000 prospective works, you’d almost certainly have to eliminate many good manuscripts and some very good ones in favor of great and/or highly-marketable manuscripts.  Publishers don’t have enough money to publish all (or even most) of their good submissions.

 

2. It didn’t make enough of an impact on readers.  Publishing is a high-risk industry.  You need to convince publishing professionals to put themselves on the line for you.  An editor that was truly impressed is much more likely to speak up on your behalf than one that felt it was merely pretty good.  Write a book so good that editors would regret letting it slip away to another publisher.

 

3. It’s not what the publisher is looking for right now.  For example, editors might pass on an otherwise publishable work if it’s too similar to something they’ve recently published.

 

4. There were elements that worked, but it’d need more rewriting before it was ready.  Depending on how well the strong elements worked, you might garner a revise-and-resubmit letter here.  “The characterization was really strong, but I found the plot hard to follow for reasons X and Y.  Could you work on that and send it back to me?”  Besides a publishing offer, a revise-and-resubmit letter is the clearest sign you’re deep along the path to publication.  Alternately, any sort of personalized rejection letter (even one that doesn’t ask you to resubmit) is somewhat encouraging.  There’s not enough time to write thousands of personalized rejection letters, so editors will only put in that extra time if they think something is working.  (Unless it’s “Plagiarizing my book and submitting it to my publisher is not the soundest career move”).

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