Archive for the 'The Author-Audience Connection' Category

Jun 14 2011

Contact Guidelines

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.

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7 responses so far

Oct 31 2010

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

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

Jun 14 2010

Would you like to suggest a writing article?

If you’d like to suggest any, I’d appreciate that. Here are some of the questions we’ve previously answered.

71 responses so far

Mar 29 2010

Some brief responses to Google queries from yesterday

  • How to request a review forum at Superhero Nation. Leave a comment anywhere.
  • Is Batman overpowered? Overawesome, certainly.
  • How long does a manuscript have to be? 80,000-100,000 words is pretty typical for an adult novel manuscript.  For more details, please see this.
  • Great presents for writers. Step 1: Cut a hole in a box…
  • Is Book Antiqua a good font for books? Personally, I feel it’s harder to read than comparable fonts.  BA letters are taller, so you will be hard-pressed to fit as much space between each line.  See this sample for more details.
  • Comic book villain who controls water that is a guy.  Hydro-Man?
  • kill a couple cops.”  Umm, what?
  • Killer squirrels. This?
  • Why are so many superhero stories set in cities? Because superheroes need lots of people to save, and cities have more violent crimes that threaten lots of people.  Most superhero stories have the heroes encounter crime whenever they go out on patrol, and that’s more believable in New York than New Hampshire.  Also, cityscapes tend to look cooler than small towns.
  • I am on fire and need writing advice. I’d recommend dealing with the on fire thing first.

9 responses so far

Jan 22 2010

Sign up for my comic book’s mailing list and win a prize!

If you’d like to get on the mailing list, I’d really appreciate that! It’s free to sign up and I’ll send you an e-mail reminder to buy the book whenever it comes out.

Also, there’s a prize! One lucky person on the list will receive a free signed copy.

Thanks for your help. Signing up will help me get published because it indicates that I have enough waiting customers to turn a profit.

23 responses so far

Dec 07 2009

Could you do me a favor? Stumble SN!

If you’ve found SN’s advice helpful, please Stumble us!  That will help introduce new readers to SN.  Thanks–I really appreciate your assistance.

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Nov 26 2009

Two minor reminders: registration and a new reader survey

1.  Please take my comic book survey! Thanks.  It’ll take about five minutes and will help me get my comic book published. 

2.  Registered SN users can use HTML coding in comments and access our comment search-engine by going down to the link that says Site Admin at the bottom.  (Nonregistered users can only see the 15 most recent comments).  If you haven’t registered, why not? It’s free!

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Sep 26 2009

Your Readers Are Not The Same As You!

One of the most common mental mistakes that plagues writers is the logical fallacy that if they do or prefer something, their target audience does too.  Not necessarily!  Here are a few ways in which readers tend to differ from authors.

1.  Readers are usually less patient than writers. As a result, they tend to get aggravated when the author doesn’t give them enough information.  (Rule of thumb: the readers are entitled to anything relevant that the POV knows).  Many writers like being cryptic because they think that hiding the POV’s information from the reader will create intrigue.  Most readers do not like reading cryptic works.

2.  Readers start at page 1 and typically will put down the book as soon as they are dissatisfied. Ahem–they aren’t patient.  This means that the quality of the opening few pages is absolutely critical to readers. In contrast, writers often phone in the beginning because they want to get to the “meat” of the story or whatever.  THAT IS A MISTAKE.  Most readers will not plod along in the hopes that the story will get interesting or clear.  They will put down the book unless it is interesting and clear from page one.

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13 responses so far

Aug 09 2009

Please help me complete a glossary of writer’s terms!

The Turkey City Lexicon is a great resource for writers that want to understand reviewing jargon.  I’d like to come up with something similar for this site, which has a slightly different jargon.  Have you read any terms here that you weren’t familiar with?  (Or that you think a typical prospective writer wouldn’t be familiar with?)  Which terms?  I’d really appreciate if you could point out any to me in a comment.

Here are some that occurred to me…

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5 responses so far

Jul 15 2009

How to Write for Kids

Writing for children isn’t as easy as it sounds. Children get bored very easily and keeping their attention can be quite a challenge. Here are a few tips to help you get kids into your work. (Note: when I say kids, I mean around 8-13 years old. Readers younger than that are a whole different game.)

1. Keep it simple. Not to be mean or anything, but kids are generally not quite as good at keeping track of complicated plots and obscure words. (Although all of that has worked very well for kids in the past ) If you make things complicated, then you should probably compensate. Which leads me to…

2. Slapstick is the best form of comedy… For kids anyway. People falling over and getting hit can always be played for laughs; use that to your advantage. Also, anything to do with gross stuff is comedy gold for kids. It’s worth noting, however, that if you want any form of adult audience then you’ll want to keep it to a minimum.

3. Exaggerate all of your characters. Kids love exaggerated character traits and understand exaggerated characters more easily. Many successful characters aimed at kids have a single exaggerated trait. For example, the Kids Next Door have a leader, the smart guy, the kook (her name is actually Kuki), the tough guy and the cool one. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have a leader, a smart guy, a fun guy and a tough guy. Exaggerating a trait can also make the character more stylish and memorable. A character that’s vaguely unlucky is probably pretty bland. But if he’s the the butt of some kind of universal joke and gets stuck in holes, gets hit by things and fails at everything then he might be really funny.

4. Write for adults too. If you don’t put in anything for the adults, then you’ve effectively alienated about half of your audience. Parents read books with kids all of the time.   Arguably the most successful series of books of the past decade is Harry Potter. Why? Because anyone could read them: kids, adults, boys, girls, etc. It was simple and imaginative enough to excite kids and sophisticated enough to interest adults. Make sure that adults can enjoy the books too, and don’t be afraid to put in jokes that might fly by a kid.  For example, in the first Shrek movie, Shrek looks at Farquad’s massive castle and quips “think he’s compensating for something?”  Kids would probably assume he was talking about Farquad’s height, but adults and teens knew he was talking about length.

5. Don’t scare the kids. Children are much easier to scare than adults. Anything you put in there that may give the kids nightmares will not be appreciated by the parents. For example, a story about an alien that wants 10% of the child population of the Earth to use for drugs, and can make all of them speak in unison to declare ‘we are coming’  is probably not suitable for kids. On that note, it’s worth mentioning the obvious, no profanity. If you absolutely must swear, use a lighter swear word or a replacement swear word.

8 responses so far

Jul 09 2009

Want to be a Guest Writer?

Next week, I’m off to a wedding.  I’m very excited, but I’ll be away from my computer for 4-5 days.  Over that time, I’d like to run some articles written by our guests here.  If you have any writing advice you’d like to share, please write up a sample post up to 500 words and send it to me at superheronation-at-gmail-dot-com.   Thanks for your help.

36 responses so far

Jul 08 2009

Featured: Which female characters are the most awful and why? Who’s awesome?

Which female characters do you think are the most awful? Which are the most excellent? What separates the two? Marissa and I really appreciate your feedback; Marissa’s writing an article for us about how to do female characters well. (You can see our article on male characters here).

205 responses so far

May 16 2009

Which comic books should a comic book writer be familiar with?

What do you think?  Which comic books or graphic novels should a comic book writer be familiar with and why?

9 responses so far

May 12 2009

How to Create Intense Fans With Your Blog

Chris Garrett has some intuitive ideas about how to turn readers into intense fans that will spread your message and convince other people to check out your material.  I agree that this is a very important goal, but his suggestions are very skeletal.

  1. Provide value and delight your audience.
  2. All of your posts and interactions with readers should be professional.
  3. Be genuine, approachable and friendly.
  4. Let your readers know that you appreciate and value them.

Except for #1 (which is too vague to be useful), these focus more on how to treat your fans than how to create content for them.  So how do we create content that will attract and build enthusiastic fans?  Here are some ideas.

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10 responses so far

Apr 28 2009

Lurkers, I need your help!

According to Google Analytics, we have about 10,000 serial lurkers: readers that have come here 25 or more times without leaving any comments.  Our population of serial lurkers doubles about every two months.

Before publishing me, a prospective publisher will want to know more about you.  Are you interested in my book about how to write superhero stories?  Would you prefer information tailored to novelists, comic book writers or both?

I would really appreciate 5 minutes of your help.  Thanks!

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8 responses so far

Apr 27 2009

We’re now accepting entries to our mailing list

I have a few misgivings about mailing lists, so let’s get those out of the way.

  1. I will only send you release information for my book about how to write superhero stories.
  2. I will send you at most three e-mails.
  3. I will not give or sell your e-mail address to anyone else.

Thanks for your time!  Publishers will probably be more receptive if I have hundreds of readers waiting for release information.  I appreciate your help and interest.

One response so far

Apr 27 2009

Have you taken our survey?

Hello again! If you haven’t taken our survey yet, I would really appreciate if you gave us 5-10 minutes of your time. You can take it by clicking here or by clicking beneath the fold.
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18 responses so far

Apr 07 2009

How to take criticism professionally

1.  Don’t get defensive. The worst case scenario is that someone thinks your writing is awful.  So what?  Several reviewers have accused me of being the worst writer in the world.  No matter how bad it gets, there’s no reason to get huffy.  If you think you can learn something from what they’re saying, then read it carefully and make any necessary improvements.  If it’s just a generic “you suck” kind of review, then you should move on.  Either way, there’s no need for you to defend yourself.

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76 responses so far

Mar 21 2009

Visual Design Question: the “I Beat B. Mac” t-shirt

I’m planning for the contingency that someone beats me in our proofreading contest next month.   So I need to design the t-shirt that I might give out.  My original plan was to just give out a generic Superhero Nation t-shirt, but I’d like to design a separate “I Beat B. Mac” t-shirt.

On the front, I think it will have something like a Che Guevara-esque drawing of me with the caption “I Beat a Professional Proofreader And and All I Got was This Lousy T-Shirt.”  That’s kind of cliche, so hopefully one of you can suggest something more stylish.

There will be text on the back.  For example, something like “What are you waiting for?  Beat B. Mac and win this shirt on  SUPERHERONATION.COM”

5 responses so far

Mar 06 2009

Calling All Dramatists and Poets…

I have a very unusual request.  If you’ve followed the webcomic very closely, you might remember that Agent Orange is a really bad author.  However, he’s even worse at poetry and plays.  During a scene I’m working on, Agent Orange uses his poetry (or playwrighting) to torture a confession out of a criminal.  However, I’ve never really gotten into poetry, so it’s hard for me to simulate truly, spectacularly awful poetry (or plays).  Would you like to take a go?  I’ll probably only need 5-7 lines.

9 responses so far

Mar 04 2009

Hi! I have a delicate question…

Hello! An acquaintance recently attempted suicide and, umm, I really feel that I should wish him well and offer whatever help I can, probably class help because that’s what I know how to do. We’re in the middle of midterms, so I would imagine that academic pressure is probably involved. I have a few concerns, though.

  1. I don’t want him to feel like people only care about him because he attempted suicide. (I mean, I run a website designed to help young adults write, so hopefully it’s easy to approach me for academic help).
  2. I don’t want to make him feel guilty or be the hundredth person to remind him about something he probably regrets.

Any thoughts about how to encourage him tactfully?

12 responses so far

Feb 25 2009

Please Take The Superhero Nation Survey!

Hi, I’m looking to get published. My prospective publishers want me to provide information about my audience. Specifically, are you interested in my book about how to write superhero stories? Would you prefer information tailored to novelists, comic book writers or both?

I would really appreciate 5 minutes of your help. Thanks!

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No responses yet

Feb 03 2009

Would you like to suggest a writing article? (Sticky post)

If you’d like to suggest any, I’d appreciate that. Here are some of the questions we’ve previously answered.

171 responses so far

Jan 27 2009

Care to offer some stylistic feedback?

Thanks, I’d really appreciate it.  Right now, the main thing I’m working on is character-design, specifically a mutant alligator that’s pretty much the Hobbes in a Calvin & Hobbes comic duo.

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17 responses so far

Jan 20 2009

Please Take Our Survey

Hi, I’m looking to get published. My prospective publishers want me to provide information about my audience. Specifically, are you interested in my book about how to write superhero stories? Would you prefer information tailored to novelists, comic book writers or both?

I would really appreciate 5 minutes of your help. Thanks!

No responses yet

Dec 24 2008

Have You Ever Wanted to be an Editor?

I’m very close to sending out feelers on a nonfiction manuscript about how to write superhero stories.  I have one main problem, though.  My target audience is young (10-20 years old) and my writing style is not naturally breezy or accessible.  Ahem.  I’m a political scientist/journalist by training.

So I have a writing exercise/contest for you. Take any one of our articles and rewrite it so that a typical thirteen-year-old would find it authoritative, fun and easy to read.  I have a few stylistic suggestions.

  1. Fragmented sentences are OK, but I recommend against run-ons.
  2. Keep the words as simple as possible.
  3. It must be fun!

We’d appreciate your help greatly.  Depending on how good the entries are, we may also give Amazon gift-cards or a free, signed copy to show our appreciation. Thanks!

11 responses so far

Dec 19 2008

Regular Responses Begin Tomorrow Night

Finals ended today, so we will resume lengthy reviews on Saturday night.  Thanks for being patient.

4 responses so far

Dec 08 2008

Bad news

It’s almost the end of the semester, so our staff will be writing considerably less here over the next 10 days or so.  Thanks for your patience!

No responses yet

Dec 07 2008

Review Forum Links

At the bottom of the sidebar, we’ve added a category called In-Depth Reviews.  If you give us long pieces to review, we will try to give you a forum to help you (and us) keep track of the rewrites and comments.  You can find the links to each author’s review forum there.

No responses yet

Dec 03 2008

Do you want to write comic books? We need a sample script

Today, I received an e-mail from a prospective comic-book artist.  He said that, as part of his application process, his employer wanted him to illustrate a 24-page story.  But he doesn’t have a script.  Would you like to do a sample script for him?  As a sign of my appreciation, I’d be willing to help review your script, which will help you eventually sell your script to a publisher. If you’re not sure how to write a script, Dark Horse Comics has some formatting tips here.

The artist would really appreciate if your script included each of the following:

  • An action sequence (such as a fight, a heated argument or a chase scene).
  • A close-up on faces for emotional effect.
  • At least one cityscape, such as a zoomed out shot of an urban skyline.
  • One male and one female character. (These only need to appear once, so that he can demonstrate his grasp of anatomy).
  • An instance of fire or explosions. (This artist is very confident in his ability to illustrate fire, so he’d like to show that off).

If you’d like to participate, please e-mail me at superheronation[AT[gmail[DOT]com.  Thanks for your help!

Legal details: Allowing the artist to use your work for his application would not affect your legal ownership of the script or your exclusive rights to it in any way.

21 responses so far

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