25 things you should know about outlining

On my travels today I stumbled upon (OK, someone uploaded to twitter) this helpful and amusing post on book outlining.

Go here, read, come on, what are you waiting for? Oh, you’re still here. Yes, that’s it, that door there. Phew, I know, now they’re gone we can say whatever we want about – oh hi! You’re still here. Er, no, we weren’t talking about anything…

Interview with author Jeremy C Shipp

Hello my little slices of pepperoni. You may remember American bizarro author and all round anomalous egg Jeremy C Shipp from such books as Cursed (which got him nominated for the Bram Stoker award), Vacation, Fungus of the Heart and Sheep and Wolves.

He kindly assented to an interview regarding his work and writing in general (and to not press charges; I mean, kidnap is such a strong word) and here it is:

Which of your books is your favourite, and why?

J: One of my books that is near and dear to my heart (and spleen) is Cursed. The story was a blast to write, primarily because of the character Cicely. She’s a loveable weirdo with a heart (and spleen) of gold.

 

What impact has the Bram Stoker nomination made on your career?

J: I would say the main thing is that more readers have tried my books. Also, the nomination gave me  super powers. For instance, with the power of thought alone, I can transform sporks into slightly smaller sporks.

 

What’s the one (or more) thing you keep in mind when writing gets difficult?

J: This is your dream, Jeremy. If you’re not going to fight to live your own dream, then you’ll have to live someone else’s. And that’s no fun.

 

How do your ideas come to you?

J: Dreams, nightmares, personal events, world events, people on the street, people in the clouds, a little goblin named Bob who lives in my skull.

 

Is it possible to make a successful living from writing?

J: Yes. Mostly, it just takes a lot of work and dedication. And skill. And luck.

 

Who are your heroes?

J: Super Grover, my family, my friends, Hayao Miyazaki, Joss Whedon, Felicia Day, Kurt Vonnegut, Larry Blamire, Tree Trunks.

 

Is being a Bizarro writer a natural state of being, or do you sometimes have to push yourself to make your ideas even weirder?

J: It’s my natural state. Sometime I have to push myself to make my ideas palatable for human consumption.

 

What goes through your mind when you see your published book/story?

J: Hooray! Book! Time to sing and dance and eat chili cheese fries!

 

Did (or do) you have to do a lot of networking to get your stuff popular?

J: I enjoy entertaining and connecting with people on Facebook and Twitter, and I believe it’s on these sites that most people first hear about me and my work.

Thanks Jeremy, you may live another year. Bye!

Writery type questions (and Chris Morris)

There are a number of questions bothering me at this time.If anyone else has questions bothering them in the same areas, or even different areas (except privates related), feel free to share.

1. What’s a good price to pay an editor once your book is finished?

2. Do you just hand them the whole thing in one go when you’ve done all your own editing?

3. How many pages is a graphic novel meant to have?

4. How many panels to a page?

5. Can you just send scripts to agents/publishers?

6. Where is my lip balm?

7. Why did Chris Morris phone the police when he found me waiting in his room? All I said was, ‘your brain is sexy, can I lick it?’

Professional tips

I found the first post shared here on Limebird Writer‘s site, and the second on the Creative and Professional Writer’s site.

Some of it’s fairly straight-forward but its easy to lose focus on simple things you need to remember ie. who your story is aimed at.

I’m going to own up to not being thick skinned; I’ve got thinner skin than… uh… a bat’s wing. It’s really thin skin apparently, I just checked. But…I always try to be ragingly polite no matter what and after half an hour of ‘woe is me,’ for some reason I just get on with it like a fool.

So anyway, here is Limebird Writer’s post:

 

I’ve been a professional writer for a fair while now, and in that time I’ve seen a number of people come and go. What most people don’t realise is that professional writing requires a far greater range of skills than merely ‘putting words on a page’. For a start, it requires superb organisation and an ability to produce quality content to a tight deadline. Writers also need to demonstrate a good working knowledge of their market, while proving themselves adaptable enough to write for any number of different audiences.

Think you’ve got what it takes?  Here are my tips for anyone hoping to start a career as a professional writer:

Get organised. Organisation is everything in professional writing. I really can’t overstate this enough. You can be the greatest writer in the world, but if you don’t know what it is you need to write, when you need to write it, and who you need to write it for, then you’re very quickly going to find yourself struggling.

Master your art. If your writing skills are going to earn you money, your grammar needs to be impeccable, and your proof-reading needs to be second to none. Not only should you be able to proof other people’s work, but you should also be able to proof your own!

Know your market. It doesn’t matter who you’re writing for, you need to know your market inside out. The more you know, the more you will be able to “bring to the table” as a writer. If you don’t know your market, it won’t take long before the cracks start to appear.

Prepare to sweat. Writing professionally is not easy. Nor is it well paid. Most of us do it because we love to write, or perhaps because we see it as a route to greater things. I tell you this now – if you want to be a professional writer, do not, I beg you, be under any illusions as to just how tough it is. If you want to earn the big bucks, I suggest you do something else.

Toughen up. Writing is tough. Writing for other people is tougher still. When it comes to writing on behalf of someone else very often you will find that it doesn’t matter how good your writing, or how well your work meets the criteria you were given, if the client doesn’t like it, the client doesn’t like it. As a writer, you work “at the coal face”. This means you take all the abuse, and receive very few of the plaudits. You know how the old saying goes: “If you can’t stand the heat…”

Get educated (or not!) You might be surprised to learn that you don’t need an English degree to be a writer. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that I’d almost recommend you don’t have one, though that’s an issue for another blog!

So… do you still think you have what it takes? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

Until next time,

Mike”

 

And here is the Creative and Professional Writer’s post:

“5 tips for writing short stories

Short stories are a difficult art form to get right. Put too much in, and you’ll overload your reader with redundant information and they’ll get bored. Leave too much out, and you’ll alienate your reader and make them feel like there’s an abstract message they’re too stupid to pick up on. Get it just right however, and you’ll have an emotive, gripping, yet sparse narrative that captures a moment perfectly. Here are 5 things that any short story writer should think about before getting stuck in:

1. Show. Don’t tell.

It is important that you write in a way that allows your reader to experience your character’s actions, feelings, senses, words and thoughts, rather than learn them through description or summary within the narrative. By understanding this, your story will be vivid and relatable throughout.

2. Know your character(s)

People are complex, unpredictable and unique. It is your job as a writer of short stories to make sure that we as readers understand this about your characters without you simply telling us. A helpful task that will make this much easier is to build a web about your characters every detail. Age, personality, appearance, past, job, relationships and more. As much as you can. Fill a page with things that you wouldn’t even consider putting into a story. This is just for you. The better you know your character, the more convincing they’re going to be.

3. Choose your point of view

Who do you want telling your story? What is the narrative voice that you’re looking for? This will have a huge impact on the direction of your story. All perspectives have their pros and cons and it’s up to you to choose which one fits what you want to say.

• First person unites the narrator and reader with secrets and perceptions, but is always an unreliable perspective and can also lead to ‘telling’.
• Second person puts the readers right in to the story. They become the character, and are immediately engaged to confront possibilities. It is, however, vital that your character’s actions are real enough for readers to image themselves doing.
• Third person can be omniscient or limited, and allows you to be as intimate or distant with your character as you like. However, this is the most difficult perspective for maintaining a consistent narrative voice.

4. Create conflict/tension

With a short story you don’t have the luxury of acres of space to build a setting or context. This makes it more difficult to create conflict/tension within a certain scenario. You need some sort of opposition to your character. This can be against another individual, nature, society, God or even the character themselves. Make it clear exactly what the opposition is within your story, and understand exactly what your character hopes to achieve. Your prose style can also help create tension. Short, sharp sentences alongside longer sentences can really help dictate the pace and overall tone of your work.

5. Don’t ‘spoon-feed’ your reader

Subtlety is a key feature in short story writing. A reader wants to interpret your work in their own way and don’t mind a bit of ambiguity within the plot or character. Ernest Hemingway developed his ‘Iceberg theory’ as a way of helping writers understand that hinting to something within a narrative, rather than clarifying it completely can allow someone to read between the lines. He said:

If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them.

Subtext encourages a reader to take a more active role in a story and it is important not to ‘spoon feed’ the reader detail that, if written well, they can work out for themselves. It is important, however, not to be too abstract. There is a fine line between ambiguity and obscurity. Make sure that your hints are tangible to connect with reader.”

Et voila. Please do some writing now, otherwise you will upset me.

Spiffing arty and writey updates from London

On Tuesday I went for a day jaunt around my capital city, soaking up information to pass on to others like a disturbing sponge.

I like to think of visits to London as plugging myself in, like a phone that needs recharging, which is very silly. However, the occasional visit does remind me of all the little things I may not have heard about otherwise.

If you’re a cheapskate like me have a look online for a list of free exhibitions and galleries and you’ll be fine. Museums of course are already free, which is as exciting as a singing fish doing cartwheels.

The tube gnomes notified me of Circusfest in May, which looks exciting. I shall certainly be there chatting up the clowns whether they like it or not.

I began my day by going to the Childhood Museum in Bethnal Green to write down as many toys as I could relating to the era of my historical novel. Reading about stuff is great but until you play with a zoetrope I’m not sure you get the whole idea.

The V&A museum will “redesign seven important galleries dedicated to European Art and Design 1600–1800” by 2014 amongst several other projects. It’s already a beautiful place full of art and fashion, both historical and modern.

I wandered into a Georgian ballroom and actually gasped, like they do in novels. I was in there completely alone and the silence made me feel as though I’d stepped through a time gap.The museum is also displaying a cape sewn from silk, which was extracted from millions of Golden Orb spiders.

All the V&A expect is a donation so you can’t really go wrong. They don’t accept bellybutton fluff.

The Serpentine Gallery, as well as featuring very interesting exhibitions, has a shop full of magazines and books dedicated to art and writing. My advice is to go there with a pen and paper and write down the titles. You can look at the submissions guidelines on their websites later.

In case you were unfamiliar with The Serpentine it’s in the middle of Kensington Gardens, just up the road from Exhibition Road (home to the many museums).

The gallery are opening a new space called The Sackler Gallery near the old place this year, so you can run from one to the other and watch dogs sniffing each other in between (disclaimer: don’t run from one to the other).

So there endeth my journey through the capital, may my facts serve you well. Apparently the Underground employs people to sweep up human hair. I like to pretend they’re tiny folks who use it to make nests.

Submitting – and writing – a graphic novel

I’m writing a YA graphic novel and I was worrying about structure, whether the artwork needs to be submitted at the same time and a million other things when I came across this article on a website called Let the Words Flow. Here’s the original article and here’s what Hayleigh Bird said:

What do you think of when you hear the term graphic novel? I’m willing to bet that images of Spiderman, Batman, and Wonder Woman pop in to your head. But graphic novels aren’t just for superheroes and villains anymore. The audience for graphic novels has been expanding rapidly over the past few years. These days you can find graphic novels about space cats, political and philosophical issues, circuses, and yes, even vampires. Graphic novels are no longer targeted only at teenage boys. They are being created for boys and girls alike, for kids as young as six, and for adults too.

So why is this trend interesting to you, the writer? Publishers are very hungry for good graphic novels. That’s good news for anyone aspiring to be published, particularly if you have a fondness for art, sketching, and drawing. This post won’t tell you how to create a graphic novel, because there is really no guideline for that. And if you were to follow a guideline, your graphic novel would likely look the same as your next-door neighbor’s graphic novel, and as such not be as stand-out-fantastic as it could be. The best thing you can do if you’re creating a graphic novel is to create straight from your own head, from your own imagination. Different equals interesting, so go for it.

What you may need a little guidance with, however, is how to create a graphic novel submission, and what to include. Most publishers (and agents) do have a section on their website stating the regulations for submitting to them; however very few tell you what to include in a graphic novel submission. And submitting a graphic novel is very different than submitting a novel. For starters, you will submit a proposal rather than a partial.

What do editors and agents want to see in a proposal? You will need to include a document describing the book’s concept and specs. This means a plot summary, character and setting descriptions, proposed extent (how many pages?), trim (what size of pages?), and colours (full colour? Black and white?). This document should also include a biography, listing previous work. This part of your proposal expands on what you might say in a query letter. There are a few reasons that this document is important. First, an editor or agent wants to know that you have a clear idea of what your graphic novel is going to look like. If you don’t know the extent, trim size, etc, it means you haven’t really planned out what you are going to create. That’s not to say that these numbers won’t change as you continue creating – they might. But you should at least have a clear starting point, and plan.

If you are planning to write and illustrate your graphic novel, you will also need to include some sample spreads of finished, typeset artwork. I would suggest including spreads from your opening scene, and a climactic moment. Whatever you choose should be an important part of your plot, as whoever is reviewing your proposal will be most interested to see how you plan to illustrate and create those moments. In addition to the spreads, you also need to include character designs for each of your main characters. This means a couple pages of that character doing different things. You’ll want to portray them in a variety of poses and situations, so that there is a visible and clear sense of who that character is.

It is possible to submit a graphic novel proposal even if you are not an artist. Your chances of having your proposal accepted are likely lower, but if you have a stellar idea for a graphic novel then there are many agents and editors out there who would want to know about it. Your document containing a plot outline, character and setting descriptions, etc, will look the same as a proposal that includes illustrations. Your proposal, however, won’t include sample spreads, or character designs. What you will need to include is a scene of sample script. Again, it is advisable to choose either your opening scene, or your climax. The script should be just that: a script. It would look similar to a play, or screenplay script.

Publishers do not usually accept collaborations (of art and writing) from first time authors. That being said, the arena of graphic novels may be the only exception to this rule. Since most publishers do not have hard and fast submission guidelines for graphic novels, I would say that if you follow the general guideline that I gave you, there is no reason not to submit a collaboration. BUT it will take a lot more time, effort, and work before the submission is ready to send out. The nature of collaboration is that it is a lengthy process, as two people need to agree upon, and harmonize one vision. The revenue split would vary project to project, and publisher to publisher. Those details would get worked out when a contract is drawn up.

The sample spreads should definitely match/reflect the proposed dimensions for the finished book.

Lastly, if you are proposing a series, you should include a series outline, so that the editor or agent can see what the overall narrative arc will look like. They will also want to know how many books are being proposed. It is important to have a clear arc in mind, and not to plan to leave it open ended. Editors and agents want to know how you plan on ending your novel or series, not just how it starts.

If creating a graphic novel is something that interests you, I would definitely suggest giving it a try. The market is hot right now, especially with the appeal that graphic novels have for reluctant readers. Even schools are starting to use graphic novels in their curriculum, and their classrooms. Good luck in your endeavors, and as always, post questions or comments if you have them! I will try to answer all of them.

In answer to the entry above, Victoria Dixon wrote this very useful bit of info:

I’d have to object to the idea that there are not guidelines on how to write a graphic novel. There are at least two good ones I can think of: Scott McLeod’s “Understanding Comics” is the would-be graphic novelist’s bible, and his “Making Comics” is also a must-read. Alan Moore (Watchmen, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, V for Vendetta, From Hell) has a How-to out, Will Eisner’s got two How-tos (Eisner did The Spirit comics), and there are others. I’d look through them and see what speaks to you, but DEFINITELY pick up “Understanding Comics” as it will walk you through why and how things work graphically AND in tandem with your brilliant story.”

Plus the writer’s website Litreactor has all of these entries regarding graphic novels and comics. If you’re anything like me though you won’t be doing stuff that costs money. So there you go. Hopefully soon I will know what I’m doing…P.S. Any artists out there? I’m serious…?