Freaky short film wrap party

A while ago I wrote a little article for Bizarre magazine to help raise funds for a short film called Annabelle’s Tea Party. Performing in it are Bizarre favourites Missy Macabre, Samppa Von Cyborg and sideshow performer Baawo Bee.

Well, by golly they raised those funds and now they’re having a wrap party in London (have a look at their facebook page for more info). There’ll be performances from the likes of Veronica Valentine and others.

Here’s a clip of Missy Macabre in action:

*Warning* perhaps not for children

How to get your graphic novel started

I came across this really helpful article, follow the link here.

After asking questions I also recieved this helpful comment from Tim Stout:

“You’re right. Page count does differ depending on the project. As you’ve probably noticed in book stores, mainstream comics tend to have 128-256 page graphic novels because they are collections of 4-8 issues of 24-32 pages each. And stand alone graphic novels are typically 150-300+ pages. So, unless you intend to do a 1,000+ page graphic novel, I wouldn’t worry about page count. (If you are planning to do 1,000+, well… I’d recommend trying to split that up into issues or chapters or into a trilogy — easier bites for publishers to swallow.) As for accepting just the script: some do. Some publishers want a completely finished book before they publish while others are willing to take a script — best to ask them individually. And it’ll definitely help to have well-drawn, well-suited visuals to accompany the script. Even if it’s just the first ten pages, or finished character sketches. An image is worth 1,000 words, and when a GRAPHIC NOVEL publisher has to choose between a 200-page script of just text or a 200-page script that has comics accompanying it, of course they will want to read the latter.

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.

Satirical poet Tim Key

At the moment outside looks like this: and I have the chest and throat plague. Just think of all those prank calls I could be making and can’t. I don’t really make prank calls. Or do I? No, I really don’t. I am, however, coughing up phlegm.

Anyway I’ve been enjoying clips of comedian/poet Tim Key, here is one of them:

Waiting, waiting and…waiting

When you work on any kind of creative writing be it short stories, books, graphic novels, anything, a lot of the time you find yourself waiting. I like to have a lot of different things to work on at the same time which eases it somewhat.

However you have to wait for someone (someone you know or on a critique site) to read it and get back to you with comments. Then you send it out to magazines or agents or whoever and wait then. If its accepted thats brilliant, and then you have to wait for the publication date (I’m really not complaining about that though).

Perhaps the trick is to master some sort of Zen technique, or maybe just pass the time irritating your friends by prodding them. The last one works for me.

Pointless flash fiction

Apparently some people don’t like short stories because they aren’t novels. I like both, for different reasons. Since I read a collection of short stories years ago called Love of Fat Men by Helen Dunmore (its a lot more intellectual than it sounds, I promise) I’ve loved the idea of a short story being just a snapshot into someone’s life. I still like stories where you go deeper and there’s a full narrative etc, but I always prefer stories which leave you with a “hmm?” kind of feeling.

This is by no means a collection of intelligent, thought provoking miniture stories. These are stupid.

A beetle - 2001

A beetle lived next door to a woodlouse. The woodlouse was playing his music very loudly at 2am and the beetle got very annoyed. He knocked on the door and asked the woodlouse to turn it down. He did, and all was well.

A magic pixie skipped through the forest to Tesco’s where he did his weekly shop. When he got back he realised he had forgotten the milk. He had to go back and was a bit annoyed.

A hare challenged a tortoise to a race. The hare won and the natural order of things remained intact.

A woodlouse lived next door to a beetle. He knocked on the beetle’s door and asked if he could borrow some sugar, which he did and all was well.

A ghost appeared to a family who had just moved in. “Oh no,” they said, “Do you wish us to leave?” “Nah,” it said, “Stick kettle on.”

Writing for magazines

I found these articles I wrote back in the mists of time (2007) and thought they were sufficiently entertaining enough to include.

I go into further detail on how to write for magazines in this post here and in my blog Swann’s Shack on The Focus Project. As well as the articles below I’ve reviewed a freaky sideshow, interviewed and written about burlesque dancers, film-makers, tattooists, church renovators (yes, church renovators…for Essex Life) and new hip replacement technology (for a medical magazine…not Just 17).

Needless to say these were for Bizarre. I also collected the voodoo doll ingredients from Camden (I knew pink sparkly beads would look terrifying). Click on them twice to enlarge:

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…?

Rules of Flash Fiction and how to write it

Hello, I heard about this hip new craze (I’ll stop talking like Karouac now) called Flash fiction a while ago and had an idea recently which I think could work in this form. It got me wondering if there were rules and whether I should break them (groovy).

I happened upon this online, from a site usefully called How To Do Things:

Flash fiction is a form of short story writing that is very tight and concise. It pulls the reader into the story with the barest minimum of exposition and gets into the middle of the conflict quickly. A flash fiction story does have a beginning, a middle, and an end, but those elements occur in as few words as possible. 

There is no definitive word count for a flash fiction story. The most popular word count is one hundred words or less, but flash fiction stories have been known to go up to 1000 words and still be considered part of the genre.

Writers of flash fiction are very passionate about this writing form. It has been around for quite awhile, but has really become a popular form of writing since its enthusiasts have been able to spread the word and share their writings through the Internet.

Here are some basic steps to writing flash fiction.

  1. Start with a topic or sentence in mind. It can be something random, like a word that caught your eye in a magazine, or a sentence from something you’ve already written that you would like to explore further.
  2. Set a timer for your writing. Although this is not a necessity, most flash fiction writers like to limit their writing time. There is no set time limit, but many writers like to do their writing and editing in under an hour. 
  3. Write the story through from beginning to end without editing as you write. Write whatever comes to mind and don’t judge it as you write. There will be time for editing, but it will be later in the process, not during your timed writing.
  4. Make sure your story has a beginning, a middle and an end. It is also important to include other elements of fiction such as setting, character, conflict and resolution.
  5. Write in active, not passive, voice with as little extraneous description as possible. Flash fiction is powerful because it follows one of writing’s biggest rules-“show, don’t tell”-very strictly. Limit the adjectives, adverbs and descriptive phrases as much as possible.
  6. Reach for an unexpected ending. This doesn’t mean a surprise ending that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the story. Your reader should be left with the feeling of “Ah, I didn’t see that coming, but it makes sense.”
  7. When the timer goes off, finish your story as quickly as possible. Then set it aside for a while.
  8. When you pick your story back up, it is time to edit. During the editing process, you should make sure that you have a beginning, a middle and an end that tell a complete story. You should also be improving the writing by making it as tight and concise as possible. One method that many flash fiction writers use is to cross out every single adjective and adverb in the story.
  9. Once you’ve got the story where you want it, proofread for spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors and be done with it. This is flash fiction. It shouldn’t be something you belabor.

Writing flash fiction is not only a satisfying way to write an entire story and feel as if you’ve accomplished something, it’s also a very useful writing exercise. By practicing writing in an active, powerful form and cutting out all extraneous words, you can improve and tighten your writing in other genres as well.

So there you have it, get to it you crazy kids!