Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Looky, looky! I gots me an Irresistibly Sweet Blogger Award from Girl Friday who runs an awesome blog over at Reading, Writing and Ribaldry. (Thanks, Girl!)

Works, how it does that:

1) Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
2) Share four guilty pleasures that you have.
3) Pass the award on to six other sweet blogs.

Guilty Pleasures:

"Rock Me Amadeus" by Falco: The only thing that can make this song any better is a totally awesome video…

Please excuse me whilst I attempt to rap in German.

McDonalds’s hamburgers: Not the Big Mac. Not the Double Double. Not the McRib. Not even a cheeseburger. I’m talking the single patty, one pickle, absolutely no lettuce, tomato or nutritional value whatsoever (as a matter of fact I’m pretty sure they’re made of recycled paper towels or something) $0.89 hamburger. I don’t get them very often, but every once and a while I crave one. I eat around the edge first and save the middle for last. Why? Because it’s all about that one pickle. The law of scarcity in action, folks!

Marvel’s Power Pack: So the big kids will probably say that this preteen superhero series is for babies, but I’ve probably read most - if not all - of the Marvel Adventures: Power Pack graphic novels. I especially like it when Franklin Richards (son of the Fantastic Four’s Reed and Sue Richards) joins in on the fun as the sometimes fifth member. (Though I do think sometimes the writers are trying too hard when it comes to supplying “cute” lines for Katie).

Mindless, repetitive tasks: Everyone else I know groans when it comes time to prepare hundreds of invitations for mailing (a process that involves stuffing, adhering labels, sealing, and stamping over and over and over and over again) or shelving a mountain of books. But I shout, “YEA!” Inwardly, of course, because if I actually vocalized my glee I’d get the look. Don’t know the one I mean? It’s same look you gave the classmate who in high school reminded your teacher about the essay she’d forgotten to collect.

Sweet Blogs:

And without further ado – except to interrupt myself with this parenthetical for dramatic effect – I hereby bequeath the Irresistibly Sweet Blogger Award to the following:

Neil (A Writer, He Muttered): Anyone who posts a Star Trek: The Next Generation clip like every other week is okay by me! (I don’t know how a guy would feel about his manly, manly blog being called sweet. But don’t think of it being said in the girly, “Aaaw, that’s sooo sweet” way. Think of how a surfer guy would be like, “Dude, I just caught a killer wave! Sweet!” Or “Dude, I just found this awesome writer blog! Sweet!”)

Misty (Nothing Cannot Happen Today): Writes good advice like: “Remember. You like to write.” and “Be patient. You’ll get your turn.”

Jen (Jen’s Bookshelf): Extra-points for excellent use of silent-film-era pics!

Claudie A (Claudie A.): Helps me remember the writerly questions I should be asking myself (rather than skipping through the tulips singing tra-la-la, which is what I do most days.)

Aldo (Maledictus): His blog’s in Spanish, and I don’t speak Spanish. But his imaginative drawings of robots, angels, and rabbit-headed P.I.s are pretty freakin’ sweet.

Jose (JAM): So this is my illustrator buddy who I’ve partnered with for a web comic. He doesn’t really post at this blog anymore (since we’ve created a blog specifically for posting updates about the web comic), but there is some really cool artwork archived from the last couple of years. I’ve always admired him as an artist and especially like the posts that offer insight into his process.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Anon, Good Thing-I’m-Supposed-To-Do, I Come!

My Five Favorite Ways to Procrastinate:

(In no particular order)

Cleaning up: Now, this is a tricky one because sometimes one procrastinates cleaning up, but cleaning up itself is an activity that lends itself well towards the goal of putting a time-consuming activity between you and the thing that needs to be done. In my last few years of college, you could always tell by my room’s level of organization when I was putting off writing a dreaded essay.

Looking for stuff on Craigslist: Jobs, art, furniture, apartments for rent, random free stuff… you can find anything on Craigslist! Even if you’re not currently looking for a job, art, furniture, a place to live, or random free stuff, it’s good to know what’s out there. And hey, sometimes you can even find things you actually need. For instance, that's where my former roommate, a sculptor who was working on an instillation piece, got the truckload of dirt she needed for her senior project. For free! (If you can believe it.)

Visiting Goodreads: I’m pretty neglectful of my own Goodreads account, but I like to read the negative reviews other people post. This will accomplish one of two things: A) Commiserate my own feelings toward a book I don’t like so I can be all, “Yeah, that’s exactly how that book sucked!” I may not absolutely love everything I come across but for the most part I'm pretty easy to please. I like or, at the very least, am entertained by most books I pick up. Even the generally-thought-of-as bad ones! So discovering a book I hate is an extremely frustrating event for me. A book has to be actively working especially hard to make me to hate it because as soon as I realize I'm hating a book I actively work especially hard not to hate it. Seriously, it takes me 100 pages to give up on a book I’m not enjoying! So when this happens it irrationally makes me a little mad that the book was working against me and my good intentions, and therefore I find myself in need of catharsis through someone else’s rant. Or, B) Give me some much-needed perspective. No matter how much you love your favorite book, someone out there hates it with a deep-seeded passion. Even the great writers couldn't please everyone. Something to keep in mind when your own work receives a negative response.

Walking around the house in circles: Sometimes intentional. Sometimes not. Sometimes I bounce from one room to another because I’ve forgotten why I was going into Room A until I’ve returned to Room B, then I go back into Room A where I get distracted by something shiny, then when the shiny thing and I are back in Room B, I remember what I needed from Room A, and round and round we go. Tis a vicious,vicious cycle, my friends.

Thinking about how to most effectively get stuff done via to-do lists, scheduling tables, and imaginings of various possible plans-of-attack: This one is probably my favorite because I feel a sense of accomplishment for having come up with a plan. In fact, coming up with a plan is such a big accomplishment that I deserve a break before really digging into the task at hand. Heck, I deserve the whole rest of the day off! It doesn’t matter that I will most likely throw the entire plan out the window by the next morning. Getting the thing done isn’t really what it’s about anyway…

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What’s My Motivation? A Response to a Response to Pre-Writing Schme-Writing Pt. 2

Not as “mañana” as I had planned, but… in continuation from my last post:

The Money Thing

While there is writing advice that focuses on salability, I think that you can find plenty of writing advice out there that isn’t just about making bank but rather about how to hone the craft. This is especially true in an age in which a) you can find and order books – even those out of print – without ever leaving your computer, and b) anyone with access to the internet can put their writerly opinions out into the world for all to read (bloggers unite!). Another consideration is that for one writer, honing their craft may mean one thing, but for another writer it may mean something else.

That difference comes out of what a writer likes to read and/or what they want to write. An abstract painter and an illustrator are both looking to be great artists, even if their work is vastly different from one another—and despite one category being more commercial than the other. Both artists must still learn to prep surfaces, use paintbrushes, mix colors and all that, but after a certain point the abstract painter may focus more on experimenting with his medium while the illustrator may focus more on visual communication. Either way, they've both - in theory at least - worked hard to understand their chosen school of art.

Yet, I’m sure in either school you’ll find folks who are considered “sellouts” by their peers. I sometimes wonder how much of that is perception. Not that there isn't such a thing as selling out, but - to paraphrase the creators of South Park - can you call someone a sellout if "to make money" was a part of the plan from the beginning? It's a joke, but also speaks to a certain mentality. Why is it that there's this pervading belief that artists have to be broke and starving to prove that they're real artists?

“Money is the root of all evil” has to be one of the most often misquoted proverbs of all time. The scripture, plucked from the Bible, actually reads: “The love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). Meaning it's okay to have money, just don't get too carried away in the pursuit of it. If three little words can shift the entire understanding of that saying, can the sometimes negative connotation of “saleable fiction” be shifted too? After all, some of my favorite books continue to sale to this day, years and decades after their initial publication.

I’ll admit though, the last book I couldn’t get to end of (for me, that doesn’t happen very often because I seem to have a high tolerance for “bad” writing) was one whose creation seemed motivated, in large part, by a huge money-making strategy. I still hiss at that book when I see it at the bookstore, not because it was a part of a big – not to mention successful – money-making endeavor, but because it was a really cool idea and could have been an amazing book if more time, thought, and rewrites had been put into it. So I’m not going to lie and say I don’t think that less-than-awesome work gets put out there based on potential profitability . But I do have a counter-argument.

A writer can want to make money and still have integrity as a writer. I for one am pursuing writing as a career. I’d really like to make a living doing the thing I love to do more than anything in world, but I’m not looking for a magic formula to make that happen and I understand that the reality of the writer’s life is that it is hard to make a living off of it. Many (or should that be “most”?) published authors do not get to quit their day jobs, at least not until years further into their careers.

I am not primarily driven by a desire to make money, and people who think writing a novel is way to get rich quick probably need to re-evaluate their understanding of how publishing works. But it’s not wrong to want to make a living doing something you love. If I don’t have to have a day job, that’s all the more time I get to spend writing until 5 o’clock in the morning. I would love it if readers decide they want to buy my books – actually, what’s a stronger word than love? – but that’s not what motivates me to want to become as good as possible at something that has been my passion since I was nine.

Why, why, why. More, more, more. Deeper, deeper, deeper

I want to tell a good story to the best of my ability. I want to create something that readers will pick up and not want to put down even after they’ve read the last page. Something that can be read over and over. Something that may affect… (effect? I really never know which is which and avoid using either if I can help it– a-hem, anyway...) Something that will grab hold of someone the way my favorite books have grabbed a hold off me.

So I’m going to study my craft, learn as much as I can from the writers who have come before me, and from the writers who are in the trenches with me trying to polish their craft as well. I’m going to actively learn more about my craft because I think I have the potential to be a better writer than I am right now. I’m going to continue to actively learn about my craft for as long as I think I have the potential to be better. So in all likelihood – even if I’ve published a hundred award-wining, bestselling books and I can’t got outside for fear of being run down by a mob of screaming fans – I’ll always be looking to learn more about my craft. In five, ten, twenty years, I might not be concerned with the same things I’m concerned with now, but I’m sure there will still be ways for me to continue to grow as a writer. Because when we stop trying to improve upon what we’ve already done, isn’t that when our work becomes stale, boring and – ultimately – irrelevant?

Or am I wrong? Is there a point at which the writer has perfected the craft of writing?

Monday, February 7, 2011

What’s My Motivation? A Response to a Response to Pre-Writing Schme-Writing Pt. 1

I always appreciate it when folks comment on my posts – especially when they mention cool books and suggest awesome video lectures! – but one commenter in particular really got some thoughts moving through this ol' head of mine, which is no bad thing so thanks for sharing your thoughts with me! This post got to be kinda long, so I’ve decided to split this bad boy in two.

Why Bother?

The great thing about writing advice and writing in practice is that one thing doesn't work for everyone and one thing doesn't have to work for every one. Like any other art form, the artist has to learn what techniques bring the best of their potential to the surface.

No matter what artistic discipline you study, you'll always get the advice to reach deeper, further and to challenge yourself to do something you've never done before. Painters, dancers, musicians and actors aren’t born having already perfected their discipline. Even if the talent was there innately—and even more so if they make it look easy—they’ve had to learn, study, practice practice practice, and push. Why wouldn’t the same be expected of writers?

My former acting teacher – I went to an arts high school, studied theatre for four years – used to always say, “Why, why, why, more, more, more, deeper, deeper, deeper.” While I found it annoying at the time, it’s now one of my writing mantras. Asking ourselves to give more and dig deeper is how artists grow.

It’s funny. Just yesterday a co-worker saw me with Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell (which I picked up because I recently read a timely post about it). My co-worker gave me a strange look and asked, “Didn’t you write a novel already?” Two, actually. But I don’t see why that would stop me from reading a book about plots.

For the sake of learning and growing, I'm willing to try out different approaches. Also, I don’t think so much of myself that I think I’ve already reached the apex of my growth as a writer or that I know everything there is to know about writing. It’s not that I don’t trust my instincts or don’t value my talent, but there is such a wealth of knowledge out there, from all kinds of writers who’ve found many different approaches, why not see what’s out there and what may help me improve?

In Defense of Structure

This is kind of a tangent, but also kind of implied in a discussion of this sort, so let’s talk about structure. A reason why structure gets a bad rep probably comes out of out one little misunderstanding. Let’s clear that up. Structure does not equal formula. The best example of this is in screenwriting.

This movie...

has three acts, an inciting incident, a midpoint, a climax , an Act 1 plot point and an Act 2 plot point.

This movie...

also has three acts, an inciting incident, a midpoint, a climax, an Act 1 plot point and an Act 2 plot point.

With very few exceptions, all movies - at least in the corner of the world where I live - have the same structure when you strip them down to the bones, but obviously not all movies are created equal.

Whether consciously utilizing structure or not, it’s up to writer to fill in all the important stuff a story needs to become extraordinary. And that’s a pretty big undertaking whether you’re writing screenplays, for comics or novels, genre or literature. The trick is to not be a slave to the structure, but to know – or learn! – how to write so that the structure serves you. It takes a special type of ingenuity to take a structure that has been used a million times before and still produce something fresh and unique.

In novel writing, we get a lot more freedom than screenwriters. There are a lots of types of structures to choose from, and the option to not consider structure at all. What I’ve found is that thinking about structure is a great way to get ideas moving when I find that I’m stuck. It won’t solve all my problems. If I don’t know how to write dialogue, establish a voice, give characters believable personalities and all the rest, I’m pretty much screwed until I figure those things out. But the purpose of plot structure is to get characters active and moving (in a way that’s relevant to the story you want to tell). And I like it when my characters are active and moving (and relevant).

Even if I only use plot structure as a writing exercise to generate ideas then ditch structure to return to a more a meandering approach to writing, its usefulness has already been proven to me.

Beyond that, learning about any aspect of writing, whether plot, characters or whatever gives me the vocabulary to articulate why I like a certain book over another, and further the potential to understand why one aspect of my story got a certain reaction (good, bad or indifferent) as opposed to another. Since writing is re-writing, the ability to self-evaluate is a pretty useful trick.

Even if as a writer I choose not to write with structure in mind, understanding structure can’t hurt me. What I fear is that lack of knowledge could stunt my growth as a writer, and I wouldn’t even know it if it did.

Mañana: Money and Me

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Shoo-be Doo-be Dooo....

I have a post I wrote elsewhere for you.

It's about thumbnails! (...and writing for comics)

Clicky on the picy. Clicky clicky!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Random Tandem Wednesdays: Sleep Is For the Weak! (Or the Well-Adjusted, whatevs)


It is 5:40 in the morning as I begin to write this post. I’m not usually up this early. If I am, most likely it’s because I’ve been up all night doing something super important like finally clearing my email’s inbox. This morning—or, er, yesterday morning I had 8,824 messages in my inbox, 6,018 of which had been unread. I’m able to give you the exact number because I was just emailing my cousin about it this—I mean, yesterday morning. Which is what inspired me to clean house.

I got rid of about 6,000 emails and organized the rest into folders. Now I only have like three emails in my inbox. THREE! It is so weird. All that blank space is just staring at me, gaping, empty. There’s something unnatural about having only three emails in one’s inbox! I can’t help but think that my inbox is cold. Like a dog that’s had all its fur shaved off except for a few ineffective tufts around its face and paws.

The earliest email I had in my inbox was dated 1970. (It’s those blasted time travelers mucking up the time stream again!) The next earliest messages were from 2004, when I first switched over to this account. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I deleted my “welcome to the club” email just a few short hours ago. It was interesting to read all my old emails and be reminded of what I’d been in the middle of a year ago, three years ago, six. I also found some correspondence that made me laugh. Here’s my favorite:

Subject: email email

this is an email. email. sending an email. email email email. your are reading an email. i am writing an email. email email email.


So awesomely random.

I apologize in advance for all the typos I don’t catch. Did I mention it’s (now) 6:11 in morning and I haven’t been to sleep? I don’t feel especially tired and am even considering picking up a book after I post this, but something tells me my lack of sleep may effect my typo-catching abilities (which ain’t so grand to begin with).