Category Archives: writing

I talk about the craft of writing

Catch-up con report

Brittany, Chris Ulm, and me at SDCC2017

I haven’t done a con report since MegaCon, and that was back in June. So this will be a catch-up Con report!

In July I did the Orlando Collect-A-Con in Altemonte Springs. It was a fun show and I’m already planning a return there for next year! Also in July, I went out to San Diego Comic Con for the second year in a row (thanks to my buddies at Ka-Blam!). I got to see many old pals, including my former boss and Malibu Editor-in-Chief, Chris Ulm!

Steven Butler, Barry Gregory, me, John Crowther

I was no sooner back from SDCC when my other old pal, Steven Butler was in town for a convention in Tampa. I rode out there with old pal Barry Gregory and we were joined by new pal John Crowther for a fun dinner and lively chat!

In early August, Jeff Whiting and I made the long trip up to Pikeville, KY for the inaugural Pikeville ComicCon. We had a blast. What an awesome first show it was. Got the chance to meet a lot of new people there. Got my fingers crossed for an invite back to the second one—yes, it was that cool of a show!

Stephen Rosys, Jeff Whiting, Cody Barker, Todd Goodman, Mike W. Belcher, Me, Aiden Belcher

In late August, I went to the Orlando Infinity Con. This was my second time to be there and this is one of the closest ones to my home, so it’s very easy to do.

I had planned to do the Lake Collect-A-Con in October, a show I’ve done before and look forward to doing again, but my band chaperone mishap the day before (you can read about it here if you missed it) kept me from attending. Yes, I basically laid around the house and moaned all day. If you don’t believe me, ask BJ. I’ve been to LCAC twice, and I’m looking forward to making the third one next year.

I had help a few weeks later, though, as Brett supplied the muscle to get me in the door at Emerald City Comic Fest, another inaugural show. This one, too, was very good. One thing I really liked about it was that admission was free! Not sure how the show managed to pull that off, but the free admission got a whole host of folks in, some comic fans and some just curious to see what all the noise was about. Met some new folks, but had the chance to catch up with Dave again, who always brings me something to sign when he comes to a show I’m at. I think I’ve signed more books for Dave than any other single person. He brings me books I’ve forgotten I worked on!

Barry Gregory, John Crowther, me!

Another fun thing about ECCF is that The Geeky Mom set up right beside me! (that’s BJ, for those of you with raised eyebrows right now!)

Central Florida is a great place to be if you like comics, comic conventions, and meeting comic creators!

Coming up, I’ll be at Smashcon on November 18th and unless I can work out a show for early December (trying to, but it may not happen), that’ll be my last show for the year.

 

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Thoughts on Fan Fiction

Not long ago, I had a spirited conversation about the “merits” of fan fiction with a small body of students. For those of you who don’t know or have never heard of fan fiction—don’t worry, you’re not really missing much. I’d encourage you to google the meaning for yourself because ultimately the discussion came down to a disagreement as to the definition of fan fiction. But I will confess that the “spirited” nature of the conversation surprised me…for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost is that I’ve been a working writer for the better part of 25 years. Because of that fact, I know a whole boatload of working writer/editor types. It’s not because I’m special or anything of the such, it just happens to be the circles I walk in. Much like musicians seem to hang around and pal around other musicians, it’s just the way it is.

That said, most of the professionals I know don’t read fan fic…nor do they really even give it a second thought. Period. While I’ve never done a poll or seen the results of one, I’ve always felt the general consensus was that the overwhelming majority of fan fiction is simply “fans” exploring their geeky fantasies. Not writers. Fans.

I sat on a panel once called “Playing in other people’s sandboxes” (catchy title, not mine) in which the writers talked about what it was like to write licensed properties (for those who don’t know the score, I’ve done a handful, including Planet of the Apes, Battletech and The Remaining, a recent GN adaptation of a horror flick). One writer, who shall remain nameless because I didn’t run this by him first, who writes for Star Wars said that his contract required him to sign that he agrees to not read any fan fiction at all. It’s a legal thing to protect him and the company. But the point is that “not reading fanfic” is actually being added to writing contracts!

One of the arguments tossed at me what the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, a work I have not read nor do I intend to. It’s a “fan fiction” of Twilight, an original work that I don’t really hold in high esteem. I’ve read reviews of Fifty Shades from sources I trust and the consensus was pretty much “bad writing.” Yes, but it sold incredibly well. That is a fact that is tough to argue. But here’s the thing: hardly any (if any at all!) of the people in my writing/editing circle of friends/colleagues have any respect for that work. Yes, it sold well, but it’s not very good.

And therein lies the real issue with fanfiction. Do I think that all fan fiction is bad? Of course not. There’s so much of it out there that ONE of them has to be worth reading. But the overwhelming majority of it is crap. And, if you’re a writer who hopes to one day make money writing, why would you intentionally put yourself in that category? Why would you purposely do that knowing that publishers don’t have much respect for it?

As a rule, I don’t read fanfic. Just not interested in it. Are attitudes changing and will it change? Obviously, I don’t know, but if I were to guess, I’d say yes. I think as younger editors who have been raised with the internet always at their fingertips are in charge of more and more, I think it won’t matter so much to them.

I dunno, though. What do you think?

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Just Do It!

Boy, Nike’s marketing team really hit something when they landed on this phrase, didn’t they? You can really apply the “just do it” slogan to many parts of life—and many do. And it works!

I’m going to do the same today because of something a student recently said to me.

We were talking about some opportunities that had arisen for the student and they said “as soon as I graduate, I’m going to submit my work.”

I was immediately taken aback and simply asked, “why wait?”

It was the student’s turn to be taken aback and I could see it on his face. After some discussion, I got the idea that he felt he had to wait until then.

But writing is not like that.

So before I go on, let me say that I’m a big believer in education. I grew up in Mississippi, traditionally near the bottom in education. It was something that bothered me in high school… and it was also beat into my head from my parents that I was going to college. I don’t think higher education is for everyone, but I do believe it should available to everyone—but that’s a different blog post.

Selling your work as a writer requires no degree at all. No magazine or agent/editor is going to require a degree before they publish you. When I was an editor I never-EVER- asked someone about a degree. Quite simply, it didn’t matter. If they could tell a story and had a command of the language, that was all that mattered. It remains so today.

Now, I think education is good for the writer. Today’s young writers are in particular need of it because they read so very little. Most writers I worked with professionally were well-read. They don’t all read the same thing, but they read—and that was what mattered. Many of my students today tell me “I don’t read,” to which I respond “be prepared to fail, then.” (Not my class so much as fail as a writer)

When I set out to do my thesis, my director told me to think about it as if participating in a conversation: I’m going to contribute to that conversation, thus I need to know what has been said. My thesis should add something new to the conversation, not retread old ground. Fiction writing SHOULD be the same; you’ve got to know what’s come before so that you can add something to it.

This is partly where the education comes in.

Education forces you (or should) to do those things that equip you to participate in the conversation of your chosen field. I mean, how can you expect to be a science-fiction writer if you haven’t read Dune, or if you aren’t at least familiar with Star Trek. You don’t have to be a fan of either, but you must know them and why they’re important to the conversation.

Traditional publishing was always a pretty good gatekeeper for those who could command the language and tell a story, education or not. Publishing is so easy today that a lot of crap is published.

Of course, we should aspire to be better.

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