Monthly Archives: April 2011

Done!

I finished Script Frenzy at 103 pages, with a bit of time to spare. I went over quota because I was in the middle of a great scene and I was on a roll, and graphic novel scripts fill up a page pretty quickly so it didn’t take too long at all. I have a few things I want to finish up, including a story edit so that I can hit my monthly writing target.

On the writing target, I’ve done pretty damn well this month, as compared to recent months. After this last edit I’ll have hit all my targets aside from my reading ones, and I’m going to be able to make an hour or two of headway on those before I shut the lights tonight, so I expect to have hit about 98-99% of the stuff I wanted to do.

One thing I’d like to improve in the coming months is to get some of my writing done earlier. The monthly quota is nice and all, but I tend to procrastinate and leave a lot of the writing until late because I like to let ideas ferment as long as possible. Consequently I spend a lot of time waiting for ideas to really be ready. This is a bad approach because ideas lead to other ideas and the first idea never really gets ready.Then the end of the month comes along, my procrastination gland runs out of juice and, in a panic, all the stories make sense at once and I have to scramble to get them all down before they fly away.

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On Libraries

I more or less lived in libraries when I was smaller. The school library, the public library… anywhere I could get a book to read, I was there. Now, I haven’t been in a library on purpose in ages. Not because I don’t think they’re useful, fantastic places, just… because.

It’s the same reason I don’t spend a lot of time in used book shops, mostly, which is that I like my books in good condition.  Mint condition, even. I have books in my shelf which I’ve read three times over and you’d never know it. Seriously, I could bring those books back to the store the day after Christmas, saying it was a duplicate gift, and the person behind the counter wouldn’t give it a second glance because it basically looks new. Also, money hasn’t been much of a problem for most of my adult life. I’ve always been able to keep myself in new books so the impetus to get them free, or cheaper, was never really a factor. You don’t often find new-looking books in a library, and it pisses me RIGHT off when there’s pencil in the margins.

Lately, however, as I’ve been doing research for short stories and novels, and I’ve realized that there’s a lot you can’t learn from Wikipedia and the Internet at large, because details are often glossed over. Sometimes, other sites are untrustworthy (not that Wikipedia is infallible) and you don’t know what you’re getting. Also, you don’t know what you’re missing. The Wikipedia entry on the Roman Empire, for example, contains many facts, but doesn’t contain a lot of the little anecdotes and trivia you’d find if you flipped through several historical books, so that’s what I’ve been hoping to do. That being said, comfortable with money or not, I can’t afford to buy every single book on the history of, or the day to day life in, the Roman Empire.

Yesterday, I accompanied my youngest son with his pre-kindergarten class to the local library. He made a bookmark, listened to stories, and learned about what libraries are good for. I wandered, browsed, and RE-learned what libraries are good for. I renewed my card, restricted myself to a measly three books (by telling myself, “It’s okay, Mike. they’ll be here when you come back. That’s the bloody point!”) and sat and read. My public library even has comic books! Something which certainly wasn’t the case when I was younger.

It was wonderful. Like walking into a coffee shop and accidentally bumping into your best childhood friend, and realizing that you’re still best friends twenty years later.


Playoff Sadness

The first round is over, and my team is out, though they put on a pretty good show for the most part. It’ll be an interesting off-season for the Canadiens, as they have a lot of free-agents to manage, and a lot of injured players whose potential for the coming seasons will be hard to judge.

Only five of my eight picks for the first round of the NHL playoffs came through, but all three of my losing picks took it to a seventh game, one of the three took the seventh game to overtime, and all three had a lead in their series before blowing it, so I think my faith in those teams was well-placed, even if they ultimately let me down .

Washington – New York (CORRECT)

Philadelphia – Buffalo (INCORRECT)

Boston – Montreal (INCORRECT)

Pittsburgh – Tampa Bay (INCORRECT)

Vancouver – Chicago (CORRECT)

San Jose – Los Angeles (CORRECT)

Detroit – Phoenix (CORRECT)

Anaheim – Nashville (CORRECT)

.

So, my picks for the second round (in bold):

Washington – Tampa Bay

Philadelphia – Boston

Vancouver – Nashville

San Jose – Detroit


Writing Update.

My Script Frenzy count is now at 77 pages (and still going), so only 23 pages to write and more than four full days in which to do it. Not too shabby considering I’ve been easily hitting seven, sometimes nine pages on most days this past week. This should be a breeze.

I should also have enough time before the end of the month to write the short story that’s been fermenting in my head for the last couple of weeks. So what’s the story about? Well, here’s a clue. Nancy Kilpatrick, the editor of the Evolve anthologies (the second of which will include a short story of mine),  is editing a new anthology featuring Death as a main character. This may sound cheesy if you take it in its simplest form, but it’s an interesting constraint if you try to think outside the box a bit. It leads to several easy story concepts, so I’m challenging myself to do something less obvious. I’ve already thrown out three ideas because I felt that they were basically the same idea, and if I came up with it three times, there are bound to be others who’ve come up with it as well. Maybe this story concept will work, maybe it won’t, but at least it’ll be prose writing. I’ve been slacking this month, or rather, I’ve been focused on the graphic novel script.

Not for the first time, I wish there were more hours in the month.


Milestone

I haven’t finished Script Frenzy yet, but I’ve finished the first issue in comic book series I’m writing. It’s not the end but it’s an end and it’s a pretty damn satisfying.

I’m also ahead of where I wanted to be for the day, so I took some hands-off-the-keyboard time and went to read some of the scripts I had, which the writers had posted online at various times for issues of comics I own. It’s amazing to see all the beats that these pros hit when they’re scripting an issue–all the little ways that they pace a story and bring it to life, all the little details and cues that they hide. It’s the sort of thing I wouldn’t have been able to fully appreciate if I hadn’t been doing it myself, and doing it poorly. More and more I’m seeing all the little things I’m doing wrong with my script, but spotting those mistakes is the first step towards doing it right.

One of the things I’m picking up on, the sort of thing that probably comes more naturally with experience, is the use of space. I’ve been playing around a lot with the number of panels per page, and the size of the panels, since this is what provides the pace in a graphic novel, but I’ve noticed that I generally avoided putting a conversation between two people in the same panel. As a writer of prose, you have no choice but to focus on one thing at a time. If someone’s talking in a novel, you can’t interleave someone else’s dialogue into the middle of it. If you’re looking in a particular direction, you can’t also be looking in a different one as well. In a graphic novel, it’s perfectly normal, and often desirable, to represent a portion of a conversation between two or more people in a single panel, with two different sets of dialogue balloons, but it’s the sort of thing I had to notice, and then train myself to do because it goes against the nature of everything else I’ve ever written.

So, still writing. Still learning. Best of all, still having fun. It’s wonderful to have a story fall together as well as this one.


Picking up Steam

As I’ve mentioned before, this month is Script Frenzy, where the goal is to write a 100-page script in one month. Any script will do (movie, television, play…) and I went with a graphic novel because I had an idea I thought would translate really well to the comic format.

I had a late start because I decided to join Script Frenzy very late in March and I knew that I wasn’t going to get anywhere without a solid outline. Then I had the hacking crud for two weeks and that slowed me down, all while I was working on other things as well. The last few days have been much better and I’ve been picking up the pace. I’ll finish tonight with over 40 pages done in total, knowing I can hit a relatively easy pace of 7 pages a day and come in well under deadline at the end of the month.

So how does the script look so far? Freakishly rough. As far as comic scripts go, it’s about as rough as it gets, but I absolutely love the shape of the story underneath the words. It’s one of the stories I’m most proud of, which I think works extremely well from a plotting and characterization point of view, and if I can work on the skills necessary to shape this on a page-by-page and panel-by-panel basis, I think it could be very good. I’ve had success with small-scale plotting in the past but have has problems translating that to novel length, so it’s nice to see the story within something this big coming together so nicely.


Major Karnage

I don’t talk about many books here, but I just finished reading Major Karnage by Gord Zajac and I had to blog about it. I honestly don’t remember the last time I’ve had that much fun reading a book – not just a book that I enjoyed reading, but real fun. Amusement park fun.

The book follows Major John Karnage, who’s locked up in an asylum because he’s a violent bastard in a future world that’s been at peace for 20 years. He also has a device in his neck that will blow his head off if he acts violently too often, so he as to keep himself in line or die. Fortunately for him, he’s good at keeping himself in line, unless someone talks to him about “The War”.
The asylum disappears in a flash of green alien light, leaving Karnage to sort out the mess and try to find and rescue his remaining soldiers/asylum-inmates. On the way he meets characters more violent and oddball than himself and you get the feeling that, despite his many quirks, failings, and violent tendencies, Karnage may just be the most normal person around. It’s a scary world to be in.
In this world, green-electricity-slinging Squid-Aliens abound, as do massive horned worm-beasts and the cultists who love them, and a we-own-the-world mega-corporation resembling a cross between Apple and the Disney company.
Even the non-lethal weapons in the book are absurdly extreme. I’d love to get my hands on a goober gun.
The feeling this book gives is a bit like riding a roller coaster without a lap bar or seat belt. It takes you up, down, and in loops, and just when you’re floating an inch above your seat, wondering if what’s coming next is going to make it all go to shit and toss you out the side, the book cranks up the G-forces and nails your ass back in place where it belongs. And then you realize that you’re grinning like an idiot.

Fun, I tell you. Absurd, satirical fun.

Interested yet? Listen to Gord read the beginning of the book. The reading  starts around the 1:15 mark and Gord’s a very animated reader, well worth the listen.

There’s only one character I found somewhat unbelievable (yes, even in a book like this), and thus unsympathetic (yes, even in a book like this), but aside from that I think Zajac nailed it.

My first instinct, about halfway through the book, was that if  it were a movie it would fall somewhere between Aliens (the second one with the colonial marines) and Spaceballs (for its laugh factor and pop-culture references), but that’s not a fair comparison because Spaceballs was based on gags, where this is based on making over-the-top characters and situations so over-the-top that you have no choice but to laugh. There’s an absolute revelry in its messed-up cast of characters that makes them very hard to resist. It may play more like Aliens starring Christopher Walken, partially rewritten by the guys who script for pro wrestling.
I don’t think I’m making much sense.
Read the damned book; you’ll understand. I loved it.

Trade paperback, 336 pages, available from the publishers directly: Chizine Publications. Also available at Amazon, Chapters, and many other places.