Monthly Archives: April 2012

Not Gonna Happen

Ugh, I’m throwing in the towel on Script Frenzy with one hour to go.

When I did my first count this morning I found I was at 60 pages out of a target of 100, and wondered if I had it in me to write 40 pages of comic script in one day. I also wondered how many pages I actually could write in a day. The answer to the first question is maybe, but today is not that day. The answer to the second question, for the time being, is 24.

I did manage to get other things done today, such as removing the last of the outdoor Christmas decorations that don’t involve climbing up onto the roof. Also I went to my kids music lessons. normally I sit outside for the half hour, but today my son’s piano teacher asked me to come in. I might want to regret the lost writing time, but it would only have netted me an extra three or four pages and that wouldn’t have been enough to make a difference.

I’m calling it a night due to physical/mental limitations rather than because I know I won’t make the target. I knew I wouldn’t make target two hours ago, but I kept on keeping on. My brain is turning into gravy, my eyeballs appear to be incapable of properly interpreting screen text, and my wrists have passed well beyond the pain threshold that I would normally consider to be the end of my day’s writing time. Still, twenty four pages in one day isn’t too shabby at all. 84 pages in total, while a failure for Script Frenzy, is still not a terrible total, considering the other writing that I managed to do this month. Serves me right for trying to do too many things at once, but it’s also good to test your limits every once in a while. For me, it’s partly confirmation that I’d die a horrible wrist-amputating death if I ever tried the Muskoka Novel Marathon that my friends Pat and Tobin are attempting this year. (Pat’s not just attempting, she’s owned this thing several times, so this is more to keep the streak going).

Tomorrow will be a longer post with more details on why I failed and what I can do to improve my writing pace, because there’s definitely room for improvement, but I feel that it’s going to end up costing me money.

We’ll see. For now, I’m taking my mush-filled brainpan to bed.


One More Day

I have one day left to finish Script Frenzy, and I think that I’m pretty damned far from the finish line. I’ve been pecking at it as I worked on other things, but only in small increments which I don’t think have added up to much. I’ve gotten a lot of other stuff done and had a few days where I didn’t get any writing done at all.

I haven’t done a count tonight, but I’ve probably got at least a third to try and do tomorrow, which is one hell of a big pile of script. I have the day off, so it’s as good a day as any to make a giant push for the finish line, but it’s still going to be pretty damned ugly.

Tonight was RPG night, since we shifted the schedule around. It’s every other Sunday for this campaign, and this was supposed to be an off week but things got shuffled around to to scheduling conflicts. Tonight was a lot of fun, and we’re getting to the point where I’m going to be able to consistently put my players through the wringer.

Tomorrow will probably be a late blog night again, and probably will be a brief summary of whether I made it to the Script Frenzy finish line or not. If I don’t then it will be my own fault, but I’m still pretty happy with what I have managed to finish this month.


Saturday

If it wasn’t for having to keep track of life events like my son’s birthday, I’d have no idea what day of the week it is. I suppose that’s the mark of a decent week off work, but it’s still confusing at times.

Today’s parties were a success, but I’m pretty wrecked. Up early, out early, lots of cleaning in the middle, and then the second party. People just finished leaving a while ago. The kids have been asleep for hours, but adult stuck around to chat.

Writing this, I realize that I’m so tired my teeth hurt. I’m going to call it a night and hope the kids sleep in.


April 27th

Today was one of those fly-past-you-at-warp-nine days. You wake up in the morning, drag your feet off the side of the bed, blink, and the next thing you know you’re still in bed but it’s time to go to sleep.

Regardless, things accomplished:

1.) Birthday cupcakes. My son wanted Boston cream cupcakes to share with his class for his birthday. We baked them last night and prepared the filling, and this morning he helped ice and fill them. I drove them to his school later in the morning to avoid a disaster on the bus. From what I hear, they were a hit.

2.) Other birthday stuff. He opened his presents from us (the parents) and his brother after school. Then we went out for supper, and he stayed up late playing with his new Lego before being forced into bed. We’ve got two parties tomorrow, one in the morning for his friends at a local climbing gym, and one in the evening where all the extended family comes over for more cake. I have a feeling half my calorie intake this weekend will consist of cake and frosting.

3.) Writing. I finally finished the rewrite of the bizarre short story I started all those weeks ago. Well, short… it came out to around 10,200 words after a second draft, which is still massive for a short story, and I didn’t even add the scene I wanted to add in the rewrite or it would have been worse. I can tell it needs more work but I’m too close to it right now. Writing a new story is best done with fire and passion, but a rewrite needs to be done with a clinical detachment. You can’t excise words, phrases, and scenes if you’re attached to them. And so this one will go for review by a very trusted reader, and then will go on the shelf for a few months until I can look at it with a less parental eye. I know it has a lot of flaws but I won’t be able to iron them out until I put it away for a while.

Aside from that, ugh. I’m mostly over the cold I had at the beginning of the week (which my youngest son gave me, and he is also mostly recovered), but now my wife has it. Hopefully she’ll be feeling up to enjoying the parties tomorrow, and she has to work on Sunday so she pretty much needs to be in shape for that.

And so to bed…


Happy Birthday

I’m posting this as close to 00:25 as I can, because exactly eight years ago at this minute, I saw my eldest son’s face for the first time. It was a bit red, a bit slimy, and it wasn’t long before it started making a whole lot of noise, but it was the most amazing instant of my life.

I try not to talk about family much on here, mostly because they’re bystanders who didn’t ask for it. When my kids grow up, I don’t want this blog to haunt them. They’re too young to understand that what gets put up on the Internet typically stays there forever, or how it can come back to bite them in the ass. A funny anecdote now might be the sort of thing they’ll wish I hadn’t written ten years from now, so I tend to keep to myself. I think I can still get away with a happy birthday here and there without causing them too much future distress.

You hear a lot of things from a lot of people about how it feels to be a parent for the first time, and it’s tough to prepare for that moment because you really don’t know how it’s going to feel. You can’t know until you’re there. For my part, I’d just gone through a very rough year. I never had much family growing up and in the span of less than three months the entirety of what I’d ever called “family” passed away. As the only one left standing, I was stuck with all the estate crap, all the paperwork, all the selling of memories I just didn’t have room for. I also had to deal with an unwanted job transfer, and all the stress of being a home owner for the first time. Probably, I was as depressed and I just didn’t know it. My son turned my life around by giving me something really wonderful to focus on. It was like being buried alive, and giving up hope, and then having someone unexpectedly clear dirt from your face to let the sunlight in, and you knew that everything going to be all right.

In the eight years since that night, I’ve done a lot of things, and changed in many ways, but watching him grow has been one heck of a treat. I’ve relived my own childhood in seeing him explore the same things that interested me at different stages. I’ve marvelled at how he can be EXACTLY like me while at the same time being nothing like me. I’ve tried not to shut any doors for him without spoiling him and I’ve probably completely failed on the second half of that. I’ve been angry at times, and stressed and exhausted, but I’ve also been proud and happy and amazed. I wouldn’t trade away any second of it.

I can’t wait to see what he does next. As long as he thinks it’s awesome, I think I’ll be okay with it. I wish him all the happiness he can hold.


Writing for Comics

I can’t say I have a whole lot of experience with writing graphic novel scripts, since all I’ve got under my belt are two Script Frenzy efforts, but going from zero knowledge to current knowledge there are some things I’ve found extremely useful and I figured I might as well share them.

First is a book by Will Eisner, called Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative. For those who haven’t heard of Will Eisner, he’s the artist for whom the comics industry named their annual awards (The Eisner Awards), and he’s probably best known for his work on The Spirit though his credits run much deeper than just that. He later also turned to teaching and lecturing and is extremely respected in the field. Reading this book, it’s easy to see why. In this one he stays away from basic writerly things like what makes a character interesting, or any of  the nuts and bolts associated with good story writing, and focuses on what makes for compelling visual narrative. There are many ways in which graphic stories vary from prose, and even from movies, that aren’t obvious. At least, they weren’t obvious to me. There are loads of examples, using Eisner’s own work as reference, showing how things like minute changes in perspective, combining elements into a single panel, even details down to the lettering, can affect the user’s perception of the work, and user perception of the work is really what drives a good graphic story. You need to know the backbone of telling a good story before you can tell a good graphic story, but there’s no guarantee that being good at the first will allow you to be good with the second. So doing regular writing homework first is a must, but I think this book should be considered essential to anyone who wants to know how to take their story and tell it in a way that makes the best use of the square inches available to them on a comics page.

The most intimate relationship where graphic novels are concerned is between the art and the reader, but the art is guided by a third hand, that of the writer, which brings us to the second thing I’ve found extremely useful this month.

In this short blog post, Warren Ellis explains What A Comics Script is For. The first line states:

A script is a set of instructions to the artist(s), letterer, editor, colourist if applicable, and designer if applicable.

This may sound brutally obvious, but it’s the sort of thing you don’t necessarily think about if you aren’t in the business. I’m used to writing for the end consumer, the reader, and I’m used to employing all sorts of tricks and tactics to reveal information, to avoid revealing information, or to reveal something subtly. A comics script is not the place for subtlety. Your story may employ subtlety, and the art may reveal things in a certain sequence, so the user may be expected to see a vague shape coming out of the shadows to reveal a specific monster, but the monster needs to be very clearly defined to the artist who is going to draw it, even from the first blurry outline. The rest of Ellis’ post serves as a fantastic, concise, hilarious list of what to do and not to do when writing a comics script.

Many times this month during Script Frenzy I’ve found myself hinting at things or being ambiguous in my descriptions because what I needed was for it to be ambiguous to the reader, but that’s not how it’s done. It’s how I’m used to writing things, but it makes for a piss-poor script. I’ve left it as is for now because a) I have a 100-page target to hit, b) That’s what rewrites are for, and c) I couldn’t care less right now because I know that this particular script will never see the light of day in its current incarnation. I am, however, trying to keep these things in mind for the pages I have yet to do.

So, my recommendations for people dumb like me who think they can squidge out a comic script are to read Eisner’s book to see the best way to communicate graphically to a user, and read Ellis’ post to see what you need to remember when writing a script so that you can wring those precise graphics out of your artist.

One last thing. Once you have a grasp on the above, there are several writers out there who have made a few of their comics scripts available to the public. Find writers you’ve heard about, get the scripts they’ve made available, get the relevant comics so you can see what happened between the script and the final product, and learn. Never stop learning.


DRM

I’m very happy to see that Tor/Forge is dropping DRM from their ebook titles as of July 2012, and I can only hope that this is just the first in a long line of publishers to adopt this route.

There are a few things which have kept me away from buying ebooks, and DRM is definitely one (lack of a reader I really feel like reading on, and price being the others). I’ve seen enough tech companies come and go, and enough policy changes, that I’m not willing to bet the farm that the dozens of books I buy in a year will still be readable. And before anyone laughs at the prospect of companies the size of Amazon or Apple or Barnes & Noble disappearing, consider that Borders is dead, that RIM/Blackberry is dying, a that a company no smaller than Microsoft will be shutting down its Microsoft Reader servers later this year. What that means for paying, honest customers, is that the books they have trapped in Microsoft’s format will be tied to whatever devices they’re currently on, without future possibility of being moved. Quick, pat down your body, what’s the oldest gadget you have on you right now? Sure, anyone with their books on a decent desktop PC can reasonably expect that those books will be available for another half-decade at least, but e-readers or other portable devices? I don’t see many people flaunting their original iPhone (2007), or 1st gen Kindles. You’re going to replace your hardware eventually and your DRM-crippled books go with it. Before I make the permanent switch to ebooks, I need to know that the ones I buy will be usable ten or twenty years from now, barring file corruption. As it stands now, Amazon could decide to yank its reader software from other platforms, other platforms could decide to end support for or access to Amazon’s app… there are so many ways for companies to end my access to things I’ve paid for that it simply doesn’t seem worth it.

I can’t see any benefit to the consumer with DRM, so obviously I think this is a great move by Tor. I’ve been a reader of their physical books for a very long time, so I hope this is a boon for them.