Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Write Over My Skin

Again stealing to heal...This is one Essay I loved long time ago from Peter David called "But I Disgress".Enjoy and only a kind of downer now the top ones specially DC do not received submissions If they are not on request. sad indeed!

This article contains, Peter David's "But I Digress"
from the _Comics Buyer's Guide_ issue #976.

But I Digress...
From Comics Buyer's Guide #976
By Peter David
The most common question I get at conventions, the most frequent type of letter written to me at Marvel or c/o this column, features a variation on the following. (The exact wording is taken from the letter of one young man in Mansfield, Ohio. I'm not running his name because the letter wasn't to the column, and I don't want to violate confidentiality. But it was one of the better written letters I've received on the subject.) And it says:

"I want to be a comic-book writer. At the moment, I'm a 16-year-old junior in high school, brimming with ideas. A question that seems to be asked a lot of me is, 'What are you going to do with your life?' and 'What are you going to be?' To most of them I say that I haven't decided yet. But, to those to whom I tell the truth, that I want to write comic books, they say, 'No, seriously.' That, along with a girl saying she wants to be just friends, defines the low blow.
"The reason I'm writing is that I need a little help in knowing just how to get there."
Rather than answer the question over and over again, I figured I'd write up for BID, make a bunch of copies of it and send them out whenever I get asked.
This is not any sort of absolute "How To" essay. There is no absolute way. What there is is a very, very slim chance- and that's extra emphasis on "slim," particularly if you're trying to break into one of the Big Two.
Unsurprisingly enough, though, I don't get a lot of people coming up to me and asking me how to break into Valiant or Dark Horse or Image. I'm usually asked about Marvel, and it's usually plot outlines for Marvel characters that I'm shown. So that's what I'll focus on, using my experience
as a writer and also my time working for book publishers, as well as my staff time at Marvel.
There are two things to be considered here:
the nature of submissions, and to whom (and how) you should submit them.
Section One:
Nowhere near everything you need to know in order to be a good writer
I now give you some very brief, fairly practical advice in pursuing a writing career.

Rule 1: Don't listen to friends and family no matter what they say. They will either tell you that you goals are stupid or unworkable, which won't help your ego. Or they'll tell you that you're a wonderful writer, which they're rarely in a position to do, because their feelings for you
cloud their judgement; you, however, will get delusions of grandeur. I'll never forget the first grade teacher who sent a manuscript for a children's book, claiming that it was a sure-fire bestseller because "I read it to my class and they loved it." Like the kids were going to shout, "Boy, Mrs. X, your book really bites it."
Rule 2: Rule 1 is not absolute. If friends or family give you constructive criticism, take it.
Rule 3: Read.
Rule 4: Use a typewriter or computer with a letter-quality printer, 8 1/2 X 11 inches, double spaced, with at least one-inch margins all around (a pica inch is 10 spaces, an elite inch is 12; a vertical inch is six lines). Don't hand write. Don't write on anything other than standard- weight white bond paper. I don't care what Abe Lincoln or Jack Kerouac wrote on; you're not Lincoln or Kerouac. And for crying out loud, don't use erasable bond. That wasn't a dodge the writer used in _Misery_ to get Annie out of the house; no real writer types on erasable bond.
Rule 5: Use a dictionary. If you've got a computer, use a spell check.
Rule 6: Read.
Rule 7: Include your name and address on all correspondence.
Rule 8: Read.
Rule 9: Note the repeated emphasis on reading. Note that I don't keep saying "write." Many people will tell you that you have to write constantly. To me, telling a fledgling writer, "You should write," is like telling a fledgling auto mechanic, "You should fix cars." It's a given, it's obvious, it's self evident. If you want to write, though, you should be reading as wide a variety
of things as you can. There's no better way to absorb the basics of writing than to see how others are doing it. And for heaven's sake, if you want to write comics, don't just read comics. What will make your stories fresh, vibrant, and, most important, noticeable is bringing techniques and subject matter that you've learned from other writers along with you into the comics world.
The comics business needs new influences, not a recycling of the old ones. It's like all those artists who only learn art from comic books, rather than learn how to draw from life.
The more you distance yourself from outside influences, the more cloudy your vision becomes.
Rule 10: When you get rejected, keep in mind: It's nothing personal. Learn to mentally separate yourself from your work. If someone says, "Your writing is lousy," he's not saying that you are a lousy person.
Rule 11: Learn to type. Learn to type well and learn to type fast. If nothing else, you can pick up temp work to tide you over before those huge royalty checks come rolling in.
Section Two:
How to give submissions to comics Rather than break this down into rules, I'll break it into questions.
Keep in mind that there is nothing official in any of this. I'm not giving you word handed down to me from Marvel or DC management. In fact, future _Oh so?_ columns may have letters from comics companies stating that I'm completely off-beam. All I can provide is my opinion on how best to proceed.
"Do I have to learn how to draw?" No. No more than you have to learn to letter or color. Learning how to draw does make your work more accessible to the editor, in that it takes much less time to look at a few pages of art then it does to read over and critique a story. But does that make it easier to break in? No, not if the best you can be is a lousy artist.
Go with your strength. If you have a talent for writing and drawing, by all means, develop both. Obviously, the more things you can do well, the more chances you have at success. If you have no talent for drawing but you know you can write, then focus on your strong point. Why become a lousy penciller, if you have it in you to become a great writer?
"Do I submit a whole story?" You submit the gist of the story. You initial submission should, ideally, be no longer than one page. It's not the easiest thing to do, and you'll find that it becomes almost an art form unto itself. What you do is boil your story down to it's essence. Ask yourself,
"What is this story about? What are the themes? What does the character have to deal with that makes this story interesting, important, and, most of all, unique to this character?" Present the essence, the themes and conflict, and the resolution in the broadest of terms (you don't have to
describe every moment in the story. Simply making it clear that you know how it begins and ends is fine.) If your story consists of "Wolverine runs around, fights guys, and comes up with a neat way to beat the villain," I can guarantee it won't sell. You need to come up with some new slant, some new perspective, some new vision, that is both consistent with what's gone before and, at the same time, different enough to catch the attention of the person who reads it and
make him or her say, "Hey, that's a neat idea. I like that."
I don't care if you've read stories that saw print and weren't about anything. Stories that had no subtext or depth. Stories that had no conflict other than people running around hitting each other. How many times have you read a story and said, "Hell, I could write better than that"?
Well, if you want to break into writing you _do_ have to write better than that. Sure it's not fair, but it's true. Besides, you don't want to aspire to mediocrity. Who wants to use the lowest common denominator to justify their work?
"I have great ideas for all these new characters. Should I send them to Marvel?" No. Not if your goal is to break into Marvel. If you have a great idea for a three-part story, save it. If you dreamed up a 12-part, star-spanning mega-series that incorporates every hero in the Marvel
Universe, don't bother. You have to remember what it is you're trying to do.
"So what am I trying to do?" You're trying to make yourself useful to an editor.
An editor has one job and one job only: To get the titles he or she edits out the door to the printer. Everything editors do - the phone calls, the meetings, the running around - everything funnels down into that one imperative. And if you come along and seem to be someone who can help them achieve that goal, then you've got a shot at getting on their good side. Not a great shot, mind you. The odds are still long, because editors don't always have time to nurse would-be writers. But it's a shot nonetheless.
"So do I submit the stuff to the editor of a specific comic book?"
They may kill me for this but my answer to that would be yes. Official policies may be otherwise but, as I said, I'm not official. And me, the smart-aleck freelancer, I figure, what've you got to lose? If the editor doesn't want to deal with it, he'll kick it over to someone else, anyway.
My reasoning is this: What an editor needs most is inventory material. Stories that do not have an immediate side effect on the continuity. Stories that, after 22 pages, will leave the lead character the same as he was at the beginning in terms of his status and relations with the
other characters. That way, if the regular team blows a deadline, the editor is prepared with a fill-in story.
The trick is that any good story is about - to some degree - change.
Someone in the course of the story should, ideally, go through some sort of change. Something should happen to him wherein, at the end of the story he views the world a little differently than when he began. So either the lead character (a superhero, presumably) has to have an experience that makes him think differently about something when the adventure is over, or else you have to create a new character to interact with the superhero so that, by the end of the story, the new character is different than when he began. It's very difficult. It's not impossible. And when it's done well it can be extremely memorable. Roger Stern's "The Kid Who Collected Spider- Man" for example, could easily have been a fill-instory, since it filled all those basic requirements, and I still get choked up when I think about it.
"So what's the ideal scenario, if it all falls right?" You submit a one-page story outline to the editor of the respective comic book. He loves it. He uses the self-addressed stamped envelope you included to write back to you and asks you to flesh it out into a full plot (presumably sending you a sample so that you have an idea of how to do it). You develop it as a full plot. The editor loves it, you get paid for it, and it gets sent off to an artist.
"Do I get to script it myself?" If you want to, sure. Remember, you're trying to make it easier for the editor. If he or she has to find someone to script your work because you can't handle it, you have that much less value.
"What if they steal my idea?" The only thing slimmer than the odds of your breaking in is the odds of your ideas being swiped. There's simply no motivation for the editors to do so. Remember, ideally the editor wants writers to help him get the comics out, not would-be writers who are angry because their ideas got filched. You must also keep in mind that you might
submit something that someone else has come up with independently, and it's already in the works; many a tyro has assumed that his idea was usurped, and went around bad mouthing the writer and editor of a comic book. That's not a way to make friends and influence people, and it's also generally unfounded (unless you're Art Buchwald).
"Is there any way to improve the odds a bit?" Well, $10 clipped to your story submission might help. Just kidding.
Yes, there are ways to improve the odds on becoming a writer for Marvel or DC. In fact, almost anything you do will improve the odds, because frankly, they can't get much worse than what they are when you submit a story cold.
Three commonplace ways to have a better shot at being a writer for the Big Two:
1) Get writing credits somewhere else first. It doesn't necessarily have to be one of the independent comics publishers. [As a pure digression, I must admit I'm a little fuzzy on the term "independents." Is Marvel still a British colony or something that it's not independent? Is DC a British colony (well, maybe, yeah now that I think about it). As for the so-called "independents," sometimes they don't own the characters they publish. These alleged independents have less control over their fates, particularly if they are dependent on such things as the whims of licensor. Go figure semantics, huh?]
If your cover letter can list professional experience in other forms of writing - news writing, copy writing, published short stories - anything that proves that you now how to put sentences together and meet a deadline will be of help. Not that you have to submit your resume with every story. A couple of lines on the cover letter will suffice.
2) Go to conventions. Try to give an editor a face to put with a name. At smaller, less-crowded conventions, it's possible for editors and writers to read and comment on your stuff. If you're going to a larger convention, such as San Diego, I suggest - as difficult as it may sound - to
boil your ideas down to verbal pitches of 25 words or less. If you grab an editor with a neat verbal hook ("Daredevil's hypersenses inform him that a politician's pacemaker is actually a time bomb - but the politician hates superheros and won't trust them!") and get the editor going, "Yeah? Yeah? And then?" - you can pull out your one-page outline with a flourish and hand it to him.
On a personal note: I will never read a plot outline, if it deals with characters I write. It's my way of avoiding possible hassles. But if time and circumstances permit I will read outlines involving other characters. But please - if you see an editor go into the bathroom, don't follow him in and slide your story under the stall. I can't speak for others in the industry, but you won't like what I do with anything handed to me in that manner.
3) Get a job at Marvel or DC. To be honest, that's what happened with me. Except when I got a job at Marvel, it was in sales, and I didn't get the job because I hoped to angle into writing. My career was genuinely in sales. I tried the writing on the side just for kicks. I had no idea that it would develop into what it has or that eventually I would be writing in trade newspapers, trying to advise others to emulate what I laughingly refer to as my success. If you're lucky enough to land an office job, it becomes that much easier because, of course, people will get to know you. Even if you don't get a job, the whole trick is to make a memorable and _positive_ impression
on the people to whom you hope to sell the story. Come up with clever, dynamic ways to get yourself - and your stories - noticed. What sort of way?
You're supposed to be a writer. Use your imagination.

Have a Great Day!!

JESUS ANTONIO Posted by Picasa

1 comment:

The Old Lady said...

That was really interesting

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