Hey everyone! These past four months have been amazing! Time has really flown and I’ve had a lot of momentum behind my writing. I feel truly blessed to be doing what I want to do in life and I can’t wait to see what 2013 will bring.
But what have I been up to?
MIDDLE GRADE NOVEL MANUSCRIPT
Did I finish the middle grade manuscript I set out to write in one month (see my post: Middle-Grade Novel Month)?
Well, I finished, but not in one month.
As you can see in the image above, the first pass took two months. Then, the manuscript needed some significant edits before I was comfortable with anyone reading it, and the edits took another month. So, to have a readable “first” draft, it took not one month but three.
I was bummed to not hit my one-month goal, but I learned a lot along the way.
I tracked my progress using this Time Tracker app, documenting what I was working on each day, how long it took to complete, what I struggled with, etc. With this data, I now have a better idea of what to expect from myself in reality instead of what I’d ideally like to be able to do. Now, I can set realistic goals instead of I-should-be-able-to-do-this goals, which will help me feel good as I accomplish tasks.
Now that I have a completed manuscript, what happens next?
After receiving some feedback, I recognize that there are two major problems to address in the next draft:
1) I need to let the reader spend more time with the characters before the action takes over. This is pretty typical of male authors, who are generally less inclined to talk about relationships and feelings than have things blow up.
& 2) I wrote the book to entice reluctant readers by including a high number of illustrations. In fact, I wrote it so the images were absolutely necessary to understand the story; if you didn’t look at the pictures, you wouldn’t understand what’s happening. But after reading the draft again recently, I realized that the project doesn’t need that style of writing. I was using images as a crutch because I’ve trained in graphic novel writing and that’s where I was more confident. So the next draft will be a more traditional novel approach.
I’m working on the second draft, now. My goal is to have a stronger next draft by April 2013.
GRAPHIC NOVEL ADAPTATION
Speaking of graphic novels… I’m going to be published!!!
In October, I was hired to write a graphic novel adaptation of a YA novel for Graphic Universe (GU). A friend from The Center for Cartoon Studies, Robyn Chapman, works as an Assistant Editor for GU and brought me in to write the script for her and Carol Burrell.
I’m afraid I can’t say too much more than that at the present moment, but it should be released in 2013. And I’m really excited!
It was a joy to work on and the script just poured out of me. It felt as natural as breathing. Once I’m able to relay a little more information, I plan to go into the step-by-step process of how I wrote the script.
Until then, here’s a simple trick I used to get started: I had a page limit of 92 pages, and the novel was 125. So, I had 1 comics page to present every 1.35 pages of text. If you can’t make the ratio work, page-by-page, then you have to start cutting moments with the least amount of plot and emotional weight.
Throughout November, Katherine and I prepared for the book launch by learning how to be an online business! Since the majority of people shop online, now, we needed to remake her website to be optimal for not only buying books but also establishing her brand as an illustrator.
In addition to that, we’ve been learning online marketing, social media marketing, and how to manage book signings and business parties. (With a great deal of help from S.S. Taylor and her husband Matt Dunne. Thanks, you two!)
It has been a lot of fun, but also a whole lot to learn.
That’s it for now. I’ll have more soon. Happy holidays, everyone.
I love it when my work surprises me. After months of plot development, character development, and thematic development, you’d think I’d have it all figured out, but I never do. Playing in the moment always produces the unexpected. It’s the best (and scariest) part about this practice.
Due to all the prep work I’ve done, I tend to know what will happen within a scene, I just don’t know how it will manifest. I let my characters tell me how. This results in surprises like unanticipated jokes, opportunities for subtext, new settings, or moments for characters to just be themselves.
For example, I blogged about an unexpected moment a few weeks ago, when David (the main character of my middle-grade novel about kid spies) got himself into trouble and I needed to learn YouTube Jiu-Jitsu to save him. I knew the fight scene would be there in the plot, but I didn’t know how it would play out. That is, typically, the unexpected I have come to expect.
This week, however, David really out-did himself. While writing the end of the second act, David and some other characters produced a whole new scene I hadn’t even considered. Bonus: It’s the best scene I’ve written, yet!
I thought everyone would want to go to the right, but they all wanted to go left, except for David. By placing David in a situation he didn’t like at all, he boiled over with emotion and brought the theme home with a lot of heart. In fact, there’s so much heart, I’m afraid to keep it in the story. Of course, I will keep it because the best stuff is what scares you (it’s a sign that you’ve hit on something honest which may upset people who don’t like what you have to say), but I didn’t know it would be there until it came out.
So, thanks David—and all your co-characters, as well—for surprising me with the best and scariest parts of my story. It would be nothing but plot without you.
After the most amazing page spread, ever, in my middle-grade novel about kid spies, I ran into a bit of trouble.
While prepping the novel I was always really excited about the most amazing page spread, ever. “How much fun can I pack into a single two-page image?” was the goal. I wasn’t nearly as excited about the really important heavy-with-exposition scene that follows. So, I glossed over it. I got the gist and moved on …until this week.
I made this bed, so I had to lie in it. I had been having dessert for breakfast, lunch and dinner until suddenly it was Brussels sprouts time, baby! Fortunately, I survived the onslaught of Brussels sprouts, which wasn’t so bad after all, and I found moments of dessert along the way (What?).
One task that I enjoyed very much was designing the building for the headquarters. I imagined it to be an abandoned subway station, so I found all these great pictures online and I learned of a gorgeous abandoned subway station here in New York City at the end of the 6 line, The Old City Hall Station. Who has two thumbs and is going on a tour of The Old City Hall Station as soon as possible? This guy.
This week, I wrote what I’ve been eager to write for months: the most amazing page spread, ever!
As I’ve mentioned in earlier blog posts, I’m working on a middle-grade novel about kid spies, and to serve the reluctant readers of this world (like I was), I’m writing the book with the intention of including many high-action and comedic illustrations. This week, I got to write the most amazing page spread, ever, because it is packed with as many spy cliches (that we know and love) as possible.
In the scene, the main character, David, has just arrived at the headquarters of the secret agency and the first sight he sees are kids flying on jet packs, ejection seats, explosions, ninja fights, botched bomb defusions (with hilarious results), debonair tux fittings, and parodies of my favorite moments in spy media, including the laser scene from Goldfinger (Gold-finga! Bwa bwaaaaa daaaa!).
Enjoy (I sure did)!
Thank you YouTube. And thank you to all the contributors who have shared how-to videos of jiu jitsu moves. You got me out of a bind, this week.
While following David (the main character of my middle-grade novel about kid spies) on his first mission, he led me into a situation where an attacker gains the upperhand and pins David to the ground by pressing a knee to his chest.
Fortunately, David has been active in martial arts for years and has also been fighting his older brother (who regularly sits on his chest during scuffles) for even longer, so escaping from this situation required a specific move that was very familiar to David. Unfortunately, it was not familiar to me at all! And I’m the one who has to write it!
Lucky for me, I have YouTube and dozens of jiu jitsu-ing YouTubers who have taken the time to explain the process of escaping from a “Knee on Belly” position. From the surprisingly high number of options a person has to escape from a Knee on Belly, I chose the one below because it made the most sense for the characters.
Thanks YouTube and YouTubers! You saved David from a perilous Knee on Belly.
My wife has put me to the test.
For months, I’ve been developing my first middle-grade novel (and potential series) about an agency of kid spies. I’ve been working diligently around my day job on plot development, character development, thematic development… but this week, my wife (Katherine Roy, who is an author and illustrator for children’s picture books), said it was time for me to stop riding the fence and write the darn thing.
“How many hours would it take to get it done?” she asked.
“Two hundred, maybe,” I said.
“Okay,” she said, thinking for a moment, “that means you can get a draft done in a month, if you start now. Agents and publishers will be back from vacation after August, which is a good time to shop it around.”
“Are you going to get a readable draft done in a month?” she asked.
After taking a deep breath to calm both my fear and excitement of taking the plunge as a professional writer and accepting a deadline I didn’t know I could make I said, “Yeah. One month.”
So, here’s the Alec Longstreth-inspired chart I made for myself (# of Scenes x Days). By staying on schedule with the top line, I will finish four days early and have time to tweak the draft before I let anyone read it, while keeping up with the second line will get the book done on August 14th (the little X’s are checkpoint goals and the little circle is the halfway point).
This November, Mansion Comics will be publishing the very first story of Li’l Nauts in the children’s comics anthology Eggbert (also, it will be my very first published work!).
What is Li’l Nauts?
Li’l Nauts is a spinoff of the characters N-Man, Hypernaut and The Fury from 1963 and Tales of the Uncanny, running with the idea: what would these characters be like if they were all under 10 years old and living in suburbia? Similar to the spinoffs Tiny Titans, Mini-Marvels or Muppet Babies.
The result is a mash up of these modern superhero characters with the classic style of kids comics like John Stanley, Carl Barks and Dell Comics from the 1950s and 60s.
The amazing Jason Week joined me on this idea and with Steve Bissette’s support we created a series that could potentially expand into many many stories. We hope it will.
Check out the samples of Jason’s fantastic art below from the first 4-page story I wrote titled “Li’l Nauts: Hypertot at the Bat”, in which Hypertot struggles to learn the game of baseball.
Li’l Nauts™, The Fury™, N-Man™, The Hypernaut™ and Queep™ © and TM Stephen R. Bissette, by contractual arrangement with the original co-creator; all rights reserved. Li’l Nauts™ was created by Tim Stout and Jason Week; ©2011 Stephen R. Bissette, by contractual arrangement with the co-creators; all rights reserved.