My Writing In 2010
I consider myself a writer. I write damn near every day. I think about it a lot, I do it even more. And I produce work. I do not doubt myself as a writer – though at times may doubt my quality. I am constantly trying to better myself as a writer and I found 2010 to be an interesting year both in my writing timetable, my content, and my direction.
At the start of the year, I was writing a novel. My fourth novel, and I was hoping to find time to proof my third. I was also shopping my first two novels around. I was busy.
Writing a novel is a marathon sport. It requires endurance and fortitude and plenty of sweat. When I write a novel I need to be completely immersed in it. I think about it constantly, I work on it any chance I get, and I try not to give up until it is finished. I have gotten much better at this over the past few years which has seen me finish four novels, a feat I am monumentally proud of. That’s about 400,000 words, give or take.
I was determined to finish my fourth novel as quickly as possible because at the start of 2010 we found out my wife was pregnant. In fact, I was just going to finish my third novel and then spend the rest of the next 8 or so months being a good husband, reading about pregnancies and fatherhood, and I wouldn’t be consumed with another narrative affair in my mind.
I was going to do that but then I started the fourth novel, just gave it a little kick. I got the first chapter stuck in my head, I had to lay it down. Then I secretly worked on it for a few weeks until I realised two things; 1) I was hooked on this idea, and 2) I could finish it pretty quickly. So I smashed the book out and still had time to spare before the little fella came. Everyone was happy.
I started this year focused on my novel writing work but things were very early on changing in a different direction and I might not have seen it coming but I have damn sure enjoyed it. Oh, and I still haven’t proofed the third novel, but I can’t wait to. The best elevator pitch out of the lot of them.
Comic Gonzo – The Weekly Crisis
I am a comic nut. I love the things and often wrote about them on this site. I didn’t dedicate myself to writing about them on here, I was too busy writing novels to be honest, but every now and then I wanted to share the love.
As well as reading comics, writing about comics, I also love reading about comics. I subscribe to plenty of different comic sites and check in with them regularly and comment on occasion. One site had caught my attention, The Weekly Crisis, and I started to haunt around there a fair bit. I liked the site, it had good news and reviews but felt like a small enough community that you could still chat. And the people there were awesome. I’m pretty sure I got onto TWC through Twitter when I became friends with Matt Duarte, columnist for the site and regular legend. Now, that information might be slightly apocryphal but I know it was Twitter that led me to TWC, if not Matt himself.
At the end of 2009, TWC called for some guest posts. I answered the stirring rally to arms with an article. An article I took on my honeymoon and worked on when the new wife napped or I had a spare moment. To be honest, not a lot got done during that week but I did get maybe three-four quality ideas jotted down that I expanded upon when I returned home. I sent off the article. Then sent off another. When I sent the third one, Kirk (the founder and main man of TWC) told me to just come on board with the site. He said he liked my stuff and would be happy to get more out in the future.
Now, I actually sat down with my wife and discussed this decision. I was excited to get the call up, everyone likes to know that someone else out there appreciates their work, but as giddy as I was I was also nervous. I was going back to work full time, which requires a lot more work, and I wasn’t sure I had what was needed to be a journalist, and make no mistake that is how I see the job. I write about the news, the comic news, and while I don’t write about all of it I do write about what I like in it and I want and expect a certain amount of quality. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to lock myself into writing at least two articles a week for this site. I didn’t want to let them down.
I wrote a list of the things I might want to write about. It’s interesting to see that I haven’t covered everything on that list because other articles keep popping up. I took on the job and started about February, from memory. Over the eleven months of 2010 that I was in the employ of TWC, I think I wrote what must be something close to 100 posts. Some are short, maybe Crisis On Infinite Arts posts and some are long interviews with creators I really admire. It’s been a wild and wacky ride getting to write about comics with such a broad audience. TWC gets thousands of hits per day, much more than anything here, and the comments and discussion that can arise are often very rewarding.
I stepped up to the challenge and wrote about comics for a whole year. I can remember being really proud of the one of the first articles about the Savage Magazine Format of Marvel. It was an article I was passionate about, and I researched it, and I think it came out really well. Getting to interview Steven Sanders who drew S.W.O.R.D. was insane fun, not to mention following it up with interviews of the people who wrote Viking, Fantastic Four, Osborn, and American Vampire, and the artist of Resurrection and the upcoming Wasteland arc! Writing Top Ten lists is always a joy for me and one of my favourites was listing Ten Marvel B-Movies I wanted to be made – and later finding out I got it right pegging Aronofsky for a superhero gig, just got the wrong super. There was also an Icon Comics Retrospective that I put a lot of time and effort into and I was definitely happy with the result. These were all article I was completely invested in and putting them out for the world to read is exciting and scary all at the same time.
It’s funny, I read a lot of comic journalism and so I know there are different types of comic hacks out there. There are ones I like, ones I don’t. There are ones I think are just far too pretentious to be real, and others that simply cannot get their ideas out simply and without the need of one more proof read. I look at the plethora of people writing about comics and I try to see where I think I fit. I feel like I’m somewhere in the middle, I’m not the best at the game but surely not the worst. I’m not completely literary because I write about capes, and I’m not completely a rabid fanlad because sometimes I do read something that doesn’t involve spandex. I don’t try and focus on making my sentences complex and my words sesqui-syllabic in length. I usually try to write how I would speak, I want the reader to get the sense that I’m talking to them. And I’m someone they want to listen to. That’s what I shoot for, hopefully I’m somewhere within range of my target.
It didn’t feel like I was doing too bad of a job.
thoughtballoons Keeps Me Creative
I’ve tried my hand at comic writing a fair bit over the last few years. I’ve worked with artists, who then get signed to Oni but continue to be close mates and great collaborators, and I’ve spit balled ideas incessently, but I found that with the demise of my novel writing, what with the pregnancy and then the gonzo work at TWC, I aldo didn’t have much time for writing my four colour tales. A real shame, but I wanted to stay sharp. Thus, a new endeavour was born.
The tale goes that I was home alone making a slow cooked meal when I surfed onto the Comic Twart website. It’s a collective where a theme is picked each week and the artists render something to match against that theme. It’s a great site but I’m no artist so I wanted something more writerly. I spent the night pondering and aftera few hours had thought up what would become thoughtballoons. A website where each week a character is picked and then a bunch of us writers come up with a one page script.
This site has been operational since May and it only continues to find more strength. Each week, we’ve got more Play-At-Home scripters in the comments section, and some of them are good, and each week we manage to push ourselves to greater excellence and experimentation. I am loving the community building slowly but surely over there. Since it began, I have written 33 different one page scripts. That’s why I like the site, it keeps my idea juices flowing and my scripting muscles in shape. I’m not always on form but sometimes I feel like I nail one. I wrote a Daredevil page that shows how I would bring Man-Bull back and I thought it came out well. I also really loved my insertion of Santa Claus into old school Marvel continuity and had him face off against Namor.
Having to write at least one page of comic script each week has been a blessing and getting to know the other writers has also been a privilege and a pleasure. I look forward to doing much more with this site in the future.
Climbing The Ladder – Gestalt Mash
It must have been about July when I managed to make what I see as a very large leap in my comic gonzo work. I’d obviously been plugging away at TWC for a few months but then I got an email from a guy who was starting another site, Gestalt Mash. He wanted to know if I wanted to come on board to publish larger think pieces from time to time. He would even pay for the words. Seems he had checked my work on TWC and liked what he saw. It was flattering, to say the least. I had another discussion with the missus and eventually decided to take him up on the offer. It’s no contarct, just submit an article when I have one and he’ll see if he wants it. So far, he’s wanted a fair bit.
Gestalt Mash is a new site and so doesn’t have the community yet, which is a shame, but it has been fun writing some different stuff for them. I was particularly happy with my Back Matter Matters article as well as the Acronyms of the Spy World piece. I also was going to run a Top 28 Horror Flick Countdown on this site but the site went down for a month and I was losing time in the lead up to Hallowe’en. Luckily it happened because amidst all the stalling I ended up selling the entire run of articles to G-Mash for quite a tidy sum. It’s been fun, and profitable, working on the site and I look to continue doing it into 2011.
Right now, I am in the thick of writing about my favourite single issues of all time. The last one I posted was about Brian Wood’s DMZ #18, and I got a fair few more to come.
Climbing The Ladder – CBR
It was then August where I heard, via The SplashPage podcast, that Tim Callahan was leaving the CBR review team. This was big news to me mainly because Tim Callahan was the reviewer whose reviews I would nearly always read no matter what the title. I also love his weekly column, When Words Collide, and I know he’s the sort of comic gonzo I want to be. He’s smart but not smarmy, that sort of thing goes a long way with me. And it’s also always nice to have a reviewer who reflects your tastes well.
Anyway, ass kissing aside, he was leaving the review team so I hit him up on Twitter and asked him if the vacant position was already filled. I didn’t think he’d even respond, no less respond in any meaningful way. How shocked was I, then, when he replied that the position was open and that he’d put in a good word for me. I was shocked that he’d even read my work, no less liked it. It might sound lame, but this was a man who I admired in a field I loved who was telling me he thought I was maybe okay at what I did. That made me feel ten stories high. The fact that he got me the reviewing gig on CBR made me feel invincible. Until I had to write my first review, then I choked up inside, ha.
Tim said he’d put in good word for me and he obviously did, though it took Jonah Weiland, CBR Grand Wizard and all-round nice bloke, far too long to get back to me. He had me sweating, as I had to email him some links to my work at TWC and I worried he thought they were crap. But he eventually got back to me and I was contracted to three single issue reviews per week. It meant I had to crank these reviews out, by hook or by crook. It was daunting stuff, and also meant the wife had to be on board because this would eat up a little of my time, but most importantly, eat up my Friday nights. She was cool with it and even now with the baby boy I am still managing to get the reviews in on time.
Hell, I even sat in the birthing suite and wrote a review of a PDF while the wife asked only for silence and a nice crossword.
I’ve said it before but writing for CBR about comics is akin to writing for The Rolling Stone about music. It is the pinnacle and I am proud every week to get the chance. It is also nice that I am on the comp copy list of about half a dozen publishers and that I get plenty of behind-the-scenes news first. I love my job and its nerdy little perks.
I am really hoping to be able to still write plenty of reviews for CBR throughout all of 2011. It’s just too much fun to give away, not to mention (did I mention) they pay for their reviews. I earned enough writing about comics in the final third of the year to pay for about eleven months of the comics I bought. That’s good darts no matter how you cut it.
Climbing The Ladder – SequArt
The final thing I will mention is that Tim Callahan obviously decided to drop my name one final time as he ended up getting me on the email list for SequArt. Now, for those who don’t know, SequArt publish literary books that study comics. They collect essays from great comic writers and bind them together and sell them for real money. They are, without a doubt, the greatest literary resource about comics in the publishing game today.
Yet, when I first got the email from them I didn’t know what to think. I let it sit for about a week trying to work out if I was being cranked or not. They were asking me to submit an essay about the comic Transmetropolitan, by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson, available in trade through the Vertigo line. I barely knew what to say, no less to write.
I ended up rereading all of Transmet, taking copious pages of notes in a small spiral bound pad, and formulating what I thought would make for a great essay. I wrote up my pitch for the essay and hoped it would get picked up.
I was told that many writers, many I knew and admired, would be pitching their own takes for their own essays and that mine had to stand out to the editor. I only wrote one pitch, there was only one take I wanted to disect. I wanted to write about Transmetropolitan and journalism. Hell, scrap that
want, I needed to write this essay. I had so many words pounding through my head, and caffeine in my fingers, that I was going to write it whether they ended up wanting to use it or not.
Luckily, I got confirmation that I could indeed write my essay for this book and I set about spending a good month crafting about seven thousand words into the best they could all be together. I proofed and polished the bastard of an essay and then sent it off to the editor. He’s currently looking it over but I can tell you that in 2011 you must all buy a copy of Shot In The Face: A Savage Journey To The Heart of Tranmetropolitan because it’s going to be awesome.
I cannot wait to get my copy, my name in a published book, my own little slice of immortality. It is nice to know that I must be slightly good at what I write about because I got selected, right? These guys looked at my prior words and thought they’d like to be in the business of actually publishing some more of them. That’s a nice thought and makes me think I might be a better reviewer than the mainstream hack I see myself as. Or maybe they just needed a certain amount of essays…
So, that’s what I’ve been working on throughout 2010. It’s been a fun ride with far too many thousands of words to ever count. The only thing worth cataloguing is the fact that I enjoyed writing every damn single one of them. And in the process still managed to create life off the page and fall in love with my son insanely and immensely.
It’s been interesting to go from a creative writer to a journalist, but I feel I can still be both at heart. I didn’t think this was the path I was going to take but it just kept happening, one article, story, and opportunity at a time. And I have no problem with that.
Oh, and I’m also kicking around a comic mini series idea with a pretty reknowned artists but I won’t really speak about that until there’s more to say. I guess you’ll have to wait a little longer into 2011.
Hope you’ll enjoy the ride with me.