Without Fear

Ryan K Lindsay – Writer

Category: verbiage

The RKL TOP 10 WRITING RULES-ish

I’m getting the feeling people don’t like Writing Rules, they don’t want a rigid structure of how it works to get worlds out of your brain, and they certainly didn’t warm to those laid down by Jonathan Franzen, but I’ll admit, I find them fascinating. A word I choose carefully.

I want to know what the masters think we should hold in our highest esteem, I want to know it from my peers, and nascent writers, and plenty of others. I want to look into everyone’s head and see what roads they follow. I won’t necessarily follow those rules, or even care about them, but the process of having them to read absolutely fascinates me. It’ll tell me more about the person’s mindset and style than it will about any universal truth of writing.

I dig books about writing, I dig blogs and podcasts and tweets about writing. I use them like I’m building up a pantry, but when I write I’m just cooking. I might have everything stockpiled, but I’ll only take out what I need for a specific recipe when the time comes. You dig?

But, in the spirit, I wanted to attempt to carve out my own ten tips, just suggestions, just from me, and then I could see what I thought rose to the top, so here goes:

The RKL Top 10 Writing Rules Tips

1 – Your story must be about stuff. And that stuff isn’t just a list of the things that happen, it’s why those things will matter to the reader, the truths beneath it all, the theme. Your writing will be amateur until you have something of meaning to say.

2 – Write so 1000 people will absolutely love you, not so 100,000 will think you’re kinda alright.

3 – Write about whatever gets you excited to sit down and write.

4 – Set small writing goals. 500 words/2 script pages a day. Then blast through them, sometimes.

5 – Have only one tab open while you’re writing.

6 – Think on paper.

7 – Are all your default lead characters straight white dudes? Why?

8 – Write whatever you want. Any genre, any length, any format. You might not find a paying home for it, but you’ll be true to yourself.

9 – Be inspired by your heroes, but don’t ape them. Let them fuel you with the courage to be yourself.

10 – Recharge your brain so it has more to write about. Read comics, watch movies, study the world, live life.

——-

These points are very clearly by me, for me, and just for me. If you find them interesting, I’m glad. If they help you sharpen your own Top 10, fantastic. If your 10 are the polar opposite of mine, fill your boots, I bet we can still be mates.

I write about stuff like this all the time in my newsletter, statistically, there’s a chance one of you will like it, so here’s the link – tinyletter.com/ryanklindsay

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Thinking About Comics [writing, listening, reading, oh my]

I think the main reason I love the internet is because it gave me more spaces and places to think.

I loved the public and school libraries as a kid, I’d wander in, find stuff to touch, touch it all, and then settle on some of the touched to take home. I could buy some books, and secondhand book stores are my constant must see attraction in all new and foreign towns, but I could never buy enough. But I could always borrow things.

I sampled a bunch of new authors because of the freedom of libraries. I looked through all kinds of non-fic reference material because it was there to browse. I like to fill my brain with things, and sometimes I even re-use those things later.

Then came the internet – and I could find so so many things.

 

I set up my Google Reader [rip to this blessed resource] to collect a multitude of sites and blogs and slap them into a readable scroll. I filled my eyes with ideas and hypotheses and I tried to make sense of it all. Free script downloadable pdfs flowed freely, and op-eds about writing swirled into my brain, and in-depth analyses about my favourite works and creators of fiction were caught in my net. It was amazing, I won’t lie.

You can learn a lot by reading something that isn’t something already on your shelves. So the internet became a place where I could comb, for free, through things.

Now, curating this since social media’s empire rose and fell has become a skill, but it’s an important one because there’s good stuff out there, and if you want it you can most definitely find it.

Or you can make it yourself.

I launched a Patreon to fund me making comic book study guides and the campaign is going amazing. I’ve sent out pdf guides for people looking to study all kinds of comics from GHOSTS by Raina Talgemeier to BATMAN: YEAR ONE by David Mazzucchelli and Frank Miller. I’ve also got podcasts on there where I unpack parts of a study guide, or where I just chat about a great comic I’ve read before. It’s fun, and it’s my way of providing a little something extra to the internet for people to dig.

You can head across to support and get all the old study guides, and be ready for the new one:

The comic list above is the Good Stuff, and I’ll also be talking about it in a podcast on there very very soon.

I want a future where people discuss comics, and think about theme, and enjoy their fiction on a deeper level. I hope it helps in any way.

I got Rust in my Process

Wait, bad translation – trust in the process.

Dan Hill has been saying this to me for years. And he’s been right every time. Chuck Wendig just now, at that link above, chimed in. The writing process is a hell of a thing, and it feels designed to break you, for some unknown reason. Every time you stumble, falter, it feels like the first time.

I think writing is like love. In hindsight you see the good, you see the bad, you see it all and you don’t die for every part of it. But in the moment, oh man, I’m a mess. I catastrophise, I glorify, I obfuscate [even from myself], and I have no clue. I’m lost, like it’s my first time, and I can’t get a clear view. And I don’t think I’d have it any other way.

I’m constantly hitting a wall in my stories where I’m absolutely certain I’ve borked it. Sometimes it comes early, sometimes late. Right now I’m breaking a story with an artist, and I’ve already gone through this phase. Right now I’m also writing a script for a #6 issue and I have the same feeling. It’s ridiculous, but it’s only because I want the best story possible.

I say this a lot, but a story can work, the acts can all be in the right place, and the story clicks – but that doesn’t mean it’s worth a damn. A character wanting something, being unable to get it, and then overcoming something to get it is a story, but it won’t always be a good one. So I dig deeper, I try to better understand all the elements, and the more I discover, the less I know what to do with it all.

But it always seems to come together in the end. I remember NEGATIVE SPACE #1 had, I think, nearly a dozen drafts, which takes me to a direct quote from Wendig:

“The first draft — and in particular the first 5-10k of that first draft — is just me chopping vegetables. It’s prep. It’s learning the recipe. It’s dumping out the puzzle pieces. It’s wandering through a new house in the dark, learning its layout, its topography, and how not to break my pinky toe on the fucking coffee table.”

Those first issues are where all the hard work is done, it’s all set up, and from memory NEGATIVE SPACE #4 only had like 3-4 drafts, because by then you’ve got the story and tone and voice and other conventions sorted. Then you just make the magic happen.

So when I’m breaking a story, I just have to give myself permission to go wandering in it. I’m discovering the landscape, slowly mapping it out, and to respect what I find I’m going to need to take my time.

——-

You can find content like this, sometimes, on my weekly newsletter: tinyletter.com/ryanklindsay

I’m also making comic book study guides on Patreon!

What’d You Write As A Kid?

Ever since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to be a writer.

My house was awash in words, we read voraciously, we wrote as exploration. Before the age of ten, I declared I would grow up to be a writer [and a teacher]. And here I stand, both.

I teach kids now who I can easily see being writers when they grow up, they’re good with words, they like to express ideas and thoughts, and I know some of them will get there. I see my job as an opportunity to guide them, to tell them it’s possible, and to enjoy the ride with them.

I often think this means I have to push them into a specific writing path, or push them to finish, or push them at all. I think that’s wrong. Or, probably more accurately described as misguided.

My job is to be there with them, to make it enjoyable.

I started thinking about my own childhood history with writing. What did I write? How often? About what? Why?

I remember writing some short stories, and they were always wet trash. But I enjoyed the challenge. I wouldn’t always finish them, which I constantly took as a sign of failure – and here I sit upon a throne of failed pitches, and unfinished documents, and I see the fallacy of that idea. All writing is practice for the one that finally makes it through. Everything builds up to it.

I thought I’d be a novelist, so I tackled prose fiction. But I also had a hankering to be a journalist, so I wrote weird articles. I was a massive basketball fan, so I’d watch games and take notes so I could write newspaper articles after the game. I don’t think I ever finished one of those articles, but just aiming to do it was a clear sign as to where my head was at. I’d type up fake basketball game statistics, like you’d find in Basketball Digest.

I also kept a book where I’d write reviews of movies I’d watch. They’d get a rating, a short review, and I don’t even know if I ever considered an audience for this stuff. Man, I was decades ahead of Letterboxd and the like.

I bounced in and out of words, I kept notepads and notebooks of ideas and thoughts and reviews and stories, and it was all building my skill set.

I now see kids who write all kinds of things outside of school; stories, journals, reports. Inside school we write; stories, newspapers, websites, podcast scripts, we turn comic pages into narratives, and make poems out of amazing titles.

I want to make writing fun. I had a blast writing my stupid basketball articles and movie reviews. I liked writing a newspaper front page with a movie review, and a fake article. I thought my short stories were ace, right up until the point where I knew they weren’t and I walked away.

I wonder what other people wrote when they were kids. I wonder what we still let ourselves write now as adults.

The exploration of the world through words is a hell of a thing. We should all do it from time to time.

Think On Paper

I read a great newsletter recently which linked me to a great article that I think was paraphrasing another great writer’s quote, which was:
Think on paper.
And I could not agree more.
I love digital citizenry, I work in Google Docs, I have lists on Keep, I’ve got apps for one thing, and extensions for another.
But there is merit to the thinking that we think differently on paper. Our brains work better, I believe, with the open wild canvas of pristine paper. Or not pristine, gnarled up old napkins, grid paper in a notebook. Whatever works for you, but I think when I step back from the internet machine, and I just pencil in thoughts and words and connections and questions, my brain opens up more.
Which is why I plot in a notebook.
But I think subconsciously I thought I’d get “better” at it, it would come quicker, the story would only take two iterations in a notebook to come together.
It hasn’t.
I still make pages and pages of notes. I still write the synopsis out a dozen times, in different formats – sometimes a linear blurt of events, sometimes broken into subheadings of issue numbers, and sometimes in character columns.
This is how my brain pieces it all together. I have to think “out loud,” as it were, on the page. Then I can ask myself stupid questions, and scribble things out, but still keep one eye on them, and draw lines between things and add question marks when I’m not certain.
I’ll eventually form it all into boxes, one per issue, and all the pertinent info is there to then beat up a page by page breakdown, but that thinking process, I have to trust in it. It feels laborious, I’m going through pencils like it’s a bad habit, but it’s my path to wherever my stories end up.
Getting better at this doesn’t mean getting the story right and completed in the first draft of the plot.
Hell, getting better probably means more pages, making it better, over more time, and asking more dumb questions.
I’m not going to get faster, but I can hopefully get better. So that first plot outline I attempt, man, it’s just the wire framework. The hard work hasn’t even begun, and if I remember that, I won’t feel like a failure, and I won’t stress as much, and I’ll go in a little looser. We should always stretch before vigorous plotting, and it’s okay to get loose.

Looking above, this post isn’t amazing, I typed it straight into the online box, there was no thinking on paper. But I can’t get you to subscribe to what I pencil into my notebooks [though with a rocket journal, maybe that could work…hrmm?] so I guess this’ll have to do.

These types of thoughts usually also appear in my newsletter, give it a sub for weekly thoughts about writing, and the writing life, if that’s your jam.

Why You Should Subscribe To My Newsletter

I send out an email newsletter every week on the Monday – it’s called THE TWO FISTED HOMEOPAPE.

And here is why you should subscribe to it, if you already haven’t.

Screenshot 2017-07-06 23.10.25

This newsletter is all about my writing life. If you’re interested in me, this is The Place to get your up-to-date info. If you’re a writer, hopefully I can share some high quality writing thoughts, or link to good writing vibes, or just keep our minds collectively spinning on this writing game.

I honestly care about this newsletter. I realised a while back this infodump was my weekly therapy. This was where I shared and bared my soul. If you’re after honesty and insight, this is where you’ll find it most raw from me.

I drop all the latest news. This latest edition alone I’ll be talking about: this latest pitch I’m putting together, some of the awesome Patreon content I’m prepping [and how much damn fun it’s all been], why I keep on writing one-shots, why my next two books aren’t ready because of how awesome they’re gonna be, and why I maybe kinda quit twitter this week.

The newsletter is the safe place for all this, it’s the all-access behind-the-curtain champagne room in my writing club. IT’s the place that matters the most.

I’ll link you up. I keep a list of the good stuff I read this week, some good crowdfunding malarkey from around the traps, and why what I’m reading/watching is nudging me towards being a better writer/reader/viewer each time. I want to unpack my thoughts on paper [as it were], and I’m happy if that ever helps anybody else dislodge one quality thought in their brain.

I wish to be free of this wild wheel on which we find ourselves. Man, social media sucks. Trolls, algorithms, huge profits that have to be coming from somewhere [if you can’t buy a product then YOU are the product, etc]. I love twitter, but it’s also a sinkhole. I’d be stoked if I could survive on the newsletter, and then my Patreon [with the odd Kickstarter], and maybe Goodreads thrown in for good measure.

This is why I want to see you over at THE TWO FISTED HOMEOPAPE – because that’s where I want to call home. Safely in your inbox, ready for whenever you want, and hopefully a delight to read, a fuel for the brain, and an elixir for the heart.

If you’ve got a newsletter, let me know, I love reading ’em as much as I love writing ’em. And if you wanna know what any of these pictures below really are all about, you gotta come join me, we’ll have a blast!

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Screenshot 2018-08-07 21.05.41

Screenshot 2018-08-09 23.51.17

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Hope this wets your whistle.

Self-Applying the ‘Writer’ Label

When do you confidently start saying you’re a writer?

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Why Writers Should Write

And I mean writers should write lots. More than they ever publish.

I wrote many complete comic minis. All before I pitched a publisher. Some before I pitched to an artist. And all of them never made it to the page. I would never do that now, why did I do it then?

Because I was young and dumb. Dumb enough to believe I’d get those stupid ideas made. Young enough to think I had the time. Dumb enough to think I had to do it. Young enough to think an artist would come on board.

I’d never script a full 6 issue mini now. But I did a decade ago. And I’m damn glad I did. Writing those issues gave me an appreciation of story structure far beyond what a plot document will. It showed me how characters fuck with your plot outline, how they won’t behave. How by the time issue 4 is ending, you know everything better, with gather clarity, and you know certain elements have to change.

We tell people not to write ahead. And we tell people not to write for free. But we forget sometimes to tell people that writing is a skill you practise. And you won’t practise with every page published, you don’t want to do that, trust me, so you want to practise in the shadows. You want to practise so when you do emerge, you’re pretty decent. Maybe close to good. Probably serviceable.

I tell people all the time about all the scripts I wrote before I self-published my first one. It was about 60 scripts. A ludicrous amount. But it all helped me understand how story flows out of me better. That I can trust the process that plots change, characters change, and you will have different strategies to figure out the hard stuff.

I think back and remember just banging away on these scripts like they were the most important pages in the world. And I still want to approach everything in that manner. I want my pages to still feel like the most important pages in the world to me. Because they kind of are.

And I always enjoy writing every damn word of them.

Take time to enjoy your writing. It’s a fool’s pursuit, done because we love it, and if you’re in for the ride then really throttle into it and give it everything.

On the ISLAND OF THE LIZARD KING’s Cover

For as long as I can remember, I always dug playing the Fighting Fantasy books.

My brothers had copies of these strewn around the house, and I don’t even know at what age I picked them up, but I can vividly remember playing them when I was about 7, half laying under our coffee table, and half poking out with a cushion under me, to roll the dice, to battle the pages, and to make my own adventure sheets in an art pad.

I loved the adventure, the nerdy mathematical/chance aspect of it all, and the scenarios and art were wild. These were infinitely better than the Choose Your Own Adventure books – these were the Horror Section of your old VHS emporium compared to the Kids Rental Section of your safe old library.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but these were the METAL interactive story/game pages of my youth.

We owned many of these books, and I played the all, and while many hold a dear place in my heart, it is always this cover that fires up my imagination. behold, the ISLAND OF THE LIZARD KING!

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2018 – Break

2017 was a wild year, and I am now all here for 2018. This is going to be a year, mark my words.

I’m going to try a few new things this year. This site is a constant. I’ve seen that other platforms…might be more nebulous in their entirety, or in how I want to use them.

I also know I just want to have a little fun. So death to 2017, long live 2018* [*or, at least, y’know, live for a full year, if you can, but probably not beyond that, it could get awkward for 2019]

My 2017 was fun, and I want to use it as a step, not a place to squat and nap for the next decade.

Last year I released my 4th comic miniseries into the wild, and BEAUTIFUL CANVAS did well.

It was a blast to work with Sami Kivela, Triona Farrell, Ryan Ferrier, Dan Hill, and Matt Pizzolo no this one. Black Mask Studios is a hell of a home, and I loved landing there.

I landed successful totals on Kickstarter Campaigns Numbers 5 + 6 and now we have INK ISLAND with Craig Bruyn and STAIN THE SEAS SCARLET with Alex Cormack in the world.

I also spent a lot of the year planning things for 2018, so you’ve been warned. It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be full of writing, and it’s going to all be coming at us faster than we can manage.

I hope you’ll join me in the fun that’s to come. I’ll be looking for you.

2018 – break.

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