“…it’s important to keep in mind that a lot of this job of ours is alchemy, not chemistry.”
From the Jonathan Hickman interview on CBR. Yes.
Humbled to discover our little OGN that could, ETERNAL, has been short listed for a Ledger Award.
ETERNAL gets the props it does on the backs of Eric Zawadzki’s art and lettering, Dee Cunniffe’s colours, Dan Hill’s edits, and Courtney Menard’s gorgeous wallpaper – and big ups to Black Mask Studios for putting out something this different [European size, oversized one-shot format].
Stoked to see this strong line up of Australian comic talent, so go have a look and track down whatever you’ve missed so far.
I still love this book, and hopefully one day we can get back to doing more of the same – not a sequel, but more a companion piece.
Until then, good luck to everyone at the Ledger Awards, and keep reading good comics!
I love teaching writing.
I’ve rarely learned anything new about writing by teaching it to 11yo’s, but I always have fun, and I always come away with something.
Today was a perfect example – I was teaching basic story structure. I used a modified Hamburger Plan that looks similar to this:
It takes students through an intro; with character/s, location, and some basics of time, weather, etc.
Then it drops a hook – what is the complication, which we’ve boiled down to being: what does the character want, but cannot have?
From there, they try a few things and eventually stumble across or build towards a resolution. The example I give, that is rubbish, and so no student can steal it, but it gives a small idea of it all is what follows:
A young girl wakes up one morning in her room, and she wants some milk. But the fridge is empty of milk. So she goes to the store, and they are out, so she tries a supermarket, and they’re out, so eventually she borrows some from a helpful neighbour [maybe after staging a daring, and yet failed, milk truck raid, if you’re nasty].
That story illustrates character desires, and a complication to resolve, but unfortunately it’s boring. And the main character doesn’t learn anything, they just act like a pest until someone in their sphere of influence yields and gives her the dairy hook up. So I explain that to the class, usually with a few laughs, and then we build another story in front of the class, with their assistance.
I try to do this live, with no pre-prep or set up, so they can see that it can be done with an open mind.
I start with the first interesting character that springs to mind – a giant.
I ask the kids for a secondary character, a friend/sidekick type – they spit out a few responses and I decided to amalgamate two into something I like: a clown on stilts.
I tell them the story is taking place in a city, a New York city type place, big skyscrapers, squillions of people, and then I say it’s Winter because…because I like Winter, and it’s more fun for me to describe, and that’s why.
We talk about possible complications for a giant living in a huge city and the kids circle the idea: he doesn’t fit anywhere, he has nowhere to go, and I add in that the city sees him as a kind of nuisance.
I then tell the class that maybe if we think of a resolution to his problem, then we can build the story’s guts up to that resolution. A student suggests the giant build a new home and it instantly sparks an idea – so I tell the kids to watch and learn, because I’m about to take that idea and spin gold with it.
I say the first thing the giant does in the story is try to fly away, because he knows he doesn’t fit, so he’s off to a farm. To do this, he enlists the aid of a mechanic to build him a jetpack, but all the jetpack ends up doing is making him hover, not propel away, so he’s stuck in the air above the city. He eventually lands to try something else, which becomes the next section of the story.
The giant enlists a builder to make him a huge houseboat, so he can live on the river – because all cities have rivers, that’s why cities popped up, to be on waterways to be able to trade with other cities. But when the giant pops into his houseboat, it displaces so much water that it floods the city. And then the city folk hate him even more.
The giant is pretty dejected by now, he’s failed, and then actively affected others, so now he just wants out enough to simply walk away. Which he does, and it works, but then the clown – I couldn’t very well forget about our clown on stilts – finds him abandoning him and the city and he gets sad – he doesn’t want his best [giant] friend to leave. The giant can’t handle hurting another person, so he stays – which is when he gets his idea.
And this is where I thread it all together for the kids, showing how a story should always build up, having the character also build and grow themselves, while also collecting plot tokens.
So the giant has – the possible ability to hover, a houseboat, and a desire to stay with his best friend. So he puts it all together in a new way creating a hovering house above the city. Problem solved, story resolved, and the end is consistent with the character’s desires and what happened in the story.
Though one student then pointed out that the city would hate this floating shade in Winter, causing people to freeze to death in the excessive cold underneath, so I had to change it to Summer. Stupid Summer. But at least it shows a willingness to edit when plans don’t exactly work out.
With the story ended, I congratulated us all, and one student asked what happens when Summer ends, and I at first laughed her off, saying stories just have to resolve…’for now.’ But then I thought deeper and realised the giant would probably just install a sunroof, and sunfloor, to let the sun through on Winter days – though this might have a magnifying effect with all the window/lenses, and that would just have him setting fire to everything below – at which point we realised we had the basis of our sequel story :]
It was a great lesson, I loved filling in the story and having a laugh, and it reminded me for my own writing that if we drop in our loose resolution, we can then seed plot moments and tokens throughout for our characters to find to inform them, make change, or build growth in them. It’s not something I didn’t already know, but putting this stuff into my forebrain always helps.
We can always be thinking about writing, and we forever should.
I fear I think too big sometimes.
I overwhelm my brain into thinking each story must be larger, every publisher more titanic, my “career” only ever rising higher and higher.
But it won’t always be that way. And once it’s the opposite of those things, it can become a little overwhelming. Faced with the concept of going backwards, you start to see the word ~failure~ looming in front of you, and before you slam head-first into it, your face shattering the windshield, you body hurtling towards possible death/certain pain, I think I just need to consider one thing:
What am I making right now, and why?
If your aim is to pitch to a comic company and get picked up, then there’s a chance it’ll not succeed and that will suck. If I’m prepping a Kickstarter, I need to hit funding, and I need to deliver.
But beneath all that, at the core – what am I creating?
If I have no publishers, then what can I do anyway? And can I do it for reasons of joy?
I’m blessed with a day job I like [teacher], so I don’t push myself beyond boundaries to hustle for gigs I don’t want but feel I need in order to leapfrog into something I’ll only mildly hold in disdain, to eventually land a shot at a gig I find relatively interesting, only to land one of the few gigs I’d die to do, and then funnel it all back into gigs I love [creator owned work].
With that in mind, I have to consider what I’m creating, and why. Does this work have an audience? Will this work generate money? Or is it something else?
Am I writing a short comic because it’s a story I’m dying to tell? Am I writing comic book study guides because I genuinely enjoy having them on file for use in class – and because making them makes me a better reader/writer? Am I writing one-page scripts for fun just to hone my craft? Am I blogging because it’s 2019 and it’s clearly a smart use of personal time?
I tend to get caught up in the bigger/better/faster wheel of thinking – and I think it’s currently spitting me out. So I have to look at my job list [day, week, month, year] and consider whats up.
Am I overwhelmed and drowning under a sea of pitches and scripts that aren’t guaranteed to go anywhere, but they’ll sap 150% of my energy? Can I carve out a little slice of that just for me? Can I write a weird set of short stories using avenues/media that aren’t the usual [Google Keep lists, two security guards commentating the CCTV footage inf front of them on a Sunday afternoon, a shopping list found in a supervillain’s base, etc].
What’s the purpose of writing those things – fun, I guess. To make me a better writer, also, but maybe just for fun. Maybe just to sit in my office and connect with words and have a good time.
Who knows? Maybe down the track you can collect this stuff, package it, and try to sell it. Maybe. But if not, maybe I just set aside time to create that one thing that’s just for me, and isn’t huge, and that makes me smile.
I find, I can be doing a whole mess of things – too many things – but sometimes it’s satisfying just to pause, exhale, and sink 10 minutes into something tangential from the Big Things.
They say you should start things the way you want to finish them, so I guess I want to end 2019 doing a whole mess of work.
Here’s a quick visual guide for how I played the first week of 2019.
MAKING COMIC BOOK STUDY GUIDES
I read BEOWULF by David Rubin and Santiago Garcia and it is just utterly stunning.
I instantly knew I had to write a Comic Book Study Guide about it for my Patreon, so I launched into it with vigour, the above image showing what the front cover will look like.
I’ve enjoyed running the Patreon to create study guides to help thinking around comics, and explicit use in the classroom, and I’m putting together some plans and ideas for 2019 which should make it an exciting place to be and thing to do.
WRITING AN UNDAD ANTHO STORY
I’ve been brought in by Shane W Smith to contribute a story to his UNDAD series, whic is aces, and so I’ve been breaking all kinds of thoughts on this, circling around the exact thing I want to say with this idea of a suburban dad becoming a zombie and trying to reconcile that with the man he still is.
Oh, Newsletter, My Newsletter!
Every week you’ll find me writing my newsletter, in which I discuss my writing week, my process, my thoughts, fears, ideas, everything. I also dive into links for other good things for other good creative brains, some Kickstarter love, and hopefully you think about something differently, or get a smile from each weekly missive.
A Novel, My Novel
Dipping my toes back into prose, just to feel that power once more, and I’m enjoying the change of pace this brings. I don’t know where it’ll go, but I clearly don’t know where anything goes.
This story is always going to hit the back seat for the other comics writing, but it’s nice to have in my back pocket.
The Shiny New Project
I write lots of shiny new projects, but this one has really caught fire and spread throughout my brain. I can see and hear the lead character, which I’m loving, and it’s been a genuine treat to write this past week. You never know where that feeling comes from, or for how long it will stay, so I’m off to enjoy the good vinez.
Cubby House Library Fort
I took the kids to the local library, and we stocked up on all kinds of goodness, and then we returned home to tidy the cubby house and decorate it as a reading place. I need to get to hiding up in here way more often.
Every child deserves a reading space in their lives [so do most adults].
So, that’s been my first week, roughly – I didn’t want to screencap all of the many emails I’ve dealt with, and sundry other things.
For now, enjoy your first week into 2019, may it be productive, or restful, or relaxing…or whatever it is you need.
Nothing like an end of year round up. A time to reflect, a time to take stock, and a time to project.
Overall, 2018 has felt like a year of building pressure. Whether we get a glorious wave into 2019, I don’t know, and whether I have the balance to ride that wave and not get crushed I also do not know. But I’ve done my best to stay positive and keep wheels behind the scenes moving, so while I didn’t publish a lot this year, I did prep 4 pitches, and put the scripts for one project to bed, and wrote a tonne on another one, and have lined up a few one-shots with artists I’m excited to bring it all together with.
If everything I worked on in 2018 came out in 2019, it would be a stellar year. So we shall see.
And while I said I didn’t get much out in 2018, what did come out was stuff I’m crazy proud of. The BEAUTIFUL CANVAS tpb landed in Feb, collecting last year’s acclaimed mini-series, and the month before it we started the year strong with ETERNAL, and I’ve been saying if you only publish one new thing all year, but that thing is ETERNAL, then it’s been a good year. Eric Zawadzki and Dee Cunniffe deserve all the praise this year.
Now, onto some things we can list!
MY TOP COMIC OF 2018
I really dug some good good stuff this year. Image tops the list with so much quality: GIDEON FALLS was something I got caught up on recently, and that book is very fine, as is CEMETERY BEACH, for totally different reasons. SHANGHAI RED was my jam in the same way SINK at ComixTribe is. PAPER GIRLS and SAGA and DEADLY CLASS continue to be masterpieces, and I really enjoyed MY HEROES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN JUNKIES, but the top book really has to go to something that’s one of my very favourites from my very favourite creative team:
KILL OR BE KILLED
Just a stellar end to a wicked story where both Sean Phillips and Ed Brubaker were on superbly fine form.
MY TOP NOVEL OF 2018
Man, THE OUTSIDER from Stephen King could have run away with this, if I’d only stopped before the final hundred pages. It’s not *bad*, but it is not as blistering as the first half of the book. That first half is pound-for-pound King at his dark criminal best.
I also really dug PLATO WYNGARD AND THE ARMOUR OF THE GODS, the second novel from my two brothers, Marc and James Lindsay, but that feels a bit nepotistic, and would make them far too happy.
I took a few weeks to smash through HANGMAN, where Jack Heath writes such a ballistic crime novel that you can’t help but be impressed with the layers of familiarity he builds into his characters alongside the wild intricate puzzles and violent moments.
But there can only be one, so, I’ll lay this one at the feet of:
WE RIDE THE STORM
This fantasy epic from Devin Madson was something I bought because she showed the opening line on her table, and it’s a banger:
I honestly hadn’t read a fantasy book since my David Eddings days in high school, but I was keen to try this out. It’s Book One of a bigger story, so the opening hundred pages is a lot of table dressing, but by the final hundred pages it’s just fistfuls of food being slammed into your mouth faster than you can chew. And I mean that in a good way. The action and character drama continue to rise, and I was hooked on all three plot threads as they wind ever closer.
There were also two particular chapters where I finished them and thought…damn, that’s some good reading.
If you get the chance, track this down, it’s bloody, glorious, and bloody glorious.
MY TOP TV SHOW OF 2018
THE GOOD PLACE came so so close to running away with this one. The third season has been just as good as the rest, and in a way that’s different from S2, which went about it different from S1. The show is a titanic force, and I’m a better writer for having watched it, but something else from this year jumped ahead of it through sheer force of will. And it wasn’t DAREDEVIL S3, or GLOW S2, or THE KOMINSKY METHOD S1 which came out of nowhere to absolutely thrill me, nor was it my marathon catch up of three seasons of THE LEFTOVERS, which I’m discounting because it’s an older show. No, the top gong is kinda easily held onto by this one which should be absolutely obvious when you really think about it:
This show good, this show real good. Some of these episodes, mostly in the middle in and around the Teddy Perkins ep are just A+ analyses of the modern world as told through gonzo noir small screen cinema. So so perfect.
MY TOP MOVIE OF THE YEAR
It’s one thing to announce a tie, and it’s another to give that tie to two polar opposite things. Both of these flicks did what they needed to do nigh perfectly, and they left me in very different places, and I can barely separate them. One will be endlessly rewatchable, one will be a hard watch again, though I will. One is high pop bubble gum joy, one is brutal art house insanity. Both, though, are long. I can’t separate it, so I’m letting the chips fall where they may – the top flick[s] of 2018 are:
AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and SUSPIRIA
Watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe come to this big break moment at the end of Infinity War was something to behold, a truly special feat. The movie is top notch event comic action fun. It’s *BIG* and it’s wild and it’s a smile injected into your lips. It’s not high art, and it shouldn’t be. It’s not a great character study, and it shouldn’t be because there are about 500 principal hero cast at play – though it is a study of Thanos, which is both as bold as it is brilliant, and it’s for that reason it crossed the line at the top.
However, across the aisle, SUSPIRIA does everything different, and is most likely the more true superior flick. It is high art, it’s weird, it’s a character study, or more of a location study, a look at witch hierarchy in dance schools. It’s unsettling, and everything holds huge gravity – which is funny when you consider the death count in Suspiria must be about 0.0000001% of the other cape-inclined movie. I feel like Suspiria is more likely to sit atop Best Of lists when we look back in 20 years, but Infinity War will be more remembered, and more wildly remembered, and will sit on its own Best Of lists, too, for its own reasons.
MY TOP PODCAST OF 2018
I’ve gone deep into WOW IN THE WORLD and STORY PIRATES with the kids on all commutes, and they’ve fed my brain in wonderfully small ways. SERIAL returned and was interesting, but lacked that central narrative engine that makes it a binge-worthy podcast. I also found it crazy depressing, to the point where it almost felt like it was inducing anxiety in me after listening for an ep, and maybe that’s a huge point: if listening to it all give me the shivers, imagine living it 😐
I’ve caught up on a tonne of the GOOGLE TEACHER TRIBE PODCAST just to keep my dayjob game tight, and it’s worked a treat, making me feel energised about all kinds of things for work, especially going into 2019.
But, I think this year goes again to OFF PANEL, the comic interview podcast where the creators are well picked and always get down to real talk. I still love this podcast, and still get a constant stream of quality inspiration and joy from it.
MY TOP MUSIC OF 2018
There was new Sarah Blasko this year, I got DEPTH OF FIELD and it’s a great writing record, but it lacks the punchy catchiness of her other albums, so I think sneaking in at the top might be the SUSPIRIA soundtrack.
And I think that’s a wrap. 2018 had some good stuff, and it also felt like mental quicksand. But walking into 2019 will feel like walking free, so I better make the most of it.
Here’s to building a better stronger list of live in yet another year.
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
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
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.
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!
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.