Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Writer's Rules Revisited #2

Last week, I opened up a new series on the rules of writing based on my original "50 Rules and Tips for Writers." It was very popular and people really seemed to like it, so I'll certainly be keeping it up.

You can read Part 1 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here.

The three rules we'll be talking about are primarily for screenwriters. As much prose writing as I've done, I've probably done as much screenwriting. (The next episode of Confessions of an Independent Filmmaker will be highlighting a lot of the misadventures I had in the Hollywood agent and screenwriting system.)

Over the years I've talked to a lot of readers, mentors, and screenwriters that seem to back up these philosophies. There are a few important things to point out when screenwriting, though. The first is that everyone has a different style of writing a screenplay, but the format is largely the same. If you want to compare and contrast, read Alex Proyas' early draft for Dark City, it's very florid and reads, at times, very much like a turgid noir novel. On the other hand, check out William Goldman's script for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It's almost boring to read because it's so clinical and precise with the shots. In both cases, each script served as a blueprint for a masterpiece of a movie.

Perhaps that's the key to being a good screenwriter: reading screenplays that served as blueprints for the very best of films.

The next most important thing to remember is who you're writing your screenplay for. If you're trying to pitch a production company, a producer, or an agent (even an actor), chances are they're passing the reading off to a reader. It's the reader's job to read screenplays all day, every day. That's what they do. And they've seen every bit of bad writing and formatting in the book. Since they do it so much, they are looking for absolutely any reason to toss your opus into the trash.

These rules are aimed at taking away some of the biggest reasons they have for discarding your manuscript.

Though these are geared toward screenwriting, they could be construed as applicable to prose and novels as well in some cases. Personally, I find any bit of advice on writing in any medium useful and insightful. If nothing else, it gets me thinking about writing from a different direction and sometimes that's exactly what we need to unstick our process.

9) No one likes to read large blocks of text, keep action to one or two lines but no more than four.

This rule is inviolable when I'm working on a screenplay. If you're familiar with screenplay format, you'll know that a typical page will have a slug line in all caps telling you where you are and what time of day it is. Below that will be blocks of action to set the scene and describe the motions characters are going through.

If there are more than four lines in any one instance of action, I know exactly where to cut. Even if I can't lose any of the action I've written, I will break it up into two (or more) blocks separate of each other. These blocks of action are how you pace a scene. Longer blocks of text keep readers reading longer, shorter blocks make them feel like they're flipping through pages at an alarming rate. It's a difficult thing, but you are managing the physical reading experience of these readers every bit as much as you're managing the storytelling experience.

This is a very simple bit of manipulation.

This serves as a good way to keep readers from skipping huge chunks of text as well. Readers go through so many screenplays that they are looking to make it go as fast as possible. If you give them a reason to skip a passage because it's too long, it's not going to help your cause.

When I originally wrote this rule, it actually read Leave as much white space on the page as possible. Pages of screenplay sparse of text with lots of white space are in no way intimidating to read. Your job is to keep them reading, not to scare them off.

10) Unless you're directing, keep inflections, camera direction, and editing suggestions out of the script.

This is one that a lot of would-be screenwriters seem to struggle with. I struggled with it in the beginning, too. And, like I said before, this is a rule that can be broken for some, but it doesn't work for me and I don't find it worth the risk.

Again: Consider your audience. If you're writing this as a shooting draft, ready to hand a camera operator, then you're going to throw this rule out right now. The same could be said if you're making the movie yourself. If you're making the movie on your own, then you can write the screenplay

But if you're trying to get your screenplay read by someone who would in turn be convincing someone else to pick it up, buy it, and/or make it, you don't want to waste any words of your script on camera direction, editing, or speech inflections. You need to cram as much storytelling into your screenplay as it is, you don't want to bog it down with stuff that an ego-centric director and actor are going to cross out anyway. These guys are all the sort that think they're the most important person on a film and the last thing they want to do is take advice from the "writer."

I've seen it happen before: the writer visualizes the entire movie in his head, plotting every camera move and inflection in dialogue. They pour their heart out into making such a thorough and complete blueprint that they can't imagine the film turning out anyway but the way they planned. Then the director and producer come on board and they start hacking every piece of specific stage direction. "The script calls for a long panning shot, but I'm really seeing a hand-held closeup here." And so on.

Then the actor gets ahold of the script and guts the rest. "This bit of dialogue has the word 'must' underlined for inflection, but I'm not really sure my character would say it like that. I think they'd put the emphasis on 'the' and then trail off incoherently."

Now, it's the directors job to rein those attitudes in, but the writer's job ends when he hands over the blueprint. Things will not be exactly as you imagined them and that's okay. More than any other form of writing, screenplays are the most collaborative. You nurture and create a story, then, unless you're making the film yourself, you pass it on to a group of artists whose array of talents and strengths are much different than yours. The results will vary. Sometimes a brilliant screenplay will turn into terrible movie and other times a terrible screenplay will turn into a brilliant movie.

Sometimes it's hard to write around specific shots you have in your minds eye, but finding creative ways around them is an exercise in elegance.
CLOSE ON: The killer's hand as it slowly turns the doorknob... The camera cuts to his eyes, the rest of his face obscured by a mask, as he squints at the sound of the squeaking door.
...can easily turn into:
The hand of the killer reaches for the doorknob, turning it slowly. The hinges squeaks and he flinches through the mask that partially obscures his face. 
Each tells the same story and imply the same shots, but with the camera directions missing, it feels more like prose and more pleasurable to read. It's shorter and tighter, and each sentence is a new camera set up without saying so.

With practice, removing all the scene direction while still implying it will be as easy as anything.

11) Action should be clear and concise, like a children's book.

This is another rule of mine I struggled for a long time to get right in my own screenwriting style. I'm a big fan of guys like Hemingway with their long, flowing sentences that take you four different places interspersed with a dozen commas before ending in a period. Those kinds of sentences work just fine in prose, but you want to make your sentences small, clean, and concise. 

If possible, try to make each sentence its own camera set up.

If you can make each sentence vital to the story and the visual action of the film, not a single line will be cut. And don't write anything that can't be filmed. If you need to reveal some bit of a character that can't be filmed, do it in the story, the dialogue, or the actions of the character. 

The action is what needs to be filmed on camera.

For example:
GEORGINA THOMAS, 25, a statuesque blonde, struts up the street looking for a mark. She's had a hard life living on the street and it shows on her face. If she hadn't been abused as a child, maybe she wouldn't be on the street tonight...
How would anyone in their right mind film anything beyond the first sentence? It smacks of terrible screenwriting. How does the fact that she's had a hard life and had been abused as a child advance the action of the scene? Sure, these are things the actress might need to know, but these are blanks they'll want to fill in on their own.

If you've done a good enough job with the character, through their actions and dialogue, their backstory will fill itself in.

For the rest of the story, think about it as though you're reading it to a fifth grader. You don't need anything fancy to tell your story. The visuals will do so much more of the work for you, that you can afford to be elegantly simplistic here. 

Keep it simple, don't confuse anyone, and make it easy to read. It's really that simple.

That's it for now. Feel free to comment with questions...  ...or to tell me how wrong you might think I am.

 If you want to check out the whole list, you can find it here. And while you're thinking about it, feel free to order a signed book from me, or check out my collection of work that's available digitally.


Over the weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of being a guest at the very first Salt City Steam Fest in Salt Lake City. It was a steampunk gathering where costumers and genre fans got together to learn about a lot of different things, show off their costumes, and have fun. 

I was able to do a writing panel with Howard Tayler from Schlock Mercenary. Howard and I have been circling each other professionally in time and space for many years, but this was the first time we'd actually, officially met. He's a very excellent person, a scholar, a gentleman, and a very knowledgeable writer. His podcast, Writing Excuses, which he appears on with Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, and Mary Robinette Kowal, is something worth checking out if you're interested in writing.

I feel like I learned as much as I taught and met a lot of people who were new to my material and  eager to check it out.

For those who missed me, I have another signing this weekend. The Mediocre Show contingent in Salt Lake is planning a whole bunch of events and on Saturday, at 7pm, they will be imbibing spirits at Brewvies Cinema Pub and have asked me to come and sell and sign books. So, I'd be happy to see you there and sign some books for you.

As far as a writing update: I was asked late last week to pinch hit for a short story anthology and they needed me to turn a 5k word story around by today. I just sent it off and I think it turned out really well. If they end up using it, you'll hear about it. If they don't, you'll still hear about it.

I took that distraction from my new novel manuscript quite hesitantly, but I think it was worth it.

I'll be working on other stuff you'll be seeing soon, too. I'll be continuing my "Writing Rules" series, I'll be jumping back on the "Confessions of an Independent Filmmaker" series, and I'll be working on some anthologies for Silence in the Library, the publishing imprint who published Operation: Montauk.

And on top of that, I'm still working on this next manuscript that I think everyone is really going to like.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Interview: Star Wars Book Report

I had the honor of being a guest on the Star Wars Book Report podcast to talk about writing, Star Wars, and Operation: Montauk.

The first guest on the show is Tom Kane, the voice of Yoda on The Clone Wars. I've interviewed Tom a few times myself and he's always a fascinating guy to listen to. Then they get into my interview.

You can check out their website here.

During the interview, we talked a lot about the difference in writing for different mediums: documentary, feature films, journalism, novels, and so on. We also talked at length about my upcoming children's book about the history of presidential assassination, currently being illustrated by Erin Kubinek.

Afterwards, they reviewed the book.

A couple of quotes from the review:

"It grips you from the beginning. It's wall-to-wall action."

"It's very pulpy. It's like a Flash Gordon serial."

"He hit the bullseye with this. This is the novel he wanted to deliver and it delivers exactly what he set out to give audiences."

Writer's Rules Revisited #1

A while back I put down a list of 50+ rules for writing that I have been collecting over the years. You can read that post here. I've collected even more than this since then, but someone asked me why I hadn't expanded them into something larger.

Rules and one sentence missives are good, but essays on the subject might be more helpful.

I want to go through these one or two at a time at greater length until we've gone through all of them and we've added more to the list. Maybe when we're done I'll compile them all into ebook form or something.

The list actually starts out with Kurt Vonnegut's rules of short story writing. He put them down in Palm Sunday and it inspired me quite a bit. Palm Sunday was also, on some level, the basis for my own book that was a collection of essays and stories inspired by or about Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut.

Since his "rules" of writing are the first on my list and have been debated and dissected constantly, I'll briefly hit all eight of them in this one post.

1) Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted. 

I think this first rule might be the most important. It's certainly helped shape my idea of what a novel is and should be. Reading is, above all things, mentally intense and time consuming. I've learned over the years that it's a lot to ask someone to read even a short story, let alone an entire novel. You don't want people to feel afterwards as if you've abused the time and trust they invested in you.

More than anything, it really means that your story needs to have a point. It needs to teach the reader or something, or reveal something about themselves. If you can't do any of those things, it needs to be, at the very least, entertaining.

As a writer, it's important to remember that you're competing for the attention of people against movies, television, video games, and every other bit of reading material you can imagine, including the Internet, which is vast, free, and can be consumed in bite sized chunks. Write material people will feel good about spending 4, 5, 6, 10 hours with.

Better yet, make them feel at the end of all those hours that they'd really love to spend more time in your world.

 2) Give the reader at least one character they can root for. 

I learned this lesson the hard way.

My first book, Lost at the Con, features a lead character that is something less than likable at the start of the book. Virtually all the criticism of that book stems from the fact that the lead character is crass and mean, and people don't want to root for him. People want to escape by reading about people they'd like to be, and it's a rare thing that you can have a character people don't want to root for. I thought I was being artistic by creating an asshole of a character and slowly gave people reasons to like him and it was a story true to my vision.

It was risky and happened to, for the most part, work, but I'm not sure it's a risk I'd take again.

If you give people a character they can root for, that will carry you through the book. Look at the most popular books in fiction today. Every single one has a character that's beat down by authority and the reader continues on, knowing that their favorite character just has to find a way through. Harry Potter. Ender Wiggin. The Pevensies. Frodo and Sam. Katniss Everdeen. The list could go on, ad infinitum. The most popular books are the ones that have characters people can root for.

Hell, take a look at characters like Holden Caulfield or Jay Gatsby or Winston Smith. They lived in worlds that were fascinating, we saw them through their eyes, and we rooted for them to get what they wanted. Which leads me to:

 3) Every character should want something, even if it's just a glass of water. 

How boring is it to have a character that doesn't want anything? Some of the best stories I read or written came from the perspective of characters who wanted small things.

If your character wants something, you can craft a story out of literally anything. Take the glass of water in the "rule" for instance. Imagine you're talking to a salesman who is trying to sell you something you're not sure you want. That's not the most exciting thing in the world. But add in the character's desire. The character has no interest in buying what the salesman is selling and your throat is getting dryer and dryer. You need to find away to cut the conversation off so you can go find a drink. But the salesman gets pushier and pushier. Your throat starts to parch, your lips crack, you'll certainly go mad if you don't get a drink. But the salesman has you backed, quite literally, into a corner. Characters that have desires, even small ones, make for far more interesting scenes and stories than characters who do nothing but what for things to happen to them.

When I'm having a problem with a scene, this guideline is usually the first one I come to in trying to fix things. What do my characters want? What can I add to their desire to make the scene more interesting?

These are the sorts of questions you really need to be asking yourself constantly to make the most interesting prose that will never waste anyone's time.

 4) Every sentence should do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action. 

While this rule might seem restrictive, it's actually quite helpful, particularly in the editing process. When you're writing a first draft, it's important to let your imagination run wild and write down everything that comes to mind. But as you turn toward editing, it's guidelines like this that help you understand what it is you should be cutting.

As you edit, your goal is to tighten and to make sure there's a point to every single sentence. You want every word to be so important to the story to the point that if you were to cut any single one, it would damage the entire piece.

And really, what else is there other than revealing character or advancing action? Revealing character isn't just about what a character is thinking or feeling, that's also descriptions of characters, how they're perceived by other players in the story, and anything else relating to things of that nature. And advancing action can be as simple as getting your character from one room to the next or as complicated as the epic battle your entire book has been leading up to.

But removing unnecessary sentences is a great step toward making sure you're not abusing the first rule about wasting the time of strangers.

 5) Start as close to the end as possible. 

This is another one I often struggle with.

When I sit down to write, I pick up the story where it seems to be most interesting to me. Sometimes that turns out to be the right place. Other times, it's far too early and I end up lopping whole chapters from the beginning of a book, or pages of text from the beginning of a short story. Writing that material was not a waste of time if that's what got you to finish your story in the first place, but it might be a waste of time for a reader.

For example: In Operation: Montauk, the original, early drafts started with the main character, Jack Mallory, in a top secret military base on the eve of his mission to travel back in time. It was full of nervous energy and anticipation, leading up to when he got into the time machine itself and made his way back to pre-historic times. He blacks out and wakes up to find the rest of his team dead, being made a meal of by a pack of Velociraptors.

The more interesting opening was the one that got the story on its feet the fastest and enabled me to hook the reader better. I cut all of the time spent on the military base and the time travel and rewrote my opening so Mallory wakes up 65 million years ago and is trying to piece together what the hell is going on.

Had I started the book earlier, I would have bored people to tears, no matter how interesting or important that background material was to me.

The starting point is different for every story, and the place where you start writing might even be different than that. But be aware, in any case, that you need to start as close to your end game as possible. That's when the most interesting choices will be made on the part of your characters.

 6) Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them--in order that the reader may see what they are made of. 

How popular do you think Harry Potter would have been if he didn't have to deal with his evil Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon? Then, when he got to school, had absolutely no conflict with Professor Snape or Draco Malfoy? It would have been boring. We loved Harry because we saw what he was made of because so many other people were available to kick him down.

What about Peter Parker? Would his story be half as compelling if he didn't have to hide his alter ego from his Aunt May and everyone else? Would he be half as interesting of a character if his parents weren't absent and he lost Gwen Stacy to the Green Goblin? Would Superman or Batman be one-fourth as interesting if they didn't both tragically lose their birth parents?

How much would we have cared about Luke Skywalker if Uncle Owen hadn't torn him down, then got burned to a crisp? How much more limp would the ending of The Empire Strikes Back be if we didn't find out that the single most monstrous person in the galaxy turned out to be Luke's father?

The more we like a character, the more adversity they must be put through. Conflict is something that's important in storytelling.

Alfred Hitchcock once said that drama is life with the dull bits cut out, and that's what we aim to do every day as storytellers. We ignore or minimize the dull bits and put our characters through the paces.

Think back to the most dull movies and books you can think of. Chances are the reason you think that they're dull is because there weren't enough awful things happening to the people you wanted to root for.

Always be thinking of ways to make lives of the characters your readers are rooting for more difficult.

The more they have to overcome, the sweeter the victory.

 7) Write to please just one person. If you open the window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia. 

This rule is one of the most important. Too often, people want to write for as broad an audience as possible. In doing so, they tell very generic stories that won't resonate as classics (or even as readable) next year, let alone five, ten, or a hundred years from now.

Hell, people won't even remember they exist if the story is told poorly and it's made for the lowest common denominator.

It's true that you need to consider your audience when you write, but each individual person is different and writing for too many different sorts of people will confuse your readers and kill your story. Pick that one person you know you can make happy with your writing.

For Operation: Montauk that barometer for me was my 10 year old son. I wanted to read to him a bedtime story that felt as fast paced as the John Carter books we'd been reading as bed time stories and I wanted to include all the elements he and I liked in storytelling. It has Nazis for bad guys, spaceships, dinosaurs, time travel, World War II, and a monkey, among other things.

When I handed him the first proof and he spent the next two days reading it, the smile on his face getting bigger and bigger, I'd won. My audience of one liked it. I was fortunate for the fact that he, in turn, took copies to school and his friends liked it, too. For me, my job is done. If I get a bad review of the book (which I haven't yet, so far), it won't matter because the audience I wrote it for loved it.

That's a very important tool in coping with bad reviews.

If the audience you wrote it for likes it, your job is done. People wonder how Stephanie Meyer can sleep at night for foisting Twilight on the world, but she wrote a book for an audience and they lapped it up. She did her job, regardless of how bad the rest of us think that job might have been.

So my advice is to pick your person, or a few people, your advanced readers (or beta readers, they go by many names) and if you trust them and you can make them happy, you'll be a happy writer. And there are only so many types of people out there. If your story can resonate with one person, it'll resonate with many who are like-minded.

 8) Give your readers as much information as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such a complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Of all of Vonnegut's rules, this is the one I struggle the most with in terms of understanding. I think it's very dependent on the sort of writing you're doing.

For Vonnegut, he had such clear dilemmas that the freight trains he set up on either side of the tracks in his story were bound to collide at some point and we simply had to wait for it to happen. (Like Breakfast of Champions or Player Piano.)

But this doesn't work for a thriller or a mystery story, per se. Sure, when you get into a mystery story, whether you have the last few pages or not, you'll know the hero probably figures out the riddle and saves the day. But you'll still want details.

For me, I've interpreted the advice as being able to end the story on a note that readers can imagine the scene that happens next without me having to write it. Sure, some people want the author to spell it out for them, but that's not always appropriate.

There is a piece of this rule, though, that I think speaks directly to the need for clear and concise writing. People need to understand what's going on. If you're vague and don't give all the details they need to understand the story, they're not going to care about the story.

It's something very important to keep in mind.

And that's about all I have to say at the moment on Vonnegut's rules of writing. I'll tackle more of them as time goes on. If you want to check out the whole list, you can find it here. And while you're thinking about it, feel free to order a signed book from me, or check out my collection of work that's available digitally.

Click here to read part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.
Click here to read part 4.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Disconnecting as a writer...

Writing is time consuming.

It takes incredible amounts of focus, creativity, drive, and time.

In a world that demands we're connected digitally to it at every second, it can be hard to find that oasis of time and space that John Cleese talked so brilliantly about. This connection is a problem I have personally as a writer and often it leads to a lack of productivity and often some manner of insomnia. Clearly, I'm still productive, though, and I've had to come up with ways to fight digital distractions.

Firstly, I often write in my notebook. Lately, I've been quite attracted to the small Moleskine notebooks (particularly the Star Wars ones) and I fill one up every month or two (sometimes three, depending on the projects I'm working on.) It helps to leave my phone in my pocket and not have it anywhere in sight and to be working in the notebook somewhere free of distractions.

As for my phone, mine is virtually always on silent. I don't get any beeps or whistles when a new message or notification comes in. I check the damn thing often enough without it telling me that I should be checking it more. It might frustrate people trying to get a hold of me, but I'll get a text message eventually. Sadly, it's probably faster to get ahold of me via email or twitter, which is a problem on its own.

Another tool I use to keep myself focused is my typewriter. I know it might sound quaint or retro to work on a typewriter, but a typewriter doesn't have an internet connection. There's something so satisfying about hearing the clack-clack-clack of keys engaging hammers and it pressing ink right onto the paper. And there's something invigorating about watching your pile of paper grow into a larger stack. The point where it feels book length in that tangible form is incredible. I first-drafted my first novel on a couple of different typewriters. Since this piece is about eliminating distractions, it's obvious to assume that's a reason I did it, but there's another big one, too.

Once I finish drafting a piece on a typewriter, it needs to be transcribed into the computer. Since I have to reevaluate every single word as it goes into my word processer, it's very easy to do a first, quick revision on the fly. By the time it's made it into the computer it's already been plotted with ink and paper, typed up on the typewriter, and revised once into the computer. Adding that extra, analog step, enhances the quality of the work if you do it right.

But what about using the computer? This is where I seem to get the most hung up and I'm going to be looking for your suggestions. Sometimes, when I'm typing on the computer, I'm doing it because I'm doing research at the same time that I need to toggle back to. But I love the history books and find myself sucked into them, reading far more than I ever wanted to know and that leads me from topic to topic, far beyond the needs of my story.

Do I shut the internet off? Do I just accept the fact that the internet is a distraction? Do I really need to tab over to facebook and twitter?

It's a tricky question and we all need to find our own balancing act for it.

The first step is being aware of it, though, and for some reason I'm acutely aware of it today. I just feel like taking an internet vacation for a while...

...but maybe that's a little drastic.

I'll see how I'm feeling tomorrow.

And I'm sure I'll post about it on facebook.

Monday, July 09, 2012

UPDATE: San Diego Comic-Con

Good news, everyone!

I will, in fact, be manning a table at San Diego Comic-Con.

Maxwell Alexander Drake has two tables and a booth at the show this year and we have worked out a deal for me to take up some of one of those tables in the Artist Alley, where I will be  hawking my literary wares. While there are no promises that I'll be able to make it there for Preview Night, I will try my hardest. I will also be at the convention Thursday, Friday, and most of Saturday.

Aside from the panel of mine that I'm on, a few panels I'll be attending as press, and some obligatory wandering the exhibition hall floor, I'll be setting up and selling books.

I will also be giving away copies of my Free Comic Book Day special, which contains the short story "An Original" from Man Against the Future and the first chapter of Operation: Montauk.

In the meantime, I'm going to tell you to check out Drake's website and books and pick one up. He's good people. If you're going to San Diego Comic-Con as well, he's doing two hours of writing classes per day in Room 2. He's a very sharp guy and experienced teacher, so it would be well worth you checking out.

And don't forget to make it to the panel I'm on.

Friday, July 06, 2012

San Diego Comic-Con and a writing update

I've been attending Comic-Con for a long time now. This will be my 14th of the last 16 that I've been to. I've covered the last five or so as press and have had a great time interviewing some very cool people. From Kevin Smith to Kevin Conroy and the cast of The Clone Wars and comics superstars across the board. It gets more and more stressful every year and I was honestly planning on skipping this year and taking a well deserved break to do some writing.

But I was invited to participate on a panel and I couldn't pass up that opportunity. And I've already booked some cool interviews that I'll be doing as well. It certainly won't be a waste of time.

For those interested in the panel I'm on, it's called "How to Get News Coverage" and here's the official rundown of it:
If you’ve wondered what it takes to get your project covered by Scoop or any of the other industry news sites, and you’re going to be attending Comic-Con International: San Diego, give some thought to stopping by the “How to Get News Coverage” on Thursday, July 12, 2012 from 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM in Room 8 at the San Diego Convention Center. What makes the difference between an item that will get news coverage, previews, interviews and one that doesn’t? 
A lot of publishers have no idea what to submit to the press, how to submit it and why they are being overlooked for coverage. Comic Journalist Rik Offenberger (First Comics News, Archie Comics) moderates this panel on just what it takes to get coverage with the Comic Journalists themselves telling you what they are looking for in your submission. Panelists include Alan Kistler (Comic Mix, Newsarama), Chris Thompson (First Comics News). Bryan Young, (Huffington Post, Big Shiny Robot), Dan Manser (Diamond), Heidi McDonald (The Beat), Holly Golightly (BroadSword Studios), Rich Johnston (Bleeding Cool), Kiel Phegley (Comic Book Resources), J.C. Vaughn (Scoop), Josh Waldrop (M1W Entertainment), and Matt Moore (Associated Press). Find out what it takes to self-promote and make a significant impact on your ability to sell your comic project.
It's my first time on a Comic-Con stage and hopefully not my last.

I hope to see lots of friendly faces in the audience. And I'll have copies of my books on me as well, in case you're interested in picking one up there instead of ordering it online. (Shoot me an email). Also, I'm wanting some photographs of me on the panel taken. If you can be there to take pictures, let me know. I'll make it worth your while.

As for a writing update, I think I did mention that I finished my manuscript for a children's book that ended up running about 30,000 words in the last couple of weeks. It's being fully illustrated by the redoubtable Erin Kubinek and so the ball on that project is in her court right now.

I'm in such a creatively fertile mood right now and am bristling under the constraints of my daily life. Every spare second I get I find myself trying to squeeze in writing time. I've put together almost 6,000 words on a new novel in the last week and a half and I think it is coming along rather nicely. I've also plotted out an entire series of novellas, plotted out a pair of novels that will gather dust in a notebook, started work on a couple of anthology pieces, and have basically driven myself mad with story ideas.

I always tell people that story ideas are always a dime a dozen and I constantly have more story ideas than I know what to do with, but right now it just seems like it has hit critical mass.

I've finished a whole pile of short stories recently, too. I have no plans for them, they just haven't seen the light of day. It's just a very prolific time for me.

Which is half the reason I was hesitant about going to Comic-Con in the first place. I need to spend that time writing.

But sometimes you just have to go to the Con whether you like it or not.  Just ask Cobb.