I'm the co-founder of ADK MOGUL, a film and writing resource program that provides location and production management for films shooting in the Adirondack region. I'm developing a seasonal journal featuring the best in local student writing.
Currently, we are working with ten small independent movie theaters in the Adirondack Park in helping them transition to digital film and provide alternative and sustaining programming as part of our campaign, Go Digital or Go Dark.
We just released our first short film, The Deal, which was written and directed by my better-half, T J Brearton.
I'm also an English teacher. I wrote my thesis on comics writer Grant Morrison and Renaissance philosopher Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. I'm teaching English at Paul Smith's College and North Country Community College, while assistant coaching the PSC swim team. I may never sleep.
We watched this while in Quebec City and I found this movie to be quite good. My predecessor teaching Art of Film–the creator of the class–Charles Alexander was a Trumbo scholar–along with Twain and Whitman, and while watching this I was wondering what he would have thought about it.
The most enlightening thing about the movie was how Trumbo operated the Black List operation. Most of the stuff in the movie, I knew. It seems like most movies about writers seem to want to obsess on how screwed up they are and how nothing can get in the way of their job as a writer. In the pictured scene, Cranston is taking pills and drinking whiskey while cutting up pieces of a script. I guess it wouldn’t be much of a movie if writers are just normal, every day folks who are completely well-adjusted.
One of the fascinating things about this essay is how it seems like Mills was reading my mind when I was working on Emerson.
artists are natural technologists. Historically, they’ve pursued the newest and best techniques, materials, and forms. When the methodology for achieving perspective became clear, few resisted it on the basis of a calcified iconographic style considered to be “high art,” or if some did they’ve been suitably forgotten. And had new inks, better canvases, or some unimaginable invention given superior means to the impressionists to capture washes of light and mood —like, say, film— they’d have used whatever was available. The purpose of painting isn’t paint, after all; nor is the purpose of writing a book.
In Emerson, it’s about teenagers coming to find that there isn’t much difference in the world of fiction and nonfiction that science and literary license work together.
science exceeds merely moody paradigms. It works. It gives us control over the universe and ourselves, reduces contingency and accident, allows us to be what we think we should be.
Art is part of the same process, and can be evaluated similarly. In allowing us to virtualize and experiment with realities and phenomena, and, gradually, to live in those realities, it is part of the same epistemological and creative process as science.
Finally, Mills sums up what I was thinking about during the whole process of writing my second novel:
artists-as-world-makers. To create something, you must first understand it; to create a world for humans to experience, you must first understand how humans experience the world.
I just hope I managed to do this, but it’s about the process and hopefully the product is a fun read.
Curse Words is a new, darkly comedic fantasy comic from writerCharles Soule (Daredevil, She-Hulk) and artist Ryan Browne (God Hates Astronauts) due early next year from Image Comics. The title details the adventures of a wizard named Wizord who turns up in modern-day New York and starts using his magical powers to help people. The twist? “He is actually an evil wizard in good wizard disguise,” Soule says. “It’s a reverse Breaking Bad with a bad guy trying to go good, except that it’s with magic instead of meth. But you can’t outrun your past, and so magical assassins, and all this craziness starts to show up in the city. There’s hogtaurs, there’s spells…”
Looks like I was way off when I tried to guess what this book was about but turns out I waw wayyyy offf.
There’s a whole blog dedicated to the new comic: @wizordcomic. I’m excited to see what new process stuff they put there
The strong impulse is to curl up into a ball, but there’s a counter-impulse, too, almost a petulance, that pushes the other way, and says: do the thing you do, whatever it is – even if it’s frivolous – and turbo-boost it with energy and integrity. On Twitter, someone wrote: “Misery is not activism.”
I’m not saying writing is an actual addiction, like to drugs or to sell short what it means to be an addict with my personal first world writer problems, but if it’s something that fuels your self-worth and makes you feel like crap and fried if you don’t get a taste of it then it’s not something that’s good for you right now.
I was going to send my newsletter this weekend, but this picture of Brian K. Vaughan (which has been set as one of my computer wallpapers for years now) keeps telling me to get to work. It’s just there in his eyes. Get. to. work. I’m taking a social media fast (other than what’s in the queue) to finish this draft of the Emerson novel.
Where does one start with something like this? This four volume (each about 500+ pages) of manga that doubles as memoir and historical biography refuses to be defined. It’s like 9th level Harvey Pekar, but for Japan.
For those of you who do not know, Shigeru Mizuki is a manga legend. And until recently, I didn’t read manga very much. I think the only one I read in middle school was Ranma ½, but soon that faded to more American comics and my knowledge of manga slipped until my Provost loaned me this massive set he just finished.
The collection follows Shigeru Mizuki from birth at the beginning of the Showa period in Japan 1926 up until 1989 and includes incredible scenes of struggle for Mizuki and his family. I’ve been leaving notes on my Instagram of some scenes that I’ve adored, but here are some highlights:
This is from volume 2, just before Mizuki ships off Guadalcanal. The illustrations of Japan’s fight in the South Pacific were breathtaking, but when Mikuzi would cut away to his experience I was surprised by how very boring a soldier’s life could be. He did little else other than get malaria, have really trippy fever dreams, and lose his arm in a freak accident. He saw little action, but if you’re a Howard Zinn fan the second and third volumes are critical to gain a Japanese soldier’s view of World War 2. For someone like me that’s a perspective you never get unless you go looking for it.
From volume 4: the fever dreams Mizuki had after breaking into manga were trippy. In this one, he bargains with a death insurance salesman to have a free trial in the spirt world. Mikuzi, throughout these four volumes, was always very interested in studying the Yokai. Funny enough, @jimzub ‘s Wayward collaborator Zack Davisson translated this series and I can’t imagine the level of work that involved.
Most interestingly from the last volume was Mizuki’s trials breaking into manga as a one-armed artist and writer, but also his recap of the Fiend with Twenty Faces. What a read.
I could go on with more highlights of this book, but I’ll sum up by saying if you want a change in perspective on the history of Japan–then you’re not going to find anything better than this.
Normal, @warrenellis ‘s new book, will be serialized in four parts starting on my brother’s birthday and ending on my mine.
Here’s hoping I can steal some time away around November 29 to go to one of the book signings Warren is doing when the book is released in print. I doubt it, but I’d like to try.
In his newsletter he shares the opening, and I could spend all day unpacking the first couple of paragraphs:
The oaks and firs stood up as they reached the interstate and pushed on through the South West Pacific Highway to the Salmon River Highway, past places with names like Falling Creek, Tualatin, Joe Dancer Park and Erratic Rock. Places you could walk out into and die and never be found. He could imagine them seared by sun in summer and shrouded in snow in winter. Hammered by hail the size of coins in spring and autumn, pounding flesh and smashing bone, processed to be carried off chunk by speck in the guts of birds.
For a year now, I’ve been watching the Trump candidacy the same way the rest of the world and at least half of the American population has – first as a harmless sideshow, then as a worrisome sideshow, then as an increasingly surreal and dangerous sideshow, and finally as a terrifying looming nightmare with echoes of Mussolini, Joseph McCarthy, Kristallnacht and Hitler. News reports and isolated video clips have made Trump’s rallies seem like bacchanalian proto-fascist white power orgies, fuelled by bald racism, pseudo-Nazi salutes and the imminent threat of violence toward any detractors. For months now I’ve believed that Trump’s candidacy was the most dangerous presidential campaign in modern American history. But the reality of a Trump rally, or at least this Trump rally, was about as threatening as a Garth Brooks concert.
When Comixology announced their unlimited program and free 30-day trial, I saw this book as a part of it and knew I needed to try it. This 48-page masterpiece was a marvel to look at. There is so much information in every panel, and every word balloon that it took me two weeks to get through it.
In fact, my Thought Balloon prompt response for next week was greatly inspired by it.
Yesterday’s desk–editing the second rewrite of Emerson.
Kay Ryan says a poet’s job is to rehabilitate clichés, but I sure don’t envy those who write parenting memoirs. All I feel I can offer is corroboration of the cliché: Sunday will be my fourth father’s day and I’m still learning and I still feel like he’s teaching me more than I’m teaching him. He’s asking me all the questions I should be asking myself.
Peter Sjöstedt-H’s notebook, featured in @warrenellis ‘s newsletter. In which, Sjostedt describes his process for writing essays:
Yes, I suppose I am an essayist. I begin with an idea I believe needs to be promulgated. I then encircle myself with a panopticon of relevant books, papers and a screen, and begin the recon. Relevant tracts, points, quotations and so on I jot in my notebook with references. My research here will give me new ideas to include, but it will rarely alter the conclusion as the conclusion is the impetus. An order is now imposed on this inky chaos: I consider how best to structure the essay so to convey the central idea. This order is then recast to become more efficient, which also involves eliminating the superfluous. At times I draw diagrams to represent the essay structure, and/or philosophical points therein (as on the attached photo). Once I’m satisfied, writing commences. Concision and style are my main concerns when writing essays – akin to a beautiful painting, an essay ideally will have an overarching composition with reciprocal constitutive flourishes (metaphors, tricolons, etc.). The mere conveyance of information is insufficient – I direct my action on Schopenhauer’s dictum that ‘language is a work of art and should be regarded as such’. Of course, that is an ideal which I can only strive to attain. When complete, I print the text and leave it for a day or so. I then read the essay and find faults, revise, reprint and repeat.
I’ve had Neo-Nihilism sitting on my kindle for a while now, so that may be a thing I get into when I go on vacation at the end of the month.
Now, what constitutes a “big best-seller” is arguable. And, even by my own standards, it hasn’t *exactly* happened yet. What did happen was that several elements came together to produce “Gone”, a book which has sold over 30,000 copies in its first month
This a fast-paced 3-day read, and I always end up going back to my friend’s recent books exactly for that reason. It’s a pallet-cleanser. My wife reads Kristen Higgins, I read Tim Brearton or Raymond Chandler detective novels as a cleanser between dense reads. Previously i read Don Winslow’s The Power of the Dog.
In this one, we have a detective investigating a family that’s disappeared in the Adirondacks. What I like most about these books now with Dark Web, Dark Kills, and now Gone is that they are all a part of the North Country crime series and one of the things that I’m most interested in right now is what it means to be an Adirondack writer, and my friend here has driven me towards asking that question.
I also liked that Gone was from the perspective of someone you’re not sure is nuts. Here’s my favorite passage:
So how much are authors being paid for books sold on Amazon? The numbers are either dismal or inspiring depending (of course) on your point of view. To begin with, around 9,900 writers are earning $10,000 or more from Amazon, which, as AuthorEarnings points out, is “a nontrivial supplementary income.” But it’s important to remember that this number includes authors making more than $10,000. It’s also important to point out that independent authors generally outperform those published by the Big 5 publishers, especially if you consider authors published in more recent years. This pattern would seem to confirm our earlier report that says Big Publishing’s market share is in decline. Maybe $10,000 a year from Amazon sales is not enough for you. In that case, there are around 4,600 authors making $25,000 a year or more from Amazon sales, and these numbers breakdown in a similar way (to the $10,000 category). Unfortunately, this means that “[f]ewer than 700 Big Five authors and fewer than 500 small-or-medium publisher authors who debuted in the last 10 years are now earning $25,000 a year or more on Amazon.”
The reality that you should have a day job that isn’t your art grows starker. This story is one of the many reasons why I will never again make the mistake again of quitting my day job for writing.
Besides, I tend to think my day job is one of the many things that fuels my desire to write in ways that I can’t count on all my digits.
Here are my notes from watching The Big Short this weekend.
I liked it–I thought it cleared up a lot of the confusing questions that I had about the housing crisis. I especially dug the asides where Margot Robbie, @anthonybourdain, and that economics professor explain the stock market terms. Though we didn’t finish the movie in one sitting – we had about twenty minutes left before going to bed– I found myself not really caring that much what happened in the last twenty minutes. We watched it anyway; I really liked Steve Carell in it, and we both felt that while it was a good movie it isn’t Best Picture worthy. That’s normally the case with Best Picture, they’re very rarely the best.
…what I can recommend is when you first read the novel, put good notes in it the first time, right on the book, write down everything you feel, underline every sensation that you felt was strong. Those first notes are very valuable. Then, when you finish the book, you will see that some pages are filled with underlined notes and some are blank.
In theatre, there’s something called a prompt book. The prompt book is what the stage manager has, usually a loose-leaf book with all the lighting cues. I make a prompt book out of the novel. In other words, I break the novel, and I glue the pages in a loose-leaf, usually with the square cutout so I can see both sides.
I have that big book with the notes I took, and then I go and I put lots more observations and notes. Then I begin to go through that and summarize the part that I thought was useful. And quite naturally you’ll see that the parts fall away, or that you have too many characters, so you know that you have to eliminate some or combine some. Working on it this way, from the outside in, being more specific as to what you think… then when you finish that, you are qualified perhaps to try to write a draft based on that notebook.
In the case of “The Godfather” I did that, and although I had a screenplay, I never used it. I always used to take that big notebook around with me, and I made the movie from that notebook.
“I don’t organize my CDs and vinyl by genre or alphabet anymore. Every time I’ve done this I’ve ended up moving house. Having it all haphazard means I can never find what I want, but the benefit is that I always find something else, which is cool. I believe that art is as much about diversion as focus and planning.”
If you’re like me and a fan of Wendig’s work, you should read every word of his rambles:
Every writer is different. Every writer possesses a different process. Some people open their maws and disgorge 10,000 words at a time. Some writers peck through the word count — a hundred words here, a hundred there. One writer takes a year to write a book. Another takes three. I write a first draft in around 30-90 days. Everybody does their thing. No thing is wrong as long as the thing is getting done. Whatever your process is, accept no shame for it. (Shame is a worthless booster anyway.) The key here is: make sure your process works. Some writers get married to a process that doesn’t work, and then they stubbornly cling to it like a monkey riding a tiger, afraid that if they leave the beast, the tiger will eat them. We can always refine our process. And as we grow and our lives change, so do our processes. Just as there is no one perfect process for all writers, there is no one perfect process for you individually, either.
This is probably more for a date mark of where I am currently and where I will be come this time next year when I apply for the workshop again. I know it’s a longshot that I’ll get in. The application is a placeholder for where I am as a comics writer/creator in May 2016 so I have a comparison point come May 2017. It’s a year benchmark to see how much I can improve between now and next year.
I use my Instagram as a process diary, so it’s filled with photos of what I’m reading and photos of my notebooks and boring shit like that. But this weekend, I thought about posting my current process–for personal posterity reasons–for writing a recent Thought Balloons script. The prompt was in celebration of “home” and celebrated the six year anniversary of @ryanklindsay founding the blog.
There are far better resources for this sort of thing than me, take @jimzub for one. And the excellent comic book script archive–this is just how I do it now (May 2016) after years of fiddling with different processes. Who knows whether this is how I’ll write comics come next year or even by the end of this summer.
Initially, I said I would send this script in my newsletter, but since it contains some sensitive material that really isn’t for public consumption, I’ve decided against it. Regardless, here’s my process.
1. my first step when is to lay out the plot points on every page.
2. After going through the plot points, I’ll start doing page breakdowns where I’ll detail panel descriptions with some dialogue. I check it off when I’ve written the page in script format so I know where I left off.
3. Then I’ll break out those page breakdowns into thumbnails to see if what I detailed actually works on a three-tier comics page. I got this idea from Archie Goodwin, who would draw thumbnails, then script, adding those thumbnails to his script.
4. Yeesh, I need to clean my laptop keyboard, and yes, I’ll never spell TOBOGGAN correctly on the first try. That’s the idea behind this picture: this is my first draft of the script. I won’t start writing until I have the page breakdowns done and the first take on the script is just to combine the page breaks and the thumbs, but really it’s to work out the dialogue. Knowing what’s going into the panels prevents me from writing dialogue that is in reaction to what the art is showing. So the first draft of a script is all about voice, and, for me, that’s about rhythm, so I don’t number the panels until I do what is essentially the fifth draft of a script to make sure things work together.
5. Once I’ve written a draft of the script I will go back and number panels and dialogue. As you can see here, on what is the first plot point in this “Home” script is a situation I had in high school with the school counselor. The numbered word balloons with “3B” and “3C” are continuing word balloons. It’s a trick I picked up from Charles Soule.
I usually write letters at the beginning of scripts to the artist clarifying a few things with character notes and opening the script up for feedback. That’s something I took from @kellysue who I think got it from Neil Gaiman.
This is just how I do it at this time, and I would say it’s a far cry from polished, but this post is just meant to show how I developed my current scripting style and calcify it in time for future reference.
But amidst all the upset fans and people calling me a nazi and other fun things for a comic I had nothing to do with and haven’t read, I thought, this is why more people should just follow creators and read original comics (which is what I like to call “creator-owned” comics). If readers want consistency and passion and craft, it’s a lot more rare in company-owned superhero comics than it is outside of them. Sure, there have been great long runs on those books, I managed to get lucky and have long runs where I got to do what I wanted (mostly) on Captain America and Daredevil, but those runs are generally the exception. Because the thing is, with those company-owned characters, there are always going to be events and reboots and twists that are spoiled online or in the media first, and there are always going to be outraged fans because of it.
For many of you the writer Warren Ellis will need no introduction. For those outside of comics and genre fiction circles: he is a supremely successful writer. He has a delightfully miscellaneous weekly newsletter to which those of you in the first category ought to subscribe if you haven’t already.
The past couple of weeks he’s written a bit about process in a way that I think may be useful to academics of all stripes.
From 1 May: This is the part of the job that doesn’t get talked about a lot, not least because it’s hard to talk about, but also because it doesn’t involve Productivity and Goals and The Magic Of Writering and The Grand Statement and all that good stuff in interviews. Sure, we all talk about the important Staring At The Wall And Farting Around time, but it’s also about sifting through the shitpile at the back of your head and deciding if you actually have anything to say. Any idiot can recycle the monomyth and plug in a setting and a handful of blank characters, but that’s not the same as having something to say: about the world, life, a thing, even yourself. I have a whole folder of loose ideas that dried up and got thrown in the folder because they and I turned out to have nothing to say about anything - they were just collections of cogs and levers. And by that, I mean probably eight to ten dead ideas, written up and filed, for every one that gets published.
8 May’s installment featured a day by day breakdown. It is a punishing schedule, painfully familiar to academics, and full of advice and commentary ripped directly from our lives as working writers.
The Pitch: Like this one – the entire first page is not the useful part of your pitch. 90% of your pitch happens in the first three or four lines. You need to understand that most pitches are shit. The one that has an arresting, crackling opening paragraph is the one that gets read all the way through.
The Proofs: Proofing, these days, involves opening a Microsoft Word file, clicking on Review and then screaming and poking randomly at buttons until the comments and edits from the copy editor and the production editor are revealed. And then finding one of them has put their comments in a pale blue that is essentially invisible…So you lose time to fashioning a little voodoo doll and then smashing it with a hammer and then burning it….
The most important word in copy editing for an author is STET. It’s a derivative from Latin that very roughly translates as “let it stand,” and it means that a copy editor’s change to the manuscript should be reverted. Or, more bluntly, that I meant to write that and you should all leave it alone goddamnit. What you can’t use it for, of course, is for genuine dumb mistakes you actually made. The temptation can be awful. One of the many horrible things about this stage in the process is having to cop, to complete strangers, to being fucking stupid, over and over again.
So aside from the good advice and humor, what can we take away from this writer working so far from our own wheelhouses? Ellis has been lucky, no doubt, and is talented, absolutely. He also writes. and writes. and writes. and follows up the long long process that results from any given piece being picked up. He gets so busy that he cancels other plans.
It is not healthy, this pace. In our world success may not be healthy. I think Ellis’ writing about his process offers a sobering look at the work, the toil, behind a successful writer today. Like other writers, academics tend to hide this work, and revealing it, laying it bare perhaps gives us all a chance at building supportive community that may make our writing better, and our lives more livable.
How about this, then?“ Antonucci asked. ”‘The mystery of the Trinity is not the mathematical riddle of Three in One. It is the manifestation of the Father in politics, the Son in economics, and the Holy Spirit in the culture.’ Does this really reflect your thinking?
No everything isn’t cool, Peaches thinks as he walks back to the truck. First thing that isn’t cool is I’m out here playing Lawrence of Arabia in East Bumfuck, second thing is I’m sitting in a truck chock-fulla felony, third thing is I got major non-returnable investment in the truck that I leveraged with other people’s money, fourth thing is them other people is Johnny Boy Cozzo, Johnny’s brother Gene, and Sal Sachi, none of which brings me to the fifth thing, which is that if Big Paulie ever gets wind we’re dealing dope he’s gonna have us whacked–the “us” starting with “me”–which leads me to the sixth thing, which is that all the coke is now in an airplane somewhere in the sky and these beaners can’t seem to find it.