Tag: Industry

James Brandon — Writing Things

James Brandon, author of Ziggy, Stardust & Me, came to visit my library. In fact, we were his first official school visit.

Brandon spoke of his experience growing up as a gay teenager when homosexuality was considered a sin and aberration and not another sexual orientation among many. He showed us awkward photos from high school, complaining that “I didn’t know what to do with my hair.” Now, in plaid and jeans, with friendly glasses, a high forehead, and hair at a near-coiff, he’d definitely figured out what to do with it. But the point of his lecture was to “Believe in Yourself.”

Brandon also spoke about forgotten LBGT histoy, including the year when the DSM stopped listing homosexuality as a mental disease. On a slide he showed us how a Chicago newspaper described the event: “20,000,000 Gay People Cured!” We learned about the Gay Liberation Front and Doctor Anonymous and the barbaric treatments used to ‘cure queerness.’ And we learned how an author can connect his own intimate life experience with greater historical events.

Brandon also imparted some excellent advice for our audience’s creative writers:

  • Writing is creating real life characters. As an actor, I need to research how to embody a person. As a writer, I need to research how to embody twenty persons. One of the techniques I remember reading on the internet was to write fifty things a reader will never know about your character. I decided to go further and filled a spiral notebook for each character. Dialogue became easier because I knew about the secret conflicts my characters were dealing with.”
  • Research will unlock the greatest mysteries of your novel.”
  • “I needed to tell this story because I wasn’t seeing me out there. I wanted to write not by looking in but looking out.”
  • “It’s okay if your book takes a while. Writing my book took about 18 months to go from draft zero to draft one. Then I wrote about a hundred drafts before I turned in my manuscript to my agent, and she and I rewrote the book three more times (which took another two years) before submitting it to publishers.”
  • Most important, believe in yourself. And be you. We don’t need anything less than who you are. And your differences are your most beautiful you. We suffer without it.”

Betaread, Proofread, Critique

The purpose of this article is to share some of my experience reading unpublished manuscripts and to provide some order to the process.

First, the terms:

A beta reader is a nonprofessional who reads the first or second draft of an unpublished manuscript.

An alpha reader does the same with an unfinished manuscript.

A proofreader is a professional who corrects syntax, spelling, and grammar.

A critique partner is a professional who assesses a manuscript’s substance and style.

Miche Gray-Newton. Writing in Theory. Saatchi.

For the past seven years, I’ve been reading and critiquing my friends’ unpublished, often unedited manuscripts. It’s grueling work—perusing a text for enjoyment and the author’s edification. But I do it because, well, I care about my friends. I want them to do well.

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Comicpalooza 2018 — Writing Unforgettable Characters

I went to a literature panel entitled “Writing Unforgettable Characters” featuring Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Joe Lansdale, Carrie Patel, and Bev Vincent.

Well, Joe Lansdale kind of took over the Q&A in the best way possible. The others had some insights, but Joe exuded this pragmatic writing presence. A manuscript messiah miasma. Predatory parable pheromones.

A few of his best points:

  • The writer gives 50% of the story. The reader brings in the rest.
  • Some think character is giving someone a cane or an eye patch. That if they’re from Mars or were raised by Indians, they’re interesting. Don’t confuse oddity for character. When writing character, you need to think of motive. Why they do stuff. There’s Surface Motive. What they tell themselves is their Motive. And True Motive.
  • Characters must intrigue. They don’t have to be likable, just interesting.
  • When writing, there has to be music in the prose. Otherwise you’re just lining up turd after turd. Hemingway had a masculine poetry. Fitzgerald had a magical poetry. Learn how to combine rhythm, style, and character into the poetry of prose.

Writer’s Family Reunion 2016

Writespace had their Writers Family Reunion, which I attended with my future sexy wife. Writespace is located in an art studio warehouse called Silver Street, a peaceful, meditative spot. The itinerary included events like a Critique Group Speed Dating, small-group Q&A’s with local but very accomplished writers (I was lucky enough to sit with D. L. Young of Soledad fame), panels on publishing and marketing by the published and marketable, and games like pin the mustache on Faulkner.

 I learned a lot, but instead of dumping my notes on the internet, I’ll jot four things:

 (1) We have a literary scene! Houston’s not just a sunset-and-traffic, cowboy-hat-toting big oil city that’s rising into the sky as it sinks into the marsh. And that literary scene is immense, intricate, ever-expanding.

 (2) Many writers in Houston choose to self-publish but it’s a lot of work. It kind of takes an obsessive, hard-working type, or, well, a writer.

 (3) There’s a debate in the community about novel-writing. Some say that if you want to write novels, you should write novels. Others to write short fiction first and hone your skills.

 Finally, (4) Houston is very new and emerging writer friendly. 

 10/10, would write again.