Comics · editing · Writing

Self-Editing Checklist – 10 Steps to Help You Edit Your Comic Script

I’ve done a lot of comic editing in the last few months and it got me thinking about the common issues I see in comic scripts. I’ve definitely made these mistakes in my own stories, so I created an easy-to-follow checklist to help avoid these issues. It’s 10 simple steps you can use to double-check your comic script before you pass it along to an artist or editor.

Check out the preview and download it by clicking the button!

Productivity · Time Management · Writing

The Pros and Cons of Project Management Software for Comic Creators

For the past few years, I’ve worked as a project manager, which meant I got acquainted with many different systems to manage those projects. There are pros and cons to each software, but ideally, you just have to figure out what works best for your brain and the people you’re working with.

Google Sheets/Docs

A spreadsheet in Google Sheets can be a very versatile tool. Even if you decide to use more involved software like Trello or Asana, having a spreadsheet to keep track of what you still need to finish and what is finished is a straightforward and visual way to see how the work is going.

You can also take a screenshot and quickly share progress with collaborators, which is excellent if you have a large team. I had a friend do this recently, and I’m still amazed at how simple and genius it was. We all instantly knew which parts of the project were finished and what stages the art was in. It was an excellent way to show us how hard the editorial team was working while keeping us updated overall.

You could also share the link to your Google Sheet with your team, but I honestly liked the screenshot better. I tend to have the urge to help organize things, and the screenshot didn’t pull at that part of my brain. If someone shares the Sheet, especially if the project is behind or struggling, it may cause people on the team to feel like they need to pitch in on the editorial/project management side, and you could end up with too many cooks in your kitchen. If you want to share the link without tempting people to help out, there are ways to share “view-only” versions of Google Sheets

Pros

  • Free to use, the only limit is 15gbs of files.
  • Easy to share with collaborators, either via screenshots or direct links.
  • Fairly easy to learn, if you’re unsure how to do something most skills are just a search away.

Cons

  • You do have to create the sheet, so the level of organization depends on your personal skills.
  • It’s fairly basic, compared to more detailed software. Not a total con, but still something to consider.

Trello

Trello is very visual and I liked that a lot at first. It works best for list-based projects, and cards within a list can be labeled with color-coding for easier at-a-glance understanding. As seen here, companies like Epic Games use Trello to share progress on bugs and issues with their community. While I like it for more basic project management, it can feel a little unwieldy for more complex projects.

As projects got more complicated and the lists got more numerous, the boards started to feel somewhat overwhelming and a little challenging to keep track of. You can use the search feature to find a specific card, but even that felt a little daunting at times.

If you opt to use Trello, you may want to consider breaking things up into more than one board so scrolling does not overwhelm those working on the project.

Pros

  • Very visual, great for folks that need to see the entire project.
  • Assignable tasks.
  • Free for up to 10 boards, includes unlimited cards and unlimited members. Paid version starts at $10 per month (billed annually).

Cons

  • Because you can only fit so many cards on a page, you could lose sight of pieces of the project.
  • Cards can get a little overwhelming if you’re trying to store a lot of visual information or a lot of files.

Asana

When I first started using Asana for a client, I was really hesitant. At first glance, it seems a bit overwhelming, but as I used the software more and after I took a short class (3 days, 45 minutes-1 hour per day), it quickly became my favorite project management software. I have a personal brand I use to keep track of my tasks, both for work and life.

The calendar view is by far my favorite feature. I can look at all my upcoming tasks and see them mapped out with color-coding, so it’s easy to view where I am currently and where I’m headed throughout the month.

Pros

  • List, Calendar and Inbox views make it easy to see when tasks are due and what tasks are coming up next.
  • It’s easy to share tasks with other people on the project.
  • Free for unlimited tasks/projects, includes up to 15 teammates. Paid version starts at $10.99 per month (billed annually).

Cons

  • There is a pretty big learning curve at first. I actually took a short class that taught me the basics, and it was 100% worth it.
  • Some features that are rather useful are behind a paywall, like date-ranges.

If you’re trying to decide what project management software works best for you, I hope this post has been insightful! If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or reach out on twitter @TamingTheMuse.

editing · Writing · Writing Career

Learn to Take Your Own Advice

I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. I still have bits and pieces of shorts I wrote when I was young, and somewhere buried in a notebook, I have a “Noir” story I tried to write in high school. My heart was in the right place, but my skills were lagging behind.

I got more serious about writing in my 20s, even as I pursued my teaching degree and taught professionally. In 2013 we moved to Wyoming, and I took a break from teaching. I got my first traditional publishing opportunity the following year, and after that, I took a lot of classes on writing fiction and comics. I still take classes whenever I can.

After someone was a jerk online last week, one piece of advice I always share with creator friends kept echoing in my head.

“You should hire an editor.”

While I still don’t think it’s right to be an asshole on online (people brush it off, but studies show online negativity can have a heavier impact than face-to-face interactions), I’ve been wondering why this tiny bit of advice was so controversial for some.

But that reaction did get me thinking about one thing I’ve noticed in the past 7 years in fiction/comics/blog editing and writing.

Letting others look at your work is difficult.

There’s a fear there, one that I often share, that if you let someone else influence your work or point out the flaws, they’ll end up chipping away at the parts of the work that make it yours.

While I understand that fear, I don’t think it’s completely true. You do have to grow thick enough skin to know when and where to stand up for your work, but most of the time your editors, writer friends, and artist friends giving feedback want to enhance your message.

But every time I get my nerve up and offer my scripts or stories up for critique, the work gets better, not worse. My editors and friends notice small details I can fix, characters I can deepen and imagery I can strengthen. As long as I stick to my guns, my voice does not get lost in the editing process.

I used to think when I said, “You should hire an editor,” I was trying to self-promote. I thoroughly enjoy the process of editing and helping others present their best possible story. But when I give that advice, even if I’d love to edit for my friends/acquaintances, that’s never my aim.

I don’t care if they hire me. I want them to seek feedback because I know it’ll help improve their story, and possibly, their writing process. It’s always helped me put a better foot forward with my own stories.

Putting yourself out there is hard, but worth it.

It’s also necessary for growth. And it’s often essential in comics because you usually work with a creative team.

Building the muscles for taking and integrating feedback will help you work with others. I’ve edited for people who are generous and kind, even when they have a conflict with the feedback I’ve shared. I’ve also given input to writers early in their careers who don’t think they need any help. These are always instances where they asked me to edit or review their work, so it was never unsolicited critique.

Learning to take feedback with equal parts grace and stubbornness is a good skill to have. Stand by what you want to keep in your story and fix what you can to make it better.

Comics · Writing

Resources for Comic Creators – Scripts, Advice, and Classes

After writing for years, when I pivoted toward comics, it surprised me that there was no real “standard” way to write and create a comic. There are common practices and trends, but it’s an area that provides the writer/creator with a lot of freedom. I always want to share what I’ve learned because I firmly believe that rising tides lift all boats, so I thought I’d share some of the resources that have helped me over the last few years.

Scripts Archive – Comic Experience

This archive has a ton of different styles of scripts from a variety of authors. Ideally, if you want to study how comics work, I would download the script of your choice and read through it side by side with the comic that was created from it. One of the best ways to learn how to format a script is to look at these examples.

Ultimate Comic Writer’s Workshop – Kelly Sue DeConnick

I attended one of DeConnick’s workshops a few years ago and, I still refer back to my notes to this day. Someone on the internet was kind enough to compile her advice over on Tumblr in the link above. It has some great tips on improving your comic writing/comic observation skills and the nuts and bolts of creating comics.

Side note for writers: In the workshop I attended, DeConnick encouraged writers to submit shorts to anthologies. I followed her advice and got my first traditional publishing credit that way. If you’re looking to build your resume as a writer, it’s a great way to do just that.

Online Comic Classes Taught by Comic Creators

I’m not sure if it’s because I miss school or miss people, but I love taking short online classes right now. The shift to online learning has also made classes that might otherwise be taught at colleges or other exclusive places a lot more accessible. I’ve been able to take courses from writers, editors, and creators who have worked in the industry for decades.

Here are some of my favorite ( and often reasonably affordable) places I’ve taken classes:

  • TalentTalkLive – They offer various courses on comic creation and other subjects. Some are relatively cheap, considering you get to ask questions and learn from very talented professionals. I’ve gotten great value out of each class I’ve taken on their platform.
  • Skillshare – I’ve taken short classes on lettering, coloring, writing, and more at Skillshare! Not all of these classes center on comic creation, but most of them helped me improve my skills as a creator and learn new platforms.
  • The Hero Initiative – They sometimes offer live classes/experiences. They also support comic creators in need, so they’re a great platform to support.

Comics School

Gail Simone did a basic run-through of comics creation on Twitter during the start of lockdown in 2020. You can find PDFs of the daily lessons here. She walks you through how to create a springboard and then step-by-step create a short comic. You can also check out the #ComicsSchool hashtag on Twitter to find writers and artists who participated in Comics School. Many of them have gone on to create their own comics and sell their work.

Panels at Conventions

I miss going to in-person panels, but several conventions have moved their experiences online. I’ll be honest though, there’s nothing quite like watching a panel or taking a workshop face-to-face with a creator and then later being able to talk at their table (be mindful if people are trying to purchase items) or chatting at events surrounding the con. One of my favorite experiences was going to an after-party at a small con and just talking and having fun with many creators I admired. It made me feel like I had a place in the industry and that someday these folks could be my friends and colleagues.


I honestly can’t wait until we’re able to do it again, but for now, it’s a great idea to check out conventions that have moved their experiences online. It also gives you a chance to support conventions that support comics as an industry.

If there are other resources you think would help add to this list, please let me know and comment below!

Editing · Writing

Why You Need An Editor (Yes, you!)

A few nights ago, I had a dream about a friend I had not seen in a while. She was lamenting how she had this piece of finished work, but that the story just wasn’t having the impact she wanted and it wasn’t selling. 

I gave her the same advice I’ve given to a lot of my friends over the years. “You need an editor.” 

I found it funny I had said that in my dream. People often view editors as an “extra” cost, but if you think about the world of professional writing, they are not an optional service. Every author I know of and admire has editors they work with who help them clarify and strengthen their vision. 

The reason I’ve given this piece of advice so much is because I’ve read a lot of work out there that could have truly benefited from some editing, and I know my work is ten times better when I have someone edit it. That pair of fresh eyes can spot things you can’t see, because you are so close to the work. They can also help you learn from those mistakes and become a better writer. That is why you need an editor.

And realistically, editors can be pricey, so if you’re not on the level to pay someone to review your work yet, there are a few other ways you can level up your work.

Ask Friends, Exchange Services, Or Join A Writing Site

If you are not in a position to pay for an editor just yet, you can ask friends to look over your work. Ideally, these should be friends who do some writing themselves so they can give you a critique you can really use. You can also offer to review and critique their work in the future.

If you aren’t able to exchange critiques, you can see if there are other services you can swap with your friends. Right now, I’m providing editing/coaching services for a friend and they are going to do some artwork for me. It’s a mutually beneficial agreement for both of us.

Lastly, if you don’t have any writer friends just yet, join a writing site that focuses on improvement and feedback. There are tons of services out there that should meet your needs. In the past, I’ve used both Writing.com and Scribophile.com and both sites have systems in place to help you get your work reviewed/critiqued.

When Your Ready For An Editor

The great thing about a good editor is that there are no feelings involved. With friends, they may try to spare your feelings and avoid giving you critiques you may need. 

A good editor is there to help you fix mistakes, clarify your vision and improve your writing. You may want to build up a thick skin before you hire an editor. Taking critique can be hard, but it is truly necessary if you want to learn and improve your craft.  Every professional author you admire is able to take feedback. I’ve written more on the subject here.

You also don’t have to take every edit your editor suggests. Now and then, you will feel it in your gut that you need to stick with your instincts and keep a line or a part of the story. It’s okay to take some of the advice, but not all of it. Do your best to consider their edits thoughtfully and incorporate what you can.

When I work as an editor, I always remind myself that I am there to help the author communicate their vision. The author/editor relationship is all about communication and compromise. 

Writing

Why Taking (And Giving!) Feedback is an Essential Skill for Writers

Feedback provides us with an opportunity to learn from and improve on our mistakes. Learning to take criticism with grace and positivity is an essential skill for writers.

Building Your Feedback Skills

First off, it’s okay if you aren’t perfect at taking feedback. I’ve spent the last few years building up a thick skin for constructive criticism and I still feel the burn sometimes when I ask for critique. The defensive monster at the back of my mind pokes her head out to say “noo, my work is great, how dare you!?” but I push her back into her cave after letting her rage for a minute or two. Here are some ways you can work on building your skills so you can make feedback work for you. 

Don’t make excuses

It’s okay to explain why you wrote something a particular way if you have a strong reason for doing it, but don’t give your critique partner or editor a bunch of excuses. If you find yourself constantly explaining why you did something, what you’re really saying is that your work can not stand by itself and that you have to explain it. That alone is enough for you to do a re-write. 

React, but don’t respond right away.

As I said above, I still get defensive of my work sometimes, even with critique partners and editors I’ve worked with for YEARS. These folks know me and they know my writing, but it still stings sometimes. I don’t tell them that it stings or let my defensiveness leak through.

I give myself a few hours to process the sting and then I go back in and try to look at the feedback constructively. 

Take the feedback and make edits.

Read through the feedback carefully and do your best to use it as a tool to improve both the current piece your working on and future work. You might find that you actually really love the feedback once you’ve incorporated it and strengthened your writing.

Be Aware of What Constructive Criticism looks like

I used to be a teacher and during my undergraduate program, I learned some really vital things about feedback. For every 1 negative we give a young student, we need to give them 4 positive and specific points of feedback. I don’t use that exact ratio when I do editing work, but I do try to provide them with both constructive negative criticism AND specific positive feedback. 

If you have ever had someone edit your work and just tear it apart, without telling you that you did anything right, you know how hard it is to take that person’s advice. It’s important to be able to discern when feedback is constructive and when it is just overly negative or critical. If you feel like a feedback partner/editor isn’t giving you helpful notes and doesn’t get your vision, it’s okay to look for a new feedback partner or hire a new editor.

A good feedback partner or editor should help build you up, not just tear you down.

Also, don’t take unsolicited feedback from someone you would not ask for advice from. If you’re in a workshop setting and you know a writer there is not someone who’s advice you really want, it’s okay to take their feedback with a grain of salt.

Giving Feedback Helps You Become A Better Writer

Giving feedback to others also helps you improve your own writing. Figuring what is and isn’t’ working for others can help you problem solve your own writing issues. It can also help you gain a deeper understanding of good dialogue, good plot and more!

Writing · Writing Career

Building a Writing Career: How to Submit to Anthologies

Getting published seems like a scary and hard-to-achieve goal for a lot of the writers I’ve talked to, but one way to get your name out there is to submit to anthologies. It’s a great place to get started because you can focus on short fiction for a bit and learn about story structure.

If just one anthology accepts and publishes your submission, that’s it, you can say you’re a published writer. 

Finding Out Where to Submit Your Story

Literistic is a monthly email service that sends you a list of open contests, literary magazines and more. They have both a free and paid version of their monthly newsletter. The free version is quite a bit shorter than the paid, but if you are just starting out, the free version is a great way to get a feel for it and find a few different places you would like to submit your work to.

Many universities and community colleges have a literary journal/magazine or anthology that they publish yearly. They usually have open submissions but prioritize student authors or local authors. You can contact your local institution or take a look at their website to find out if they have a literary journal.

You can check out this link here for a list of the top 100 literary journals. This is a great list to get you started!

Read the Submission Guidelines Carefully

I’ve submitted several stories and though the process is almost always similar, no two submissions were exactly the same. Some journals want a cover letter with an author bio, while others just want your story. Some will want your name on every page, while others will only want your name on the cover letter. Make sure you read the instructions carefully and follow them very closely. 

Many editorial teams will not read your work if you did not follow their guidelines.

Rejection Happens

Now, just like any other submission process, you will want to ready yourself for rejection. Just because you did not get accepted, does not mean the story is bad or poorly written. It just means that it was not right for that particular literary journal. Hold on to the story, edit it again if you feel you need to, and submit it somewhere else. I personally try to submit to journals that either offer a free copy of the book/journal, or even offer some kind of payment for the story.

Keep Writing

The more short stories you write, the more work you have to submit. I keep most of my stories in a folder in google docs and when I find a literary journal I want to submit to, I see if I have anything already written or if I need to create a new story.

Good luck! Let me know if you have any questions, I’m happy to share more of my experience.

Book Review · Personal Post · Writing

My 2020 Reading List

Hey everyone, I wanted to share a part of my reading list for 2020, just to put some awesome books on your radar!

I tend to read a lot of self-help and instructional books, I enjoy the way they help me center my thinking. Last year, I tried to balance that with a bit more fiction reading. In my teens and early twenties, I would to ravenously devour fiction books and I’d like to get back to that. I struggle to sit still and ignore distractions, so sometimes sitting quietly and reading can be difficult, but this year I want to try to retrain my brain to be okay with quiet time. 

I also make a list of books each year that I would like to read and create a page in my bullet journal for it.

My Full Reading List So Far

Some of the books are novels I’ve read before that I want a refresher on, some of them are books I meant to read last year but didn’t start…And a few are books I started but didn’t finish. 

I listen to audiobooks pretty often, so it can be easy to get a few hours in and forget that I was reading that book. This year, I hope to finish a lot more than I did last year.

Here’s a few of the books on my list that I’m really excited about:

  1. Brave, Not Perfect by Reshma Suanjani – Reshma started the “Girls Who Code” organization and this book dives into studies on why girls tend to develop a fixed mindset about what they are capable of. She also shares insights on how we can move beyond trying to be “perfect” and choose to be brave instead.
  2. Meditations of Marcus Aurelius – I just find stoic philosophy pretty fascinating and would like to practice it more.
  3. Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep – I read the first book in this series last year and I really enjoyed it. It was the sort of adventure/fantasy/romance book that fits exactly what I look for in those sorts of genres. Often, I’ve found a lot of stories like this are reserved for YA, but the main character in this book is 27. 
  4. Wyvern by Grace Draven – Draven is one of my favorite fantasy romance authors. Once I get started on her books, I typically devour them quite quickly. 
  5. Lagom by Niki Brantmark – This book is about the Swedish art of living a happy, balanced life. I picked it up after I really enjoyed Hygge by Meik Wiking. Hygge is a Danish concept of happiness. I have Scandinavian ancestry and books like this help me feel more connected to the cultures of my great-grandparents.
  6. The Night Witches by Garth Ennis and Russ Braun – This is a graphic novel about female military aviators who fought during WWII. They would idle their engines and glide toward their bombing targets and that got them the nickname “Night Witches” from their Nazi enemies. It was very uncommon to see women in combat roles during this time in history.

So there you have it. Obviously there are a lot more books on my list in my bullet journal, but these are the ones I hope to start the year off strong with.

Writing

2019 Theme: Level Up

2018 was an interesting year for me in a lot of ways and some of those issues were part of why I did not blog quite as much as I should have.  A lot of the year was figuring out and re-negotiating my balance in life.

2018’s theme was “Hustle” for me, but as I said above, it probably should have been “Balance.”  I spent a lot of 2018 learning and building my skill set and trying to figure out my personal direction with things.  I went to Denver Comic Con in June and spent many of my hours there in writing panels, learning from experts about the craft I love so much.  Late in the year, the lessons learned there helped me recommit to writing and publishing my first novel, which I’m still currently working on.

I formatted and self-published a short on Amazon in the fall of 2018, which was both a big and little accomplishment.

I found new friends and let go of some of the people who were not quite right for me (and I was likely not quite right for them).  I think that will be another part of 2019 for me, letting go of people who aren’t really kind to me and aren’t really worth me investing a lot of thought into.

I improved my health in some great ways (Lower body weight, better blood panels), and then got hit with some unexpected health problems of the chronic variety.  I’m still working on getting those under control and doing my best to remain hopeful.

One of my goals this year is to blog more consistently, so hopefully, this is not the last you hear from me for months!  I hope you are having a great beginning of the year and that you’re ready to work and strive towards your dreams/goals!  This year I want to “level up” by writing more, learning more and publishing more!

Writing

Punctual, Easy To Work With, & Brilliant: 2 Out Of 3 Is Fine

In a lot of ways, this blog ends up being posts that I write because I need to read them or someone close to me might need them.  Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite writing role models and I come back to his book “Fantastic Mistakes” over and over again.  The book is just a fancy version of a speech he gave at the Philadelphia’s University for the Arts commencement ceremony, but it was filled with amazing advice for creative people.  One of my favorite parts of his speech was a specific tip about freelancers and getting hired for jobs.  The advice basically goes as follows–

Freelancers get hired for the following reasons:

  1. They do good work.
  2. They are easy to work with.
  3. They are punctual and meet deadlines.

…And you really only need two out of three to get hired.

Even though I’m doing less work for hire because I’m focusing on writing fiction, this idea still echoes in my head.  If you are easy to work with and you always hit deadlines, you can build a freelance career, even if your work isn’t always brilliant.  If you’re brilliant and easy to work with, you can miss some deadlines and people will most likely be forgiving.  If you do good work and hit deadlines with ease, it might be okay for you to not be the most social/easy person to work with.  Focus on what you’re good at and build your skills accordingly.

I personally strive for all three, but my main focus is that I’m easy to work with and I always am either on time or early for deadlines.  I think deadlines are important because they can really help you show the people you work with that you can be reliable and consistent.

Anyways, that’s my short post for this week.  I would highly recommend “Fantastic Mistakes” to anyone who wants to pursue a creative career or even a creative hobby.  Gaiman’s advice is always so uplifting and yet so grounded and simple.