- How writing for comics differs from writing novels.
- Over-outlining is a real possibility and should be avoided.
- Writer should focus more on their writing projects rather than getting published and finding an agent.
I was always a reader and I wanted to be on the other side of that equation.
Welcome to the twenty ninth episode of Interviews from the Void, where I interview writers about their writing process, discussing the mechanics and physicality of the craft.
In this episode, I chat with novelist Victor Gischler.
From Victor’s Book, INK MAGE:
Dawn bloomed on the horizon, washing the wide-open grasslands in pale orange light. Lonely and crooked trees a mile apart dotted the landscape like bent old men, their shadows stretching away from them in the burgeoning sun.
Arthur: You have a significant amount of writing out there, from comics (X-Men, Deadpool, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) to books (your new fantasy series, A FIRE BENEATH THE SKIN). How did you grow into your writing career?
VG: I’ve always loved stories, and as a kid, I was a big reader. That was the start, I guess. In high school, I’d write goofy stories staring my friends. Novels always transported me to another world. I was always a reader, and I guess I just wanted to be on the other side of that equation.
Arthur: What would you consider to be “lessons learned” from your writing career thus far?
VG: Sharks need to keep swimming. Writers need to keep writing. Yes, everyone needs some down time, but if you write for a living and your name isn’t J.K. Rowling then you probably have to constantly be hustling to make ends meet. I’ve been up and I’ve been down. Either way, I know I need to keep pushing, inventing, using my imagination.
Sharks need to keep swimming. Writers need to keep writing.
Arthur: There are millions of writers working on books, screenplays and comic books, regularly publishing and tying to promote their work. What are you doing with your writing to set your stories apart from other stories?
VG: Every writer needs to find his/her own voice and be true to it. I’ve been told that no matter what genre I’m writing in, that people can tell it’s a “Gischler” work from the voice I hope that’s true. It’s what every writer needs to strive toward.
Arthur: You discuss in another interview with Editor’s Note Comics about how you’re able to easily see the end of a five- issue story, however looking ahead years into future, it is a more difficult task. I believe this is true for all of us writers. Do you outline your books prior to starting? What is your outlining approach?
VG: I don’t outline for the simple reason the outline never survives the actual writing of the novel. Rather I try to lay out 5 or 6 ( 7 or 8) key scenes or turning points and then I connect those points by flying by the seat of my pants. I’m not suggesting this is the best way to do it. It’s just how I happen to do it. If something is overly outlined, it starts to seem stale even before I’ve started writing.
I’m going to do my thing and readers will decide if they like it or not.
Arthur: Writing a story for a comic is perhaps much more of a team effort than writing a novel, where the writer is solitary in their office until the completion of the work. What are the major differences in your approach for a longer work – such as a novel – versus writing for a comic book issue? Do you think there is an advantage to one or the other?
VG: Like you say. Team effort. Lots of collaboration with an artist and/or an editor. If you’re writing a licensed character (Deadpool or Punisher for example) then you’re often taking your cue from an editor instead of completely following your own vision. Even with a creator-owned comic, the writer’s vision is filtered through how the artists chooses to bring it to life.
Arthur: In a previous interview with writer Joseph Pascale, we talked about the future of how readers – and consumers in general – will “consume” our writing work, such as being able to read entire works by one author in a matter of seconds. Do you think the way we read comic books is changing, especially now with all the comic book movies being released?
VG: I have no idea. I’m going to do my thing and readers will decide if they like it or not. It’s really just about that simple for me.
I go wherever the whim strikes me and wherever I think I can tell the best story.
Arthur: What inspired you to write your fantasy series? Can you tell me more about your world building process? How you developed the map and the names in the world of Helva?
VG: I think my fantasy world is a pretty familiar place – guys in armor with swords, castles, fantastic creatures – with the element of the magical tattoos being the main twist. My fantasy novels are very much comfort food which is no surprise since that’s what I also want as a reader. I think (hope) my fantasy books appeal to a broad audience unlike my books in other genres which fill a niche. I’m generalizing here. Your mileage may vary.
Arthur: In The Great Courses, there’s a class called “The Creative Thinkers Toolkit.” The instructor discusses Hemmingway’s approach to writing endings. He wrote multiple endings, upwards of thirty or more for one of his novels before he chose one that worked. How do you write your own endings? How do you decide how the ending will provide the emotional resolution to bring the story to a close?
VG: There’s no one answer to this, but in general, I know my ending fairly early on and work toward it. I have a reasonably clear idea where I want my characters to end up and how I want my reader to feel quite early in the process. Sometimes this changes as I go, but mostly not.
Most new authors need to cool their jets and focus on writing (and rewriting) the best book possible.
Arthur: Why have you chosen to write in your particular genres? Are there particular genres which interest you more than others?
VG: I go wherever the whim strikes me and wherever I think I can tell the best story. Right now I’m mostly into fantasy. It was the genre I started in as a reader, so I feel I’ve sort of come home.
Arthur: What kind of advice or information do you think writers are craving most? What kind of advice are you yourself most interested in with regard to writing?
VG: I think a lot of writers want advice about how to get an agent, how to navigate the business of publishing, etc. There is a time and a place for that, but most new authors need to cool their jets on such issues and focus on writing (and rewriting) the best book possible.
Arthur: What kind of experience are you hoping to create for your readers?
That when they finish the novel, they say, “Wow. I want to go back there again.”
Thank you so much, Victor, for sharing your wisdom with us. Be sure to check out his work on his website. We’re also looking forward to his new book, NO GOOD DEED.