Tag Archives: How To

Surviving NYCC: Words of Wisdom to Help Make the Most of Your Comic Con Experience

NYCC begins this Thursday, and Therefore I Geek is bringing out a post from the archives to give you some handy tips on surviving a big convention!

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New York Comic Con is fast approaching and preparations must be made. This year will be my seventh NYCC (there have been eight, for the record) and I’ve learned a few tricks that have helped me survive and more thoroughly enjoy myself. Continue reading

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Filed under Andrew Hales, Comics, Events, Geek Life

Editorial | Editing 101: “How to… edit without losing the writer’s voice”

In honor of the six month anniversary (birthday?) of Therefore I Geek, I would like to present some “how to” tips for editors.  I especially want to stress correcting grammar and syntax without losing the original writer’s voice.

The first time I was presented with a request for editing (it was a friend’s high school paper), I ripped into it.  With a red pen I circled phrases that I felt belonged in a different spot and drew arrows to where I thought they should go.  I struck through whole paragraphs and drew question marks over the original writing.  Ordinary punctuation and spelling errors were the fewest of my corrections.  My friend rewrote his entire paper in my image, and I thought it was good.  It was good.  He got an A.  However, the paper wasn’t actually his by that point:  it was mine.

I’ve learned, through trial and error, that there is a way to edit that doesn’t involve inserting my voice into a piece by someone else.  After all, if I had wanted to write it, I would have.  There have been moments when a writer and I have pounded our fists on the table and glared at each other in a disagreement over the best turn of phrase.  This is somewhat ridiculous, and can be easily avoided.

So how does one edit a piece to be the best it can be, without losing the author’s style?  It is always a good idea to keep in mind the overall tone of the piece of writing.  A research paper will have a very different quality from a blog post.  Blog posts are informal, and a writer can get away with a lot of casual and dialectic grammar that would otherwise meet with disapproval.

The editing process starts with a basic edit for simple grammar changes.  Then, a thorough read-through will make the areas which need work clear.  Sometimes, sentences sound too similar, and need to be re-worded.  Rather than changing the sound of the sentence, it is better to simply rearrange the author’s words to give the sentence a different cadence.  For instance, if there have been several sentences in a row that begin with a counter-factual clause and end with a factual one, switch the two.

Example:  It is easy to believe that an editor should insert their own style into a sentence, but it is preferable to leave the author’s choice of words intact.

Corrected:  It is preferable to leave the author’s choice of words intact, even though editors may find it easier to insert their own style into the sentence.

This does not mean that it is wrong to cut out redundant sentences, or to consolidate multiple weak sentences into one strong, cohesive sentence.  It is merely important that the author not get lost in the editing.

Next, it is a good idea to check for weak wording.  Many writers are trying get the thoughts in their heads down on paper as quickly as possible.  If they cannot think of the correct noun or verb, it is easier to just use banal phrases as place holders, so they can move on to the next thought before it is lost.  A good editor will point these out to the author for replacement.  Over the course of their relationship, the editor may know the correct word, and simply replace it in the sentence and move on.  If the entire phrase or sentence is trite, however, it may be in the best interests of having a singly voiced piece to just mark the phrase as awkward, or needing to be re-written.  The author can then make the choice of wording.

Sometimes the best advice that an editor can give to the writer is to erase what he’s written and start again.  If the editor is confused, the audience will also be confused.  I’ve often found, under these circumstances, that I can work with the writer to improve whole pages.  When we work together, it is more likely that the writer’s work will sound like it belongs to him, and not to me.

A good working relationship between a writer and an editor means that the writer’s voice is not lost during the editing process.  As the great poet Anonymous once said, “There is no such thing as good writing, only good re-writing.”

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Filed under Editing 101, Editorial, Tracy Gronewold

New to Comics

Do you feel lonely?  Confused?  Are you desperately seeking direction?  You don’t have to be alone.  There are people out there who can help you through these dark times.  You may ask yourself, “How does he know?  What could he possibly know about what I’m going through?”  Well, my friends, the answer is simple.  I, too, was once brand new to comics.  I know what it’s like to not know what is good or bad, what should be essential reading, or even what I liked.  I’ve been through the darkness and I’m here to show you the light.

All kidding aside (well, almost all), getting into comics can be a daunting task, so I’m offering some helpful tips to make your introduction a little more enjoyable, and lot less scary.

First, do yourself a favor and do a little bit of thinking and research.  An hour or two on the internet can be more valuable than gold plated diamonds.  Yeah, it’s that good.  Start thinking about the things you like and the kind of stories you enjoy.  Are you a fan of an existing comic book franchise?  Do you like crime dramas on TV?  Science Fiction novels?  Old Western movies?  Zombies?  Vampires?  There are comics that cover all of these things, and even a few that cover more than one.

Did you enjoy any of the comic book movies from the recent frenzy?  It turns out that these comic book movies are based on actual comics.  Who would have thought?  There’s a good chance that if you liked the movie, you’ll like the comics as well.  It’s certainly a good place to start looking.  As for research:  once you’ve made a list of interests, do a couple Google searches for the items on your list.  Try adding comic to the end of each search term, such as “crime drama comic” or “science fiction comic.”  Be sure to get current information, as many of these comic genres have been around since the 1940’s, but after a few minutes of skimming through pages you will start to get an idea of what is out there.

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Based on a comic! Who knew!?

Another great resource is websites dedicated to comic books.  My personal favorite is iFanboy, because they do their best to keep things positive and they have a fantastic community of brains to pick (Mmmmmm, brains).  By all means, find a site that you like and see what it has to say.  Once you get a bit of a handle on your tastes and what you’re looking for, it’s a good idea to check out a few publisher websites.  Be careful!  These sites can be somewhat overwhelming (and sometimes load slower than frozen molasses).  Where their real strength lies, though, is in the small descriptions they provide for new, recent, and upcoming books.  This is useful in helping to narrowing down the comics you want to buy to just a few titles.  Also, they’ve got some great pictures, especially of the covers, which makes it easy to know what to look for.

If you’re lucky, you live in an area that has several comic book stores to choose from.  If this is the case, then I recommend looking up a few different stores within a reasonable distance from your home and head over to them.  If you need help finding stores, check out Comic Shop Locator.  It’s a pretty good site, though it’s not perfect.  Newer stores aren’t always on there.  I’d also recommend doing a Google search (the internet is useful for so much more than just porn) for comic stores in your area.  Between these two tools, you should be able to find a few that are close.  Grab the list you made earlier and take a trip to a few of them.

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This would not be my first choice. Or second or third.

Don’t be scared.  It can be intimidating, I know, but don’t worry about it.  You’re not making any kind of commitment by just walking in the door.  Get a feel for the place. Is it nice (clean, reasonably well organized, well lit, inviting, etc)?  Does it smell badly (unfortunately, I have said yes to this question far too many times)?  Does the store seem like a place you’d be willing to come back to on a regular basis? After your initial impressions, take a look around and then try talking to the staff. In my experiences, if the store is really a quality establishment, the staff is friendly and willing to help you out.  Although comic book stores are often run by the owners, they frequently have an additional staff member or two.  At some point, we have all been new to comics and they should understand this.  Look for friendly staff members, people who are willing and eager to talk to you about comics.

This is also the point where your research pays off.  One of the first questions they are likely to ask you is “Well, what kinds of things do you like?”  If you can give them those basic genres you came up with earlier that will help them point you in the right direction.  If you can also tell them “Hey, I was looking on the internet and Iron Man looked cool to me.  Do you have any new issues I can check out?” this will help them out quite a bit.  They can direct you to both the new Iron Man issues, and some other things that might be similar.  Take a quick glance through the book and see what you think about the art.  Remember to be careful with the books though.  Comic book collectors put a premium on the condition of the book and if the books are damaged, the retailer may have a hard time selling the book, which costs them money.

Once you find some books that strike your fancy, it’s time to buy them.  Unless the store specifically allows you to read the books there, it’s generally considered good etiquette not to stand there and read the whole book in the store.  Don’t feel the need to buy any more books than you can afford.  Comics can be an expensive hobby and retailers understand this.  While they certainly want to sell as much as they can, they also understand that people have budgets.  Pick up three or four books that appeal to you and take them home and read them.  If you don’t like them, or don’t like some of them, then you’ve only spent around twelve bucks so you haven’t lost much.  You can go in the next week with your likes and dislikes and talk to the folks in the comic book store and hopefully find something more to your liking.  Don’t try to dive in too deep until you’ve figured out what you like, and don’t be discouraged if it takes you a few trips to find something that you really like.  There is such a wide variety of comics available that there is bound to be one or more that are to your liking.  You may just need to have a little patience to find them.

Finally, if you didn’t like the store or had problems with the staff, don’t go back.  This is a business and if you’re unhappy with the service you’ve gotten you don’t have to patronize that store.  There are few things that motivate people to change their behavior better than good old fashioned American dollars.  If people don’t give the store their business, the owners will get the message or they will go out of business.  As harsh as that may sound, it’s good for the industry because it helps get rid of those bad stores that perpetuate negative stereotypes.  Besides, there are always other ways of getting your comics. If you’re fortunate to have other comic stores in your area, then go there.  If not, you can always try online services like Midtown Comics’ website or Discount Comic Book Service.  These are great alternatives for people who don’t have local comic stores or are surrounded by bad stores.

Comics can be an intimidating universe, filled with crazy stories and confusing histories, backstories, and alternative universes that span up to seventy five years.  However, they can also be an amazing source of fun and inventive stories. Don’t be afraid to jump in and get your feet wet.  Enjoy yourself.  As seriously as some people may take their comics, they’re still just a hobby. Despite what some people may want you to think, comics are meant to be fun, so ignore those people (because they’re wrong), and go read some comics.

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Filed under Andrew Hales, Comics