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Judges Feedback Thread for Writers


#1

I’m creating this so each judge can add their 2 cents for all entrants as part of the review process. I don’t intend on giving specific feedback on scripts or getting into it with people I rejected, just some general feedback.

I reviewed all the Huck entries. When you have so many entrants you start looking for standout ideas rather than repeated ideas. So if you took a common idea (like how Huck got his dog, or Huck stopping a suicide, or Huck finding a lost family treasure) you needed to really nail everything in order to stand out. The more original ideas (like the story told in rhyme or Huck saving space aliens or Bigfoot) stood out from the pack much more, so the main piece of advice I have is go for the unexpected. That’s what last years winners did, and I think it’s what potential publishers are looking for in general.

Other tips -

  • Probably 1 in 20 entries didn’t have the signed contract attached. It doesn’t take that long to check people.
  • Spelling mistakes and grammar mistakes stand out. As does not formatting your script. Some scripts are really well put together, some look like a wall of text. If you didn’t take the time to lay out your entry neatly it felt like you didn’t take the time to refine your script.
  • Many scripts took too long to get going. A whole page or 2 before we got to the story, and then they had a rushed resolution. With 5 pages each one counts so you have to remove the fat. These scripts should be lean and mean.
  • On the other hand many entries had 2-3 pages of no dialogue at all. You’re applying to write, not direct. There’s a place for no dialogue sequences, but with only 5 pages you want to tell more story.
  • Too many panels on a page was still a thing. This is Huck, not Watchmen. Look at how Mark wrote the book - that’s the kind of style you want to replicate.
  • Lots of entries didn’t seem to understand Huck the character. Huck doesn’t punch people out - you don’t see him throw a punch in the book. Huck saves little ducks and helps with shopping. Stopping drunken stepfathers or rapes really puts the character in situations where you make telling the story very difficult to get right. You’re written yourself into a corner before you even start the first page.
  • If you started with Huck writing his list and not knowing what to do you were the same as about a third of other entrants. Sequences much like the Huck book don’t tell us something new. Again, look at what won last year and see that they did their own thing.
  • Huck shouldn’t have swearing in it. He’s not Preacher.
  • Huck is about hope and community. Putting him in situations where he can’t do a good deed is like writing a Batman story where he doesn’t stop the Joker from killing the bus full of schoolkids. That’s not who the characters are.
  • Ultimately pay attention to who you’re writing. It’s not who you want it to be, it’s a character that already exists. Writing him outside of that is really really hard. You can’t do what you’d like with every character, some stories only fit some archetypes. Too many entries were about a character that just wasn’t the same Huck we had in the book.

#2

I was the judge for the Superior scripts for this annual. There were a few amazing scripts and a few more that were fun. The ones that fell off made the mistake of not telling a Superior story. Most of those fell into two categories.

  • Using Superior as an archetype to tell other stories - Several people tried to use Superior in the way that Alan Moore used Supreme to tell alternate universe and meta Superman stories. These stories tended to tell a throwback story about Superior from a different era with the twist that it was actually a comic, TV show or film with a few slight exceptions. Believe me, I love Superman but there is much more to Superior than just being another archetype character.

  • Telling stories about Orman before/after/during his time trying to acquire Simon’s soul - It is possible that in a long shot one of these stories could have worked but it is such an uphill battle that it likely wasn’t worth it. Myself and a handful of other mods tried to dissuade people from this but several still went for it.

A few other tips:

  • Learn to construct a story before you try to deconstruct it. You best know how to subvert and change the way things are done when you actually understand why they are done that way.
  • Read and follow instructions. So many of the foibles could have been avoided if writers had read through and followed the advice given.
  • Learn how to play with other people’s toys. Other anthologies may be looking for submissions that make drastic changes to a character or uses them to make a statement about your religious/political/other beliefs. This was not one of those. We wanted great stories that captured the essence of these characters.
  • If you want to be a writer, write. This likely isn’t going to be a career that you just fall in to. Our esteemed leader faced many lean years and worked his ass off to get where he is today. Even if you were selected to be included in this annual, it’s only a step to becoming a full time professional writer.

I would prefer not to leave this with just a list of “do nots”. So I’ll tell you a little of what @theamazingsimon did right (but not too much as I don’t want to spoil you all for reading his amazing story in print). The thing he did more than all others was get the essence of the character while telling an interesting and unique story. Superior is really about a kid with a debilitating disease that suddenly has the powers of earth’s mightiest (in his world fictional) hero and what he chooses to do with those powers. Mr. James captured this so well that I can’t wait for you all to read his story.


#3

I was the judge for Supercrooks.

Many of the comments from the other guys apply, I don’t want to repeat the same things but if you entered for Supercrooks make sure you read the feedback from the others too. Adding the right documents, spellchecking, page formatting, getting to the core of the character/series etc all apply here too.

The good news is I found the standard much higher than those I reviewed last year (for Kingsman). I rated the stories from 1-5 to get down to my shortlist and the majority warranted at least a 3, only a very small handful got disregarded pretty quickly.

To expand on what Jim said about the short story structure. Bear in mind always the reader of the eventual annual and provide a satisfying story that stands on its own. They need to be entertained by those 4-5 pages. We had an exceptionally well written piece from one entry but it really lacked a story with a beginning, middle and end and was more a character piece. The one we selected had a great story structure with twists to it in classic 2000ad Future Shock fashion.

Many struggled with the page limitation and instead created some kind of prologue to another story. Ending with the likes of ‘now let’s take on the Bastard again…’ or ‘we’re set up for another heist…’. That’s not an ending, there is no follow up strip as part of this contest. :smile:

Ronnie and I gave a lot of warnings about continuity heavy stuff, it’s never ruled out but it makes the task much more difficult as really we want this to be an accessible book for all that buy it. Some entries would have been very difficult for people that hadn’t read Supercrooks (or even have, it came out originally 4 years back and I had to go back and read it again in preparation for the judging as I couldn’t remember all the characters in a large ensemble book after that long, let alone some entries were fitting in between specific panels in the book).

One thing I mentioned in another thread when it was raised is writers who don’t have English as a native language. I don’t want to make too many assumptions on his linguistic abilities but our winner @mercutio (Martin) was from Argentina. His script had no significant issues with grammar, spelling etc. A few of them had so many to the extent they were difficult to read and I would feel sorry for the amount of work our lovely editor would have to put in to rewrite all the dialogue. So we want entries from everywhere and they can and have won but take the time to check and get people to review a script before you enter, the internet makes that easier than ever before, someone in Hungary can ask a Canadian member of the board to help proof read and they likely would. Nobody will get ruled out for a spelling mistake or the odd awkward line, we can work on those things in the edit, but if the script is riddled with them then it becomes unworkable.


MW Annual 2017 - peer feedback
#4

Without repeating what’s already been said more eloquently than I ever could, here are a few things I saw. I’m trying to write them in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh.

  • Write a story that stands on its own, not beholden to page 4, panel 2 of issue 3 (random numbers thrown out). What you come up with may be a good idea, but when so many other writers submit a variation of the same they all tend to blend together. The stories that stood out added to the overarching story of Nemesis as a character and weren’t trying to fill in the beats of the original.
  • Several stories were submitted that seem to be mean for meanness’ sake; little thought put into them other than to showcase depravity. Depraved might be compelling, but it wasn’t in any of these cases.

#8

Well, crap…I guess there are a lot of us that want to be Larry Hamma and write that GI Joe #21 issue. ¯_(ツ)_/¯


#9

I´m Blushing…
Or getting an alergic reaction…

Let you know later wich one was.


#10

Super helpful! Funny how people wrote about a treasure! Next time I’ll have to try and write something more unique.


#11

I think it’s stellar of you, Jim, and all the judges, to take the time to share insight into your evaluation process. I know why my Huck entry didn’t make the cut and it’s all part of the learning curve. Seeing your reasoning justified what I sensed by instinct. Thank you for doing this. Only twice out of a couple thousand album reviews I’ve written did the bands seek out my reasoning for my reviews, which weren’t full of high praise. One took me to the mat and I politely defended myself; the other said he appreciated what I said and took it to heart. I heard exactly what I’d flagged in the prior album and his next effort was much more appealing. This vocalist and I remain casual friends today.

Hopefully all the Huck writers and other entrants into the contest found value in your feedback as I did. Thanks again.


#12

Thanks so much for the feedback. Every little bit genuinely helps. Love to know how close I honestly was to or away from the mark. Thanks again


#13

My pleasure Adam.

We won’t be giving feedback on who came in the last few, it has been mentioned before that unfortunately some people don’t take it well and kick off arguments. I would just say to people that didn’t make it that Alan Moore and Grant Morrison took 8-10 years to get professional gigs, keep trying and getting better.


#14

Thanks for the reply, Garjones. You didn’t have to, but you did anyway. Thanks for the advice.


#15

Additional thanks to all the judges who gave up time to sift through the hundreds of entries :clap:

I have an alternative view, though, to the comment:

Surely, writing a comic book script is directing too; writing doesn’t refer to dialogue only. Comics are sequential art, so words on a page should appear only if the art alone cannot convey the story. :slight_smile:


#16

Well, first of all I have to say this is a great opportunity for us, regular, ordinary mortals, to do something about the medium we love. And I don’t really look out for win, just to participate in this annuals. Anyway, I’d highlight a few points here:

  1. While I am not Moore or Miller, I like and used it in my entry - the number of panels, which if I remember vividly, was 6,7,7,8,9. For me, four of five is useless and I want to keep the reader on the page as I long as I could. Further on, I have no clue how to diminish the number. Like, The Long Halloween has 3-5 panels mixed with Loeb’s sparse prose and I immensely dislike that approach. Next thing is, the use of slow-mo (which I didn’t use here), but know that in potential career of comic writer, would do extensively. (4-6 panels :grin:). I just wanted to say, in incompromising manner, that I hate that rule. So, I just want to tell my story (hence, the lack of winning desire) and hope that the others will read it (possibly love it) too.
    2)Since mine story is about Hit-Girl predominantly (because I used the 2015 script and adapted it for 2016 annual, aka I put Kick Ass in), I don’t know if I staying true to the chararacter, works here. Or not. What I did is, I put some humanity in her, while also emphasizing her psychopathic nature. So I have no idea if it counts, I really don’t. (Who reviewed the Kick Ass & HG entry?:slight_smile:
    3)Maybe should be here some thread dedicated to proof read/lecturing. I am not English native speaker and would really love to see my mistakes, there are certainly, and how to sort them out.

#17

For any typical comic? Absolutely. But if you’re entering a contest for writers having 4 pages of no dialogue doesn’t show you can write as well as someone who puts together some sparkling dialogue. Even if you’ve laid out a great sequence, chances are someone else has laid out a great sequence and has cracking dialogue on top of it.


#18

I understand what you’re saying, and if I’d been writing Nemesis or Kick Ass I’d fully agree, but Huck? :confused:

The point I take away is that you have kindly presented a full rundown of common faults, and clearly highlighted one of the reasons why my script fell down. Pages 1, 3 and 4 had no dialogue because I felt the actions told the story adequately, but now I am clearer about what is expected I’ll have to change my approach for next time. :slight_smile:


#19

Except there won’t be a next time, 'cos I’ll have made it by then :wink:


#20

So I assume my near-complete lack of dialogue was a huge turnoff. Duly noted…


#21

The lack of dialogue or captions is less of a turn off than it makes your task very difficult over a small number of pages.

By its nature a silent scene tends to decompress the story. So I can’t speak for the scripts that Jim read but for mine the few that did attempt it, the main problem was not much happened in them.

To give examples you can see here two great pieces from Marvel’s 'nuff said silent month that convey a great mood, one a jovial family scene and another an action piece.


They are quality pieces of work but there’s not much left there to provide a satisfying 4 page story. Now of course I know these guys are writing to a 22 page template so could afford to stretch it more but it hopefully demonstrates somewhat how hard it is to use the power of visual storytelling over a very short format. You can jump cut with a lot going on in each panel but that compromises the effectiveness of it most of the time. The reason silent issues are somewhat decompressed is it works better that way.

I’m sure it can be done, there is no ban on silent pages but I think it then needs to be pretty faultless to beat other entries.


#22

Obviously I will never know, but I thought because I provided captions in lieu of dialogue it’d work, but that probably wasn’t the case.


#23

That would be fine with me. It’s just as I mentioned that silent pages are difficult to do effectively in the tight space.

In the end though each judge makes a subjective decision, I can’t speak for Jim on whether he counts captions as dialogue. Quite often they are presented that way, Frank Miller style, as an internal monologue.