Scott is the owner, author, publisher, web guru, social networker, and letterer for Scottcomics. During the day he manages software projects and teams, writes software, and tries to find uses for his degree in Human Factors Psychology. Scott has two grown boys and a wife he spoils because (he knows what is good for him) she has stuck around for 25+ years. They have two dogs and every Pokemon. Once in awhile he actually sleeps like a Snorlax.
I was wondering where you get your story ideas?
Ideas are everywhere, the problem is more what to do with the ideas. I take notes when I wake up in the morning if a dream struck me a certain way. When I hear an interesting bit of dialog, I jot it down. When something amuses me I put it on FB or twitter.
My problem tends to be more of an idea for a theme lacks a plot, or a plot lacks a character, or a character lacks a world. So I let the ideas float around and I occasionally try and fit them together like Legos, seeing if something sticks in a way I like.
I like to people watch, I like to get out in the world and explore, I love to travel. Every experience adds ideas for something else. I love oddities and patterns and what makes people laugh. For example, when I was in England I noted how the Irish, and the Brits, and the Scots loved rocks. They put them behind glass and tell stories about them. Stone masons are known by the way the cut rock facings and repaired rock walls have to be just so. The Romans are gone and so are their walls, the rocks stolen to make nearby homes and buildings. Queen Elizabeth had a stone hidden under her fancy chair when coroneted, the same stone that every monarch in Scotland and England has been, and the stone they’ve nearly gone to war over. The Blarney Stone is a huge attraction in a beautiful land of rock walls that hug the road. Stonehenge – more rock. What to do with those observations? I’m sure it’ll turn up in a story someday.
Sometimes the ideas and story hit all at once. Then I blitz to put it down. No thought to fixing or editing, just let it flow. Making it decent is for the second draft. If I stop to rewrite, I often lose the interest in continuing.
What is the usual process for your fiction writing? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I can’t start a long work until I know how it ends. Novels are exhausting marathons, and I need to know the destination is worth getting too. Then I find the most interesting or most logical starting point in the story that would lead to that ending. The middle bits, the main ones, fall into place. From that much of a roadmap I take the plunge and follow the characters.
When I know the characters well, I’m fine going seat of the pants with just an idea. The characters tell the story, I just write it down. I’ve also found that if I start typing, something will happen. Stuff flows out that I have no idea where it came from, but without a framework of a plot, those ideas are often filed away as unfinished bits of nothing.
Once you have an idea that sparks your imagination do you research your idea or do any world-building exercises, or do you just begin to write and see where the Muse takes you?
Both? I’m always world building. Sticking ideas together. By the time I started working on my comics universe I had all of the rules and history in place. Bits of this and that all laid down so that the Legos become a house instead of a pile of bricks.
While in the story, if I don’t know something, or want more concrete details, I’ll jump on the internet and research. Or I’ll put a note in the margins to look it up on the second draft. I also know there are a lot of things I don’t know, and I avoid telling stories about things I have to research heavily. I won’t document police procedures, but I will wax rhapsodic about cubicles on a military base. I also naturally tend to use the odd things I learn with my boundless curiosity. I’ve never flown, but my son went to flight school, and I worked on projects that dealt with flight plans, and was involved in research on control tower chatter and NASA’s mission control. From those bits I came up with the hassles a flying human would have crossing the country. It being my world I could change what I wanted, but I put in what I knew. Some bits I double checked. Would I have bothered going into that aspect of the story if I knew nothing about flight? Likely no.
What is your daily writing time like?
When I’m working on a Novel it tends to be every day at the same time I write for an hour or so. Usually in the evenings because I’m a night person. That routine means my brain is running story all day, and ready to run when I start. Often I’ll jot down notes or stuff to add or change at odd times of the day or night. Driving is great thinking time.
When I’m writing comics or other works I write in bursts. I write as much as I can until I’m burnt out. Then return to it as soon as I can. Comics go through a lot of rework, and I letter my own comics so I get another pass on writing them after the art is done. A comic can take a few months to a year before I get to letter them, and the artist has done a lot of the support storytelling, so I only have to worry about refining dialog.
In between works I’m always working, promoting, social media, doing conventions. Sell sell sell. Along the way I use things like Facebook and Twitter to focus how to tell the most with the least amount of words. How to refine and focus. I plan to work on longer pieces in the fall, refine in the spring, publish in the summer, then start all over again. Along the way smaller pieces fall into place as the need or the idea strikes. For example, and artist I met wanted to do an 8 page comic with me, so I kept sneaking in time to world build and then script it. There’s so much that goes into a story that never makes it to the page… but you can feel their shadows in what is on the page.
Are you a full time writer? If so when did you make the decision and what factors led to the decision. If you are not a full time writer…Is your plan to one day being a full time writer?
I decided to raise a family, have a career that could support them, and now that they are off on their own I’ve gone back to what I wanted to do, write. Not that I wasn’t sneaking in writing over the years, but nothing of use. I still have huge debts and bills to pay so I work full time. I publish full time. I promote full time. I write on occasion. How do I get it all done? Workaholic mostly. My goal is one new book of some kind for every year I have left of my life. So far I’m ahead of the curve.
Can you tell us about your experience working with your current publisher? (Any other publishers?) (Or your self-publishing experiences?)
Self-publishing is hard as hell. It’s easy to throw a word document onto the net, slightly harder to make it an eBook, and little bit of work to get it into print. Those aren’t books. Books have ISBN numbers on them. Books have to be sold. Books need covers that attract readers. Books need editing. Stories need draft after draft. Books have front matter, complex formatting, and every dang print and eBook publishing type is different. All that work just gets you a book. Selling it is hard. I do 10 conventions a year, have my books available in every digital media possible, and that’s still not enough. Comics are a hundred times harder because there are more people involved and color is a pain. I’d love to have a publisher come along and whisk me away to the land of Mojitos and book tours.
What is your current release and (without spoilers) tell us about the new book or series.
My last novel was my most recent release, it came out spring of this year. It’s a sequel or sorts in that the characters are much the same as the previous book, but the style of the story is very different. The novel is ‘To Thine Own Self Be True’ and falls into the odd category of super hero rom-com. The elevator pitch is that it’s ‘Sex and the City’ with superheroes. The previous book, ‘The Paragon of Animals’ was the origin of my female superhero Paragon. Before and during Paragon came my ongoing comic ‘Our Super Mom’ which tells the stories about Liza after she retires from being Paragon to raise her family. Between the origin and retirement there was a lot of room for stories, and ‘Self’ is the story about how she met her non-powered husband and fell in love. Writing comic stories set in her future made for an interesting time telling stories in Liza’s past. It became holographic storytelling where one story influenced the other. ‘Self’ is intended for adults because the story doesn’t close the bedroom doors, while ‘Our Super Mom’ is all ages. The difference in formats allowed me to push ideas into both even though I know the audience is likely never to be the same.
‘Self’ was never planned to exist. It came about in a discussion on if I had ideas for another book. I said, “No, because I want to save the material for the comic. About the only part that doesn’t fit is how she – um – had her kids.” I was asked why that wasn’t a story and I replied, “There’s no villain. I want this to be a loving couple that stays together – a rarity in comics, so I don’t want either of them to be the antagonist in their relationship. It would color the comic.” But then I thought about it. I thought about what a celebrity couple has to endure. What it’s like to have the press and your job in your face every minute of every day, and I had my villain, us. For a structure I went with the three date rule, but made them the three worst dates ever. Liza is a nerd and shy, so I let her louder girlfriends free reign to speak their mind, and they became a plot all on their own.
Can you tell us about some of your other writing (fiction or nonfiction) and any appearances or signings that you have planned?
Aside from comics and novels, I’ve written a twisted little illustrated ‘Little Golden Book’, it’s called “Eat the Bunny Before the Bunny Eats You”. It’s about when the chocolate bunnies rise up for revenge. It’s hilarious and wrong. I’m also in the middle of working on a true children’s book. The story is scripted and the art is being done, and when it is done I’ll rewrite a good chunk of it. The conceit is that Unicorns can slice the air with their horns and cut holes between worlds and walk through them. The worlds are the multiverse of possibilities. Our hero is too young to travel, and has to eat grass every day. He decides he hates grass and refuses to eat anymore. After being sent to bed early, his brother comes home and before long has shown him how to leap – and off the little one goes. For the rest of the year I have shows close to home:
Yellow Springs Book Fair
Aug 16, 2014
Cincinnati Comic Expo
Sep 19-21, 2014
Rosewood Arts Center – Kettering OH
Oct 18, 2014
Champion City Comic Con – Springfield OH
Oct 11, 2014
Akron Comic Con
Nov 8-9, 2014
As an author what inspiration or advice would you give to a writer who is working to make the transition to Author?
Finish. Whatever it is, finish it. There’s so much to be learned in finishing a work that you won’t know until you do it. Further, if you keep restarting and don’t finish, it’s a cowardly thing. After all, if you never finish, you can never be judged.
Second? Don’t worry about the audience until you’re done. Then find your audience. If you’re going to write just for someone else? Become an actor. You’ll rarely meet your readers, and they’ll never be what you imagine. Write for yourself. Nothing else justifies spending years of your life on a single book.
Who is your favorite author, and can you recommend a book by that author?
I don’t have a favorite, but there are authors whose ideas stuck with me for many years after. The foremost that comes to mind is Larry Niven and Roger Zelazny. Niven is the master of world building, and has had more ideas than any of us can count. Pick up any of his short story collections and slowly discover they are all connected. The late Zelazny painted with words and concepts that are more experience than story. The Chronicles of Amber would be the best place to start. It was the inspiration for Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, another person you should read and read again.