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Jan 12-14-2011 05:07 AM

Interesting JMS Facebook Posts & Tweets
I found a cool post over on JMS' Facebook page this morning that it would be easy for folks to miss even if they follow him because he was answering a question somebody else asked. Since it struck me as something worth archiving, I've decided to start this thread and see how it goes. Mostly, I'm thinking to just post stuff that isn't specific to any one project that will already have its own thread. The format will be similar to what we did for the "Asked and Answered" books where a question asked is paraphrased and then JMS' answer.

Question: A poster asked JMS to describe the path a writer takes and to comment on where JMS feels he needs to improve as a writer as he's been re-evaluating his work in monthly comics.


I think if someone goes at this thinking "it'd be fun to write for a living," he's making a serious tactical error. First off, it's lonely, painstaking, agonzing work where there is no clear win for many years. You go down the road of thinking you're doing right or growing, or at least hoping you are, but you really have no clear idea if you're doing it right and may not know for years. Samuel Delaney got literally hundreds of rejection slips before ever selling anything. In any other job, whether it's building a house or selling widgets or making cars, there's some sort of external standard you can use to determine if you're doing it right. Until you begin selling, you have no idea, it's all internal.

Second, the only reason you should write is because you don't have a choice, because you *have* to write, not because you think it'd be cool or fun. Stephen King said you don't write for the money, or the fame, because if you do you're a monkey; you write because to not write is suicide.

Those two points out of the way, probably the single biggest point of transition is learning to listen to your own voice and get out of your own way. We all get this notion of what writing is supposed to be, that it's supposed to sound literary, or sound like some other writer you admire, but what it's really supposed to sound like is you. Writing is nothing more or less than talking on the page in your natural voice, letting nothing censor or intrude on that. Good writers write the way they talk and talk the way they write. You have to learn to make it natural by un-learning bad ideas.

Many years ago, a young and struggling Isaac Asimov was sitting with his agent, trying to figure out voice (which is not the same thing as style). His agent said, "You know how Hemingway would write, 'The sun rose in the morning?'"

"No," Asimov said, eager for illumination. "How?"

"The sun rose in the morning."

You just say it. And getting to that point is one of the most difficult battles a writer fights on the way to becoming a pro.

As for reviewing my own comics work...I'm looking at it in terms of characterization, action and overall plotting. Dialogue I know I can do, that's not an issue, and in general I have a good handle on characterization, at least in terms of the main characters. But I'm finding that in my comics work, often the supporting characters get short shrift, or are too completely excised. Some of that was necessary to bring the focus to the main character, who got lost in the underbrush, but I started to rely on that too much, so that sometimes the worlds my characters inhabit aren't as varied or interesting as they need to be.

Similarly, sometimes my comics plotting tends to be too narrow in focus...I can write big broad epics in tv or film, but I seem to keep having a problem translating that into comics. Ditto with action: most of the action in my books tends to be one-on-one instead of big free-for-all brawls. There are writers who can do those big massive battle scenes really well; I'm finding that this is a weakness on my part, so I'm re-evaluating many of those scenes to say, "Okay, if I were writing that right now, how could I broaden the scope of the action and make it more varied, more interesting, with broader ramifications?"

The goal with this, and really all writing, is to keep adding tools to your tool box, so I'm looking over my work to see what tools I had going into this, what they allowed me to build, and what new tools I need to acquire in order to build more textured objects.

Jan 12-14-2011 06:33 PM

This one was fun from Tues. 12/13:

Question: A poster asked if JMS had any new Buddy stories.


Only one offhand: Buddy is a talker, he likes to chat, he'll just mutter and chirp at you, wait for you to reply, then mutter and chirp back at you. He likes doing this. He thinks he's talking. So not long ago I brought him to the vets a...nd he had to stay for a couple of days for tests. He was in one of those cage things that looked out into the main room where the interns worked.

And he'd chat with them. Somebody would come in and he'd startle the hell out of them by striking up a conversation. He'd say something, they'd laugh and respond, he'd respond back, on and on. He liked the attention.

So one afternoon there was something going on and they were busy and nobody wanted to stop to chat with him. He tried several times to get a conversation going, but nobody was interested. Finally, out of frustration, he upended the thin box they used for his litter, turned it sideways, slipped it through the bars of the cage so it fell outside, then scooped out every tiniest bit of litter until the box was completely clean, the contents on the floor outside.

They came in, saw this with astonishment, and he looked at them like, "NOW do you want to talk?"

After that, when he wanted to talk...they talked.

DeMonk 12-15-2011 05:42 AM

I fear for the psychological welfare of our friend Buddy!

Jan 12-15-2011 06:42 AM


Originally Posted by DeMonk (Post 69146)
I fear for the psychological welfare of our friend Buddy!

I've long suspected that Buddy may be the most spoiled cat in the known universe. ;)


Jonas 12-26-2011 10:00 AM


Originally Posted by Jan (Post 69147)
I've long suspected that Buddy may be the most spoiled cat in the known universe. ;)


Yes. Like most cats!

Jan 01-29-2012 04:38 AM

A couple of fun things JMS shared tonight:


Originally Posted by Fans of J. Michael Straczynski
Matt Stone and Trey Parker talk writing.


Originally Posted by Fans of J. Michael Straczynski
Five musicians. One guitar. 41 million hits. And a pretty good song.​watch?v=d9NF2edxy-M

Jan 02-02-2012 05:44 AM

Here's a long discussion about the reactions to the announcement of "Before Watchmen". It's well worth the read, including the comments from fans and the responses JMS makes.!/permalin...39652459402959


Doom Shepherd 02-02-2012 12:54 PM

I was honestly going to skip the Watchmen prequel, despite the JMS involvement, because I didn't believe in messing with a classic.

Prequelling Watchmen seemed, to me, to be somewhat akin with Han shooting first and Darth vader growing up as a kinda whiny kid.

But JMS has made me think otherwise. I'm in.

Jan 03-20-2012 03:17 PM

Zombie JMS!!!/

(In JMS' spotlight panel, after Dan DiDio played "Inside the Writer's Studio" with JMS, it was time for audience questions. I asked JMS if he had a 'Fairy Tale' to tell us (a la the one that he told after Crusade's cancellation) and he said, no...but that he had a funny story. The full panel can be found at and the funny story about the painting begins at about the 39:00 mark.)


Jan 04-19-2012 05:46 AM

This is fun:


Originally Posted by Fans of J. Michael Straczynski

April 6.

So this is how any small degree of celebrity -- and mine has to be of the smallest form known to man -- can be funny.

Since I'm working at home, I placed an online order for dinner with a company that services a number of local eateries. A few minutes later, the phone rings. The unrecognized caller ID shows the call is coming all the way from San Francisco. I answer.

The voice on the other end of the phone identifies himself as from the delivery service, and says that the food will be here soon. Odd, they've never called before, but great, good to know.

Then there's this awkward pause, and he says, "is this the famous writer Straczynski?"

Another pause, and I say, "does he owe you money?"

"No, he doesn't."

"Then yes, this is him."

"Cool, then I just wanted to thank you for all your great work. Can I offer you a free Pepsi?"

"Sure thing," said I, and up in San Francisco he hung up, happy and fulfilled.

I live a very weird life. On the other hand, I'm getting a free Pepsi, so there you go. The perks of fame.


Originally Posted by Fans of J. Michael Straczynski
Writers need more groupies.


Originally Posted by Fans of J. Michael Straczynski
Aaaaand they delivered a 7-Up. Now I have a punchline. (But it's still a generous gesture.)

There's lots more if you read the thread:!/permalin...39652459402959


Greg60 04-19-2012 08:51 AM


Originally Posted by Jan (Post 70123)
Zombie JMS!!!/

(In JMS' spotlight panel, after Dan DiDio played "Inside the Writer's Studio" with JMS, it was time for audience questions. I asked JMS if he had a 'Fairy Tale' to tell us (a la the one that he told after Crusade's cancellation) and he said, no...but that he had a funny story. The full panel can be found at and the funny story about the painting begins at about the 39:00 mark.)


I just watched the whole video, JMS is really a funny guy ! The story about the zombie is hilarious :D

Jan 04-19-2012 09:35 AM


Originally Posted by Greg60 (Post 70323)
I just watched the whole video, JMS is really a funny guy ! The story about the zombie is hilarious :D

I saw him in the hall after the panel and he was nice enough to show me the photo. It really *does* look like him! See for yourself:


Greg60 04-20-2012 05:44 PM


Originally Posted by Jan (Post 70324)
I saw him in the hall after the panel and he was nice enough to show me the photo. It really *does* look like him! See for yourself:


Yeah, I saw it when he posted it weeks ago ^^ (I subscribed on his page a long time ago :) )
Having the background story of it is just wonderful :D
I still can't imagine someone coming each night just to erase and paint Zombie Joe on another place of the wall ! lol

Jan 04-23-2012 05:08 AM

Too good not to share:

Originally Posted by Fans of J. Michael Straczynsk
ItÆs not usually my practice to get into every hot-headed or hare-brained thing thatÆs said about me on the nets, but it looks like IÆm going to have to do so in this particular case: a comment that has been taken out of context and used as a bludgeon by some folks, especially and most recently Eric Stephenson, one of the heads of Image Comics, who should know better. But first, the statement I made at C2E2 that has engendered all of this.

"Did Alan Moore get a crummy contract? Yes. So has everyone at this table. Worse was Siegal and Shuster. Worse was a lot of people."

This is what Mr. Stephenson had to say about the foregoing:

ôThat's J. Michael Straczynski essentially telling not just Alan Moore, but any creative person who believes he or she should be dealt with honestly and treated fairly, to just accept that the world isn't like that. (snipped for space) ...the thing that really bothers me about that particular quote is that it's emblematic of a growing mood, not just in comics, but in our overall culture that no matter what is going wrong, we should just accept it. That's just the way it is, so deal with it, because nothing's ever going to change.ö

There have been editorials haranguing me over this comment, bloggers puffed up like pouter pigeons proclaiming their outrage that I could or would say such a thing, claiming that I am shilling for corporations. They have yelled, carried on cranky, net-hung me in effigy...they have grabbed for every stick within reach.

With one exception.

Was what I said true? Drop the blustering, the posturing, the fainting couch...was what I said true, or was it not true?

Every writer, artist, performer or director understands one cardinal rule of making a living in this business: the first contracts you get are not going to be terrific. Not to put too fine a point on it, theyÆre going to suck. You go along with it because when youÆre at that stage of your career, and even for a while thereafter, you donÆt get a lot of choice in the matter. YouÆre going to get screwed.

IÆll give you a prime, personal example. When I sold my first novel, the publishing company sent me their contract. There were a number of clauses I thought were not appropriate, and indicated as such. Called them. They faxed back another version of the contract within the hour not because they revised it but because they had that revision already sitting in a drawer, ready to go if I managed to find the disagreeable sections. And you can bet there was another draft sitting right behind that one.

You ask for what you think you can get, and at the end, you do one of two things: you take the contract that is the best contract you can get at that point of your career, or you walk away. ThatÆs pretty much it.

Ditto with Babylon 5. When I signed that contract, I knew I was being screwed. But not having run a series before I knew that it was the best contract I could have gotten AT THAT TIME. My options were to take it or walk. I took it, knowing that though I was getting screwed on this deal, the next one would be better...and so on.

The idea, the hope, the goal is that your second contract is better than your first; that your third contract is incrementally better than your second; and so on.

ThatÆs. How. The. Business. Works. It works that way for every artist, every writer, every actor in the business. There are no exceptions. YouÆre screwed in the first part of your career, but as you continue, becoming more successful, the contracts improve.
If someone wants to dispute this, then find me one artist, actor, writer or director who got as good a contract on his first novel as he got on his tenth. Just one. Go on. Take your time. IÆll wait.


DidnÆt think so.

That was the whole point of my comment, reproduced at the top of this note. Nowhere did I say what is sideways-attributed to me: ôthatÆs just the way it is, so deal with it because nothingÆs going to change.ö

I didnÆt say that, didnÆt intend that, didnÆt mean that and I sure as hell donÆt support that because itÆs not only illogical, itÆs untrue. ItÆs a matter of putting words in someoneÆs mouth so you can then yell at them for something they never, ever said.

Of course it changes. It changes as you get more credits, as your work improves, as you become more successful. Mr. Stephenson, was your first contract as good as the one you have now? No? Why is that? Is it because you are now more accomplished than you were then? More respected? More bankable, for lack of a better term? Of course it is, because you are those things.

In 1985, when the Watchmen deal was drafted, Alan Moore was not A*L*A*N M*O*O*R*E as he is regarded in 2012. He was acknowledged as a good writer, and would eventually become a great writer, but in 1985 he had only been with DC for about two years. His run on Swamp Thing was terrific, and Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow (my favorite comic of all time) was about to come out, but AT THAT TIME he was just one of many DC writers doing really great stuff for the Vertigo line and elsewhere.

So, as with me on Babylon 5, and as with Len Wein and the other writers on the DC Before Watchmen panel alluded to several miles of verbiage ago, which was the whole POINT that I was making, they offered Alan what was presumably the best contract he could AT THAT TIME. I say ôpresumablyö only because Alan has stated that he a) never read his contract and b) never bothered to get an attorney to look at it on his behalf.

(Personally, if someone asks you to sign a contract for anything û a book, a TV show, a house or a car û and you donÆt bother to read it or have it vetted, what follows after isnÆt someone doing something to you, itÆs a self inflicted wound...but leave that aside for the moment.)

The A*L*A*N M*O*O*R*E of 2012 can get the contract that Alan Moore of 1985 could only dream about. Because heÆs earned that right.

So let me go back to the comment I made that started all of this outrage: "Did Alan Moore get a crummy contract? Yes. So has everyone at this table. Worse was Siegal and Shuster. Worse was a lot of people."

I repeat the question: was what I said true, or was it not true?

Or is the problem that I simply said what was true and some folks just donÆt like it? Like the bloggers who donÆt actually write for a living, who get to complain about how this is terribly unfair and wrong and it shouldnÆt be this way, which is fine for them because they donÆt have to actually deal with any of it. Unlike actual, working writers. Which theyÆre not. TheyÆre loudmouths with keyboards.

But Mr. Stephenson should know better. Or would Mr. Stephenson make the same deal with first-time writers as he would with, say, Grant Morrison? If he would, he should say so, and put it in writing for all the fledgling writers out there eager for such happy news.

Again: take your time. IÆll wait.


Of course not. Further to the point, having worked with (and at times negotiated with) Image, I know that even with successful writers their contracts are not universally the same, they range quite a bit depending on what the writer is willing to share, or pay for, or accept, or commission from artists. This is not stated as an indictment, merely to point out that Image also has a sliding scale of contracts that vary depending on circumstances.

Writers, artists, actors and others in the entertainment field get routinely screwed in the first parts of their careers. This is not an endorsement of corporatism, not a way of saying that contracts have to be the same in 2012 as they were in the 30s, and itÆs sure as hell not a statement of ennui or surrender. IÆve been fighting for the rights of writers since I got into the business. But we all start out in any field being screwed and gradually improve to being treated with some measure of respect, which is how the process has worked since time immemorial.

It doesnÆt change because the times change û writers advances on first novels were ridiculously small in 1985 when I sold my first book and they remain small today û it changes as the artist, actor, writer or other professional changes. The business doesnÆt become more fair to first-timers or early-stage artists. It will never be fair. You have to force it to be fair to you by being successful. You have to grow big enough to wrestle the machine to the ground and force it to respect you. There is simply no other way to get it done. Never has been, and despite the whining of those bloggers who are blissfully free of obligation and ability, never will be.

So to those who have been dog-piling me online about this, how about you try this approach: next time you want to engage in this sort of calumny, try making it about something I say that is actually untrue, not something you donÆt like because you donÆt like it being said out loud.

I said that every person on that panel had, at some point, gotten screwed in a contract And they had. Gradually, they accumulated enough credits, enough of a body of work, enough respect, to be better treated. I spoke truthfully. The process is painful and agonizing. It sucks.

But we all go through it.

ALL of us.*

Which was the entire freaking point I was trying to make.

Consequently, I stand by every word, every syllable I said on that panel.

And to Mr. Stephenson, who as I said at the top should know better, next time you want to take issue with something I've said, try calling me directly to discuss what I actually said, and meant, rather than tee off on some idiot's deliberate mis-characterization. It demeans you and elevates the buffoon.


*(Except the aforementioned loudmouths with keyboards who can decry this all they want because they donÆt actually have to DEAL with it for a living.)

Kal El 04-23-2012 01:24 PM

Every word of the above is true, not just for writers, actors, etc. but for every job you get. You build your experience and look for better jobs that will pay more.

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