Author Archives: mary

Writing Comics Scripts

I had the opportunity to take part in an unofficial fandom magazine where I was able to write a comic script for the very first time. Another fan, an artist, volunteered to draw the story, if I provided the script.

It was going to be just like a short story, right?

…not so much.  Writing comics scripts is an art of its own.

I like to write a lot of internal dialogue.  How two characters can interpret the same event differently.  How people decide how much of their true selves to show.  How characters talk themselves out of–or into–giving in to their impulses.   I find it interesting to explore how characters think.

Internal dialogue is a lot harder in comics.  I was still able to do some of it, using small narration boxes, but I had to make an effort to put as much as possible into dialogue and visuals so that the artist could show the characters actively doing things.

Speaking of dialogue.  Nobody likes word balloons that cover half the panel.  To give my artist room to showcase their art (and show what the characters were doing) I had to prune out every non-essential sentence.  Then prune again.  Is there a phrase that would convey the same meaning as a sentence?  A word that would convey the same meaning as a phrase?

“Talking heads” are boring.  For every panel, I didn’t just write the dialogue.  I also had to describe what the characters would be doing in the panel.  Comics rely on the art and the dialogue complimenting one another and telling the story together.

And on the topic of collaboration…someone else was doing the art, and I had to take that person into account, as well.

Come back tomorrow for How Not To Torture Your Artist.

About Mary: 

Mary Pletsch is a glider pilot, toy collector and graduate of the University of Huron College, the Royal Military College of Canada and Dalhousie University. She is the author of several previously published short stories in a variety of genres, including science fiction, steampunk, fantasy and horror. She currently lives in New Brunswick with Dylan Blacquiere and their four cats.


Storytelling in Pop Culture

When we see the word “stories” most of us think about novels.  Many writers in the speculative fiction community write novels, and if you’re visiting this site, odds are you probably enjoy reading novels.  But novels aren’t the be-all and end-all of writing.  I’m guessing that you enjoy at least one other form of storytelling–and possibly more.


Movie scripts.


Writing the story for video games.

TV scripts.

Oral storytelling.

There are all kinds of different ways to tell stories.

This month we’re going to step back from novels and look at other popular ways to tell stories.  Maybe you’ll learn something about a medium you’ve never explored much before.  Maybe you’ll find some insight that you can apply to your own writing.  Either way, join us this month as we go Beyond the Novel to explore other forms of storytelling in pop culture.

The Stories that Just Don’t Sell

What do you do with your “dog stories”–the ones that just don’t sell?

I have a few of those.  There’s the story that was written the day of the deadline, because I really wanted to submit something but I had too many other deadlines due first.  There’s the story that was written for a very specific anthology call that feels as though it will be hard to place.  And there’s the story that just wasn’t a good fit anywhere.

These three stories ended up meeting different fates.


Day-of-Deadline story ended up being okay.  That’s it.  Just “okay.”  It’s a passable action-adventure story, but when I reread it, I don’t see anything special about it.  The characters aren’t that unique.  Their world feels like a generic steampunk-ish setting.  When I finish the story, I don’t feel that I have anything to “take away” from it other than “well, that was 15 minutes of entertainment.”

There are enough good stories out there that editors are unlikely to buy a story that’s merely “okay.”

I have this story on hold until I can give it a more unique identity.  Maybe that’ll be by developing the setting, which in turn will give the characters new challenges.  Maybe that’ll be by making those characters more complex.  I might be able to rework the story I have, or I might have to rewrite it almost entirely.

The moral of this story is that this tale needed more time than the 24 hours before deadline to be refined into something memorable.  Without a heavy rewrite, this story isn’t good enough to sell.


Specific-Anthology-Call is a Weird Western with horror and fantasy elements.  I wrote it for a horror-themed anthology, but it quite fit the “feel” that the editors wanted for the book.  Now I’m stuck with this bizarre story that’s struggling to find a home.  I don’t think it has enough classic horror elements for most horror calls, but it’s too scary and gory for kid lit, and there’s no steampunk elements in it.

This story’s got a unique identity…it’s just that the identity is so quirky.  I’ve shopped this one around to one Weird Western call since, and I’m waiting to see another before submitting it again.  It’s going to take patience to find it a home.


Finally, there’s a short story I wrote that I liked very much.  I didn’t write it for a call–I wrote it because this was a specific kind of tale I wanted to tell.  I gave it to some beta readers, all of whom said they found it confusing.  They missed the in-text hints that suggested the true reasons behind the characters’ motivations.

I rewrote it, and received the same feedback.  I didn’t want to write down to my audience, or explain the obvious, but with feedback like this it was clear to me that my subtle suggestions were too subtle.  My readers were missing them, and therefore didn’t understand what was going on.

I rewrote it again, in a clearer form, and when I thought I’d gotten a good balance between “make sure the reader doesn’t have to guess too much” and “beat the reader over the head with the clue-by-four,” I submitted the story.  And submitted it.  And submitted it.

Over three years, I received five rejections.

After each rejection I reviewed and revised.  I got two “this is a serviceable story, it’s just not our kind of story” replies.

Unlike Day-of-Deadline Story, Specific Anthology Call, and my rejected flash fiction, every time I reviewed this story, I felt more faith in it.  I believed that this was a good story, not just an okay one.  I believed that it was unique and interesting.  I felt that there was something to take away from it.  I believed in this story–for logical reasons, not just because of ego-driven reasons.  I knew I could, and have, written crap; I just didn’t believe this one was crap.  And so I kept cleaning it up and sending it out.


A call for submissions, to a magazine where I felt the story might be a good fit–but the story had to be 1000K shorter than its current state.  I wasn’t sure I could make the story clear enough to follow, without cutting out any critical plot points, and also pare 1000 words.  I decided to try.  I focused on wordy sentences, repetitive descriptions, non-crucial detail.  Any word that wasn’t essential had to go.

I got the story under maximum length…barely.  I submitted it.

It sold.

There’s an art in knowing which of your stories are fundamentally flawed–the ones where you’re better off chalking them up as learning experiences and starting fresh–and which of your stories are good stories that just need to find a place to fit.

Responses to Rejection

During a past month where we shared Flash Fiction, I talked about those stories that just don’t sell.

There’s some good advice out there about what to do when you get a rejection:

  • Sometimes a story will be a good story, but it isn’t to the editor’s taste, or the editor received five submissions with a similar theme and could only take one, or it doesn’t have the “tone” or “feel” that matches the other stories in the anthology/magazine/etc.  There’s no reason this story won’t sell somewhere else, to an editor who likes this kind of story, or to an anthology where it’s a better fit with the other stories.
  • If the editor offers you feedback on the story, consider using that feedback, both in revisions, and in writing from that point forward.  (If you don’t use it, make sure it’s for logical reasons, rather than ego-driven reasons.)
  • It’s the height of unprofessionalism to argue with the editor about why they “should have” accepted your story.  And while many of us were brought up to believe that “thank you” notes are appropriate, in the case of story submissions they typically aren’t.  Editors are often overworked and filtering through 700 “thank you for your response” emails from rejected authors are a waste of their time.  The detriment to the editor outweighs the courtesy of the gesture.
  • If the story’s solid, send it out again to a different market.  Caveat:  If I wrote a story for an anthology, I sit on it for a while before I send it out again.  The reason?  If a magazine gets a submission about Lake Monsters, and they know an anthology about Lake Monsters recently sent out its rejection letters, then they can do the math and guess that the story in front of them was rejected from the anthology.  It could be a perfectly good Lake Monster story, but it’s tainted by association.  Sit on your Lake Monster story for a year or so; review it and revise it if you think the changes will improve it; then send it out again.

But what do you do when you don’t think the story’s solid?

Next month I’m going to talk about the stories that just don’t sell, and when to rewrite vs when to let it go.

See you then!