by Adam Crohn
What a pretentious title, I know. But if you read my last post (‘The Art of Editing’) you know that I’m a big fan of learning, and learning I have been! But before I go further, I want to thank the seven people that follow my blog. It’s been over a month since that last entry, and don’t think for a minute that I haven’t thought about writing here every day, because I have. But I’m coming off the busiest month I’ve had since before the pandemic started. So, I’ll catch you up really quick.
Not only is October the home of Halloween, my favorite time of year, but it’s also my birthday. And as I mentioned in my last post, I had just started my first freelance writing gig with cbr.com. I wrote 21 articles for them last month, and man, did I mention how much I learned? I’ll get to that, but to round out the list of October madness, I also, and finally, got two “handshake” deals from two separate toy companies that want to produce some of my original character concepts. One deal is contingent on the other, so, I’ve been burning and listening to Midnight Oil until way past midnight every night for the past six weeks. Some of you may know, most probably don’t, that my other passion is toy and character design, and what I’m on the cusp of making happen is something I’ve been working toward for over 10 years. So, fingers crossed and yeah me!
Suffice it to say, I’ve had my hands more than full and still can’t pay rent. But a wise man once said “Do what you love because no one will love it for you.” I just made that up and it makes absolutely no sense. That said, along with now officially being a published writer I’m also an official student of writing. Sure, we all had to learn how to write at some point (or most of us did), but I got my bachelor’s degree in Communication. I learned how to effectively talk to people, how to relate to them verbally, and how to talk my way out of getting beaten up. I’m really good at that last one. And, along the way I realized that there are absolutely different ways to talk to different people. How to make yourself heard without being the loudest or most chatty one in the room is an art in and of itself.
But despite having read everything from Stephen King books to the Chicago Tribune website to billboards on the expressway, it didn’t occur to me until this month that there were different ways of writing, as it pertains to the art and message you’re trying to convey. I’m now writing for what is, in essence, a news site whose bread and butter is reviews, interviews, and features or editorials. I’m in the comic book features department, which is a perfect fit for me. I was potty-trained with comics, as my mom bribed us with comic books to stop crapping our pants. And with the features department I can write about almost anything I want. My articles don’t have to be current, just relevant. Thus, I can go back and write about a comic book from the 70s as long as it has something to do with what readers are interested in today.
Case in point, this week is the 30th anniversary of the Death of Superman in the pages of Superman #75! So, one of the articles I wrote this afternoon was about one of my favorite Marvel characters, the Sentry. He’s basically an analogue of Superman, and I thought since in Superman #75 he’s “killed” by the hulking beast, Doomsday, it would be fun to speculate on what would happen if he threw down with the rival publisher’s version of the same character. In my twice removed from reality scenario, Superman lost, by the way. But as I mentioned in my editing post, I have to approach how I write for that site rather than what I write.
Here on The Every Day Robot, my own blog, I can be as big of a hack as I want. I can tell you, him, and the other person whatever I want and ramble on with as much detail until the internet cancels me for barfing out too many words that have nothing to do with each other. Which is the biggest change I had to make writing for a news site. My editors over there are some of the most direct, honest, and patient educators I’ve ever come across. My lead editor especially. I talked about him as well in my last post because he was also the one that trained me, and was promoted to Features Lead just as I came in. And the best bit of advice he’s given me thus far is “don’t be so bloggy.” Bloggy?! But that’s why I’m there! I literally got hired because I sent them a few posts from this very blog, and they LIKED me! They REALLY liked me! They liked what I had written enough to pay me slave wages to work for them. I kid, I kid! I love the job, but the best part is the guidance I’ve gotten and what I’ve learned about writing.
Being less bloggy is a lot of things. First and foremost, it’s having the confidence to come across as an authority about what you’re writing about. Whether you know what you’re talking about or not, stating it as fact changes the tone of any writing, and makes the reader think they’re being given new and interesting, factual information. See? I just did it right there. I have no idea what I’m talking about, but you thought for a brief second that I did. It’s like a wordier Jedi mind trick. But it really does change a blog post into a journalistic article.
After realizing that there was more than just my way of writing, and that those different ways were going to be expected from me when and if I write for other outlets, the next lesson was “why am I even writing this?” Something another editor kept telling me over and over was to ask myself the question “So What?” The Sentry can beat up Superman. So what? Batman and the Joker actually make a good team. So what? The reader isn’t going to value what you’re telling them unless you show them that you know why something “IS”. Don’t just say that something is a certain way, tell me why it’s that way. Something that’s gotten out of hand in our binge-a-show-a-minute, Netflix streaming culture is that people don’t know how to express a full opinion, or maybe they just don’t have one, I guess. Don’t tell me that The Book of Boba Fett was garbage, I know that. So what? Tell me why YOU thought it was garbage. And for those wondering, it has everything to do with Boba only wearing his helmet during ONE fight in the entire series. ONE! The first fight he’s in he literally can’t put his helmet on because it’s full of money. If that isn’t a metaphor for the whole of Hollywood and their “my face must be shown at all times so I can build my brand” contracts, then I’m a sarlacc’s uncle.
The last part of this pretentious, know-it-all, exposition dump is when another editor told me I was writing “book reports.” What the…! That one hit hard because she was so right. And when I went back and realized that several of what I thought were decent articles were actually just regurgitated plot from what I had read, I felt like a complete child. My pieces were almost completely devoid of speculation and analysis. These are aspects of journalistic writing that add all the nuance to any thought piece. I immediately started to read comics differently, and then I started to write differently. I was absorbing more, getting more out of what I was reading, and I was loving it. In school I was absolutely the worst kid that had ever book-reported. So, I guess the upside to all this is that if I ever go back to school I’ll ace the shit out of Things Fall Apart.
I really can’t say which lesson was the most valuable, because I’ve never learned so much that all goes hand-in-hand. And don’t get me wrong, the learning has just begun. I’ve only been at this officially for a little over a month, and I look at it as a steppingstone to an even greater next step. But I couldn’t be more grateful for the tutelage given to me by the editorial staff at CBR. I don’t know if part of their job description is to also be good teachers, but in my experience, they’re all aces. Now, having said that, my own “doomsday” is probably right around the corner, and in some twisted cosmic irony I’ll be fired tomorrow for being the worst writer they’ve ever wasted their time on. But for right now I feel like I could leap tall buildings with a single bound!