Posts Tagged ‘writing life’
Well somehow we’re well into February already, not sure how that happened, so that means that January must be finished and, in theory, Gneech Comics Drawing Month (GneCoDraMo) with it.
The comic has been created; the characters are starting to gel, and I like where things are going. Sometime today or tomorrow I will probably finish pencilling Issue #1. However, if I am to get it to print in time for FurTheMore, I need to ink, color, and shade 11 pages between now and February 14. It’s not impossible– but at this stage it is very unlikely.
For the last few weeks, that had me incredibly stressed. Somewhere along the way I sorta forgot what my real goals were and started fixating on the due date, working long hours, neglecting other things that also needed attention, and generally making myself crazy to meet an arbitrary standard I had created.
Yesterday, I realized I was being an idiot, and decided to take a breath and reassess where things stood. Here’s what I figured out:
- As an experiment in learning what my limits are, #GneCoDraMo has been a complete success. My long-term production goal, of 8 pages/month with breathing room to do other things around them, appears to be quite feasible. Any more than that, over the long term, is not. I now know what my “mental bandwidth budget” for creating comics really is.
- As a crash course in writing, pacing, and developing a comic, #GneCoDraMo has again been a complete success. I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what a single page can reasonably hold, as well as for the ebb and flow of what a comic’s pacing should be like. You can’t have every page crammed full of stuff, it would become exhausting to the reader– but you have to have at least a certain amount of things happening or it feels like you’re not going anywhere. A single comic page probably carries about as much story progression as two individual comic strips, and if possible (for this project, anyway) should have at least two jokes.
- As an exercise in progressing my art technique and learning to use Manga Studio: complete success. I love, love, loooooooooooove Manga Studio. Where was it in 1998???
So, yeah– on all of the actual goals of #GneCoDraMo, it was an unqualified success. The bonus item (i.e., having a new comic in time for FurTheMore) is still to be determined, and I would still like to get there, but I’m not going to kill myself and burn myself out on the new comic before it’s even launched to get there. I have a fallback in place already– essentially the first 8 pages as an “Issue 0″ promotional comic– and even if the full issue doesn’t get to print in time, the Issue 0 will be at FurTheMore and the comic will be launched in March.
As you probably know, Stan Sakai, a hugely important figure in furry literature and a super-nice guy, is undergoing some really rough times. To try and help out a bit, I am auctioning off a total of ten cameo slots in a large action scene splash page of the new Suburban Jungle comic!
Basically, leave your comment here with your bid, or send me an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d prefer to keep it private. The auction will run until Friday midnight (EST), and the top 10 highest bidders will have their characters in the scene enjoying a moment of mayhem. Any paying bid of $20 or more will get a signed print copy of the comic in the mail, regardless of whether you win a cameo spot or not.
I will do my best to update the bidding list in this post on a daily basis, and announce the winners on Saturday.
Please help me support this cause! And please spread the word.
Update! Bids As Of Friday Noon
- KarmaKat ($200)
- LionKingCMSL ($150)
- ANON–”Rocker” ($100)
- Kitana ($100)
- MaxFuchsCajote ($100)
- Kyyanno ($100)
- Dewhitton ($100)
- Exatron ($75)
- ANON–”Flower Pony” ($75)
- Rowyn ($50)
NOTE: Alas, some bidders have been bumped from the list! They can always rebid a higher amount if desired, but the auction closes at midnight, so you’d better hurry!
“Gneech Comics Drawing Month,” a.k.a. GneCoDraMo, continues apace… specifically, at a frustratingly slow pace. ¬.¬ I have 11 pages scripted and given rough layouts, five pages completely inked, and as of last night at midnight, two pages colored. And that’s with many, many late nights devoted to it.
Guh. No wonder neither Arclight nor Coventry took off. If it’s taking me this long when I’m devoting 50+ hours/week to it, what could I have possibly done on a couple of hours at night during the week? O.o
It’s not all bad news, however. For starters, I’m very pleased with the quality of the work. Suburban Jungle, or at least this new incarnation of it, finally looks like what I always wanted it to. It’s still not perfect, of course, and likely never will be. But with the full size canvas, but more importantly the tools in Manga Studio and the joy of digital inking– plus 15 years of practice– have finally put my art about where I wanted it to be when I started.
So the trick now, is to retain the quality, but ramp up the speed. Of course, the work is kinda front-loaded, as I have to do dev sketches, create palettes, and do architectural studies for all the characters and locations as they appear the first time. As I build up a library of poses and standard “shots” to pull from, it will go faster. Things will also speed up as I get a better handle on the comic format– I keep pulling out various volumes of Love Hina to figure out how Akamatsu-sempai handled all those talky, talky scenes without becoming an endless series of talking heads.
I think I’m getting there. And speaking of, I better get to work!
Well, as November’s NaNoWriMo was so successful, I’m going to try it again in January, only instead of writing a 50,000 word book, the goal is to draw a 24-page comic.
Well, sort of.
As you can probably gather from the art posts I’ve been doing, I have an idea for a Suburban Jungle followup comic which I’ve been noodling around with for a little while now. And since the most likely way for me to actually get something done seems to be to set an aggressive deadline, I’ve given myself the goal of debuting the comic at FurTheMore, which is in mid-March. That means I need to have lead time in February for the printing, which in turn means that to reach my goal, I’ve got to draw the comic in January.
That’s… a lot of drawing. O.o
To be honest, I have no idea if I have even a chance of succeeding, but I’m going to try my best. And even if I can’t pull it off, it will at least put me into a good position to have the comic ready to go for AnthroCon at the very least.
If you have a commission in the queue for January, I will be making those a priority and you will still get it within the three-week period. I will be working on one of those later today, in fact.
Wish me luck with Gneech Comics Drawing Month (GneCoDraMo)!
PS: In case you’re wondering whatever happened to my NaNoWriMo novel, it’s currently simmering on the back burner, along with the next novel in my queue. Both of them should get more attention once this comic is in the tin.
PPS: To answer what appears to be pretty much everybody’s question (“Will Leona/Drezzer/Raggum Da Frog be in the new comic?”), the answer is that it is a whole new cast. Only one of the original SJ characters is scheduled to make a direct appearance at this time, and that’s a few issues in. Everyone from the original comic is still alive and kicking, so it is conceivable that any of them could show up, but that’ll only happen if they have some part to play in the new cast’s story.
Back in 2006, when SJ was coming to a close and I was looking at the whole writing thing, I invested in a copy of Dramatica Pro, a piece of software that hails itself as “the ultimate creative writing partner.” I banged around with it some then, with mixed results… and by “mixed” I mean “not very much in the way of useful.” I did write a lot of stuff– 1200 words detailing the childhood of a character who ended up being cut from the book for instance. Oops. But I didn’t get much actual story from it all, among other things because I kept getting hung up on all the jargon the program was throwing at me.
The software, you see, is based on the “dramatica theory” of storytelling, which is a slippery hodgepodge of narrative structure and pop psychology meant to appeal to the kind of writers who think The Hero of 1,000 Faces is the One True Book of Writing.  So to get the most use out of the software, you have to A) understand, and B) buy into the whole dramatica model, which treats characters as “types” and lays out all stories as an interplay of relationships between those types (and gives you the prescribed “right answer” for said relationships). It’s all very abstract, which it would kinda have to be as a unified field theory of plot, and at the same time comes off as a straitjacket. “If your protagonist is a Perceptive type, then the opposing concept is Fate.” That kind of thing.
As far as the actual plotting of the story goes, it seems to mostly be a modified snowflake method, starting with a one-sentence tag line, expanding to a one paragraph synopsis, and so on. However, I never actually got that far using Dramatica Pro because I always got bogged down in the character section, trying to shoehorn one character into the “Impact Character” role, another into the “Guardian” role, etc. Instead of just a relatively simple list of who the characters are and what they’re about, mapping the characters to the various types is supposed to show how they relate to each other later, guiding the story structure and blah blah blaaaahhh forget it.
So for now at least, I’m sticking with the snowflake method. It worked pretty well for my NaNoWriMo novel, I just need to get better at thinking in terms of more “novel-length” stories.
 For the record, The Hero of 1,000 Faces is a great book and has a lot of useful insight. But it’s a scholarly study of world mythology, you’re not supposed to use it as a paint-by-numbers formula for screenplays, everyone in Hollywood. ¬.¬
Thanks to National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo), my third full-length novel, and the first novel-length Michael Macbeth story, Who Tend On Mortal Thoughts, finally has a solid first draft. I actually got to “The End” somewhere around 48,000 words on November 25th, and spent the next three days going back and finding any and every thin spot I could find to expand out a bit terribly worried that I would fall into the dreaded “Close, but no cigar!” category . But then, just after midnight on Thanksgiving, I managed to pull it off, earning the Winner’s Screen, the bragging rights, and most importantly, the experience of having spent a month as a full-time writer on a tight deadline and knowledge that I could indeed hack it.
Yesterday, I spent mostly sleeping, followed by steak dinner and a trip to Barnes & Noble (the literary geek’s equivalent to “I’m going to Disneyland!”). I also did my best to not think about the book at all, although I did find myself going back and adding another 100 words or so in a moment of weakness. Now that I’ve had a little time to let it sink in, it’s time to reflect and try to pull some lessons learned from the experience.
- Yes, Virginia, I am a writer. This isn’t something I learned really, but it was a nice reminder of something I already knew. I put in long hours and bent all of my brainpower towards getting this book done within the deadline, which included coming up with logistical strategies (“I won’t be able to get any writing done Sunday, I’d better double up on Saturday and Monday…”), exercising discipline (“I really don’t feel like writing this scene, but the story won’t work without it…”), and improvising fixes for damage control (“Ack! This part of my outline actually makes no damn sense for this character to do this action at this time. How can I fix this?”). But as grueling as it was, and as wiped out as I was by the end of the day, I was never once as resentful or burned out as I was by any given day of the former day job. This is my true and correct work, what I “should” be doing– now I just have to solve the logistical problem of making it profitable.
- 2,000 words is a pretty good day’s work for me. The target for NaNoWriMo is an average of 1,667 WPD (or 11,669 per week), but that also assumes you’re going to write every day of the month. 2,000 WPD for five days a week comes to an average of 10,000 words per week, which is still a pretty ambitious pace but allows you to recharge your batteries. So when I’m not doing NaNoWriMo, that will probably be my target for a regular project. I know that there are people who claim you can easily crank out 10,000 WPD, and they may be right, I’ll certainly investigate the possibilities. But for now, a target of 2,000 WPD makes three novels a year comfortably possible, and that’s a good place to start.
- “Write the book you want to read” may not work, but is probably a good place to start. It’s no secret among those familiar with them that my Michael Macbeth stories have always been “I wanted another Dirk Gently book, dammit!” at their heart. Who Tend On Mortal Thoughts started from this same premise, and when stuck I often went back to “What would a Dirk Gently book do here (besides miss another deadline)?” But of course, Michael is not Dirk Gently, Richmond Virginia is neither London nor Cambridge, and I am not Douglas Adams. So by the end of the book, I still came out with something that was almost, but not entirely, unlike a Dirk Gently book, and I now must consider the work on its own merits and flaws. I think it’s a good book, and I think there are even parts where it might be a great book. So that’s not a bad consolation prize, anyway.
- I really need to write “fatter” and slower. The “sweet spot” for novel publication, particularly in the genre I was writing for, is 75k-90k. I was trying to come up with a novel to fit that size, and it took a lot of going back and fleshing out to get it to 50k as it was. But when I sent the beta readers to check out the first rough of the first act, the reaction was a pretty universal “It happens too fast”/”You’re skimming over the plot”. I suspect this is because I write the same way I read (or watch movies), looking for the plot points and ignoring everything else. I don’t know when I got so ruthless about throwing out everything else, and really it’s not a good habit. If I’m going to read that way, why bother with a novel at all? Why not just read the Cliffs Notes? Or an outline.  I have to remember that sometimes, just taking delight in the characters and stepping into their world is also “the good stuff,” and that I shouldn’t be afraid to write a scene just because it would be a fun scene to include.
- I need to bake more complexity into the plot directly from the outline. I still need to develop the skill of thinking in terms of more complex stories. Right now, I have graduated from “A + B = C” (short story) to “A + (B + C)/D = E” (novella/short novel). I now need to level-up to “(A + B) / (C + D) + E = F”. If that makes sense. Which it probably doesn’t to anyone but me. Point is, I don’t need a “bigger, more epic” story, but I do need a story with more layers and a more intricate structure.
There is probably more, but that’s the extent of what I can easily bring to words right now. I’m very glad that I could finally participate– and win– NaNoWriMo. I don’t know how people can manage to pull it off with a day job! But anyone who jumps in and gives it a real try, whether they reach the arbitrary 50k “finish line” or not, you have my admiration, affection, and respect. I’m proud to be among your number!
 Actually, upon reflection, the Cliff Notes comment may be telling. So many of my college literature courses were of the “Read six novels this week, ten novels the weeks after that, and the entire works of William Shakespeare by the end of the semester…” variety that eventually I gave up and did just read the Cliff Notes because there was no other way to get through the class. Not proud of the fact, and always regarded it as a major failure of the University curriculum that I was forced into it. FWIW, for most things at least, I did try to go back and actually read the text later in adult life.