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    • CommentAuthorjoshdahl
    • CommentTimeSep 12th 2010
    From my script blog

    I was listening to Robert Kirkman on Wordballoon this morning on my way to work.
    It was an interview from about a year ago in which Kirkman talks about his writing process, his comics, and comics in general.

    One young fan asks for advice on making comics and "breaking in". In his response, Kirkman essentially describes my Rapid City project and says "don't do that".
    His point is that by writing and writing and writing, you essentially bury yourself under and unpublishable mound of material.
    And he is right. No publisher is going to agree to take a risk on a project which is hundreds of pages long. Not from an unknown, unproven, talent.

    Instead, Kirkman advises that you find an artist and make comics. This is the best way to show that you can make comics.

    He makes a good point, but I do not completely agree.
    With this approach, you will learn how to make a comic book, but not how to make comics.
    It is like trying to learn how to be a good husband by going on lots of dates.
    You can be Mr. Right all night. Super attentive, romantic, sensitive, and funny, but what are you like the next day? And the next day? And all the next days after that?

    You can find an artist and develop a one-shot project that you are both really excited about... but what about the next one? And the next one? You learn to work with giddy enthusiasm, but not with drudgery.*

    My goal with this project is not to develop a pitchable project. My goal is to develop the much sought-after ability to reliably produce comics month after month. If some of this eventually sees publication, that is fine with me, but that is not the intended purpose.

    This is not a pitch.

    This is not a way to sell the idea of Rapid City. Rather, Rapid City is a tool with which I can demonstrate my skill and dedication.

    Hopefully, there is an editor out there who needs someone who can reliably produce a comic book script on time. And, hopefullier, he is now googling the phrase "someone who can reliably produce a comic book script" and comes across this and sees that I can do what he needs done.

    And beyond all that, in all honesty, the fun of doing this and the pride at knowing that I can do it is more than enough to call it a success.

    *Beyond that point, the dating/marriage metaphor really breaks down, unless you take it to mean that I am symbolically "married" to this project.
  1.  (8909.2)
    Kirkman is right.

    That is the #1 thing I tell people seeking advice as well. Make comics, get them out into the world in front of real readers in any way possible -- be that webcomics, zines, pod, whatever. Get the feedback loops going, build a body of work and a reputation.
    • CommentAuthorjoshdahl
    • CommentTimeSep 14th 2010
    I fully acknowledge that i might be responding defensively.

    That said.....
    When I was spending my time seeking out artists with which to collaborate.... that is what I spent my time doing. Not writing, because I would need to tailor my scripts to suit an artist who is willing to work for free.
    Free also means last priority. No artist is going to do pro-bono work ahead of the stuff that is going to feed his family.

    There is also the issue of getting what you pay for. With no money to offer to artists, you tend toward the shallow end of the pool. If the art is lousy, who is going to struggle through it to get to the writing?

    But all of that is just making excuses. All of that is just saying "poor me" and "it's so hard".
    I am trying to just look at the outcome here.
    After all of that effort I really only got one comic made. I made a lot of good connections and had a lot of very instructive experiences, but I was not really learning the skills that I need to be a comics writer.
    That approach encourages artistic prima-donna-ism. Like, I can write when the muse strikes me.

    However, now that I have abandoned that approach for my script-a-month Rapid City project, I have made the muse clock in and out on time. I now know that I can do that. I can tell anyone that I can do that. i can tell any editor that I am capable of turning in a year's worth of scripts on time. Not many writers who are seeking out artists can make the same claim.

    I post my scripts on the 15th of every month for all to see. Mostly to force myself to stay on schedule.

    That is my body of work. That is my reputation. It is out there for artists and publishers to find.

    And, again, it is not a pitch. It is a demonstration of my abilities. This is my portfolio.

    If someone needs something written, I can write it. And I have this proof.

    Oh, and lest i get TOO defensive.... Mark, I appreciate the advice and the undeniable truth of it. I just hope I'm not TOO wrong.
  2.  (8909.4)
    There is a culture among aspiring writers now -- which I think has been partially propagated by nanowrimo -- that seems to place a LOT of focus on productivity, to the exclusion of all else. Obviously, productivity is very important, but it's not the only thing that you need to work on as a beginner. Actually working with an artist is important, networking is important, being able to market yourself and your work is important. And of course, there's a limit to what you're learning without actually seeing your scripts turned into comics.

    Bluntly, having a big pile of unproduced/unpublished scripts in your portfolio is probably not going to be the thing that gets you hired. You have to find a way to start actually making some comics.

    Believe me, I know this is tough for aspiring writers, I have a variation of this conversation with someone every week. But I know several Whitechapelers who are in this position, and some of them are finding ways to get it done. Your project sounds interesting, and I bet it's helping you become a better writer, but I think you should consider broadening your other professional skills as well.
    • CommentAuthorjoshdahl
    • CommentTimeSep 16th 2010
    I used to make fun of the "if you build it, they will come" attitude that a lot of comics creators have.
    The belief that all they have to do is make the thing and then the world will beat a path to their door.

    I think that this is most exemplified by creators who get tables at conventions and then just sit there behind a pile of their work. And just sit there. And then they get bitter.

    That's not me.

    I have done that stuff. I have published and I have been published (in a very limited way). I have worked cons. I have snuck in to cons, I have covered cons for media outlets, I have promoted and booked a con, I've done radio and print interviews, I.... my point was not to brag like that..... my point is that I have done a bunch of stuff. i know that this business is way more than just knowing how to create a script.

    I love marketing. I love marketing myself and my work. I love networking and making connections, I love collaborating and logistics.

    And, if I may say so, I am pretty good at all of that stuff.

    This current project, though, was simply born of a cost/benefit analysis.

    As much as I love to push and promote myself, without doing the writing, there is nothing to push. Everything else was keeping me from getting down to the brass tacks.

    Hopefully, now that those tacks are firmly in place I will be able to make all of those other skills and experiences work for me.

    And again, thank you so much for your advice. I find it very encouraging.
  3.  (8909.6)
    Kirkman and Mark are right.

    If you write lots of unproduced comic scripts then all you've done is write lots of unproduced comic scripts.

    Comics are a union of words and pictures, and the only way that a writer is going to be able to learn to write comics is to see scripts of theirs illustrated. In exactly the same way that the only way for an artist to learn to draw comics is to draw narratives. There needs to be a feedback loop going to see how scripts can be improved.

    There is a culture among aspiring writers now -- which I think has been partially propagated by nanowrimo -- that seems to place a LOT of focus on productivity, to the exclusion of all else. Obviously, productivity is very important, but it's not the only thing that you need to work on as a beginner.

    Nanowrimo has never worked for me, for various reasons, but it is the extreme implementation of the writers write rule. And that is a a good rule of thumb, but it is just a rule of thumb. Writers also plan, revise, and critique their own work as well as the work of others.

    Also just like in software engineering, measuring total number of words written, pages of script written or lines of code written is a terrible metric of productivity. It says nothing about the quality of what's been written. But it does produce a comfortable looking statistic.