January was a little slower than I wanted it to be, but most of that was due to reasons out of my control. A new month is a week in [and a new lunar year too, if you want to look at it like that], and things have been picking up.
I started the actual writing of my next book last week. I guess will technically be my first book that I will have written & drawn, since I was only the artist on Americus. Also, I don’t know what to call it when referring to it. I have a tentative title of The Searchers, because I was sick of calling it ‘my next project’, but it doesn’t really feel right. I’m not incredibly worried about having a title right now, and I’m sure that will all come as part of the process, but still – it’s kind of annoying to not know what to call it besides ‘my next project’ or ‘my next book’. Any suggestions?
Anyhow, I thought I’d write about the process of actually getting started, which was a little trickier than I actually thought it would be.
Besides the slow start of January, I think I was avoiding the actual writing for a number of reasons [I was doing some sketching and what not]. One was, ‘How do I actually go about writing it?’. Not so much as, ‘How do I write a graphic novel’, but, ‘Do I write it on the computer? By hand? In a sketchbook? On loose paper? Thumbnails? Should I do them right away, or just work on writing a script?’
It seems like a dumb question, and it is. For whatever reason, I was using that question and not wanting to answer it as an excuse to procrastinate. The answer, which is pretty obvious, is that I just needed to stop thinking about it and just start doing it. During the process, it would all work itself out. I started by ting to write a very formal looking comic script, much like what MK gave me for Americus.
As much as I might have grumbled from time to time about working with a writer and creative differences that popped up, there’s something to be said about just having to read a script and make the world come to life. It’s said over and over by creative types, but it can be really intimidating to start something. To sit there and to have a blank screen / a blank sketchbook /a blank canvas staring back at you.
I found that typing on the computer was a good way to get started. Being able to write and rewrite rather quickly helped get me warmed up and not afraid of just going for it, but as I wrote, I realized that there was a visual element that was missing. I was constantly stopping and roughing out panel and page layouts.
After that first day, I thought about it some more and realized that I should just approach the writing the same way I have always approached writing comics. I write out the dialogue of the characters, and plot out the page, and then do some really rough sketches to get an idea of pacing and what not.
Later on in the week, Jen and I ended up going to a coffee shop to hang out – she was going to knit and I was going to draw. I have to admit, I haven’t done this in years. Tyler, Jason and myself would do this rather frequently when we first moved to Portland, but it slowly tapered off. I have also been kind of against it because it seemed soooooo cliche – going to a coffeeshop to draw in Portland, OR! Ha!
Anyhow, we went and I forgot how nice it is to get out of the studio & house and to be somewhere away from all your normal distractions to work. Needless to say, I got a lot done. Here’s a little scan of a page from my sketchbook of how I ended up doing it.
I’m not too worried about giving stuff away because my handwriting is so atrocious and the sketches are so sloppy, you’d have to be some sort of cryptologist to be able to understand any of it.
It felt really good to get the ball rolling on this. Now I’ve only got like 300 more pages to write!
Good luck with the book!
Reading this post was really cool. I love to read about someone going through the same stuff I’ve gone through — and then SUCCEED! Good job with moving forward. I want to write my own comic so badly, but I’m always making excuses in my head about not knowing just how to go about it. You are 100% right that you just have to jump in with both feet and find a way. If I did this, I’m sure I’d stumble and fall flat on my face several times, but hey — it’s like riding a bike for the first time. Who would believe that contraption would actually stand upright?!
Thanks for the inspiration, now for the time 😉
If you want to check out a pretty good book about process and writing that has some good exercises, I recommend Lynda Barry’s What It Is.
Anyhow, I really recommend you just go for it. Start writing, start roughing out layouts or what not. You get so much out of the process of actually doing the work itself.
Doing it gets it done.