Comic Talk, Tips and Tricks

How do you just...begin...?
Saint Stephanie at 6:19PM, Oct. 11, 2009
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I've been working approximately 30 storyline for the last ten or so years. I'm full of inspiration…but I'm lacking in the focus department. For the last four years I've been dabbling with the idea of making a comic with a few of my story-lines that are more suited to a graphic novel medium than text.

Here is how the process usually goes:
I'll sit down with a pad and paper and list out the comics that would work in the medium. Then I try to narrow down to one that will keep my focus for the longest. Sure that I now have my new comic, the enthusiasm lasts for all of a day. When I sit down to work on it I'm inevitable drawn to some new story line or re-working an old one. Then I decide to use the second story, since it has my attention and it starts all over again. >.>;;;

So, for all of you who've been able to actually work on one story when another grabs your attention, how do you remain focused? How did you manage to just begin?
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:17PM
Gillespie at 7:23PM, Oct. 11, 2009
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I listen to music while I'm drawing to keep my focus and I also care about my work. I really enjoy it, and I want to go somewhere with comics in life, which is why I do it on a daily basis. If I didn't do it every day, I probably wouldn't be as dedicated as I am now.
I am interested in working on another project, and any REALLY good ideas I get, or fitting ideas for that project, I save it. I've been saving tons and tons of ideas for that project for years now, and when that's ready/when I have time for it, I'll start work.

…I would say, find something that really grabs your attention and maybe focus on one project and that one only until you've begun. If you've got it planned out, have time for the other project(s) and want to make multiple stories or whatever, it'll be easier because starting something is VERY difficult, but if you take it one step at a time, on one project at a time, it'll be much easier than trying to start two at a time.

If this helps, all I have left to say is Good luck with your work.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:36PM
JoeL_CQB at 9:44PM, Oct. 11, 2009
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I find just sitting down and putting the pen to paper would get me going. Sometimes I'll wait till I get this sudden urge to work, but when I get that it's usually 1 in the morning.

I find it best to force yourself in the beginning, and then it flows out throughout the whole process.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:10PM
ToniusTobinus at 4:07AM, Oct. 12, 2009
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What you have on your hands here is a very good problem to have, and from my understanding a common one in creative types. The trouble is that, since comics are a very time consuming medium, the creators that are wearing all the hats (writer/penciller/inker/colorist/letterer/editor/publisher/marketing/web designer) have absolutely no means of keeping up with their imaginations. Right now, I'm sitting on four ideas that I know are solid enough to turn into an enjoyable finished product, and a handful more that have promise, but may never be done. Yet the comic in my banner is the one getting most of my attention. So how am I keeping it in the forefront of my mind?

First of all, with practice. I've had a few false starts, and that's okay! It's okay for you, too! If at first you don't succeed and all that.

Second, talk to an art buddy! Someone who at least partially understands what you are doing. I've got a co-worker who's really good at saying “So, when's the next page of Brutes going to be ready?” Before that, I wasn't getting past the character design phase of any given project.

Third, keep multiple irons in the fire, as I think the saying goes. Just because you're focusing on one means you have to abandon all the others? That sounds horrible, and frustrating. I would like what I'm working on less just knowing I threw other ideas out for it.

Finally, finish a project. Be practical in this decision - pick the idea that will take the least amount of work (save the graphic novel for a little later). Heck, maybe even craft an idea around the notion that it will be a 12-to-20 page minicomic with a simple story and character design, and plow through it! Don't worry about it winning any Eisners or Harveys, make it just as good as it needs to be to satisfy you. Having a finished product will make it easier to finish other projects. This really works.

Okay, I'm done preaching for now. Hope it helped!
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:32PM
acadia at 10:12AM, Oct. 12, 2009
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Sounds like you're filled with inspiration, but have no one to bounce it off of. My motivation to work is usually directly dependent on what a few people whose opinions I care about think of it. If I know that my friend really likes what I've come up with, I'm more eager to do it and show him/her than anyone else. While your art should be for yourself, it always helps to have a few friends to motivate you.

last edited on July 14, 2011 10:45AM
Saint Stephanie at 12:49PM, Oct. 12, 2009
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Gellespie- Thanks for the idea. I do always try to pick the one that grabs my attention the most, it just seems to change from day to day or week to week. Music does really motivate me, but I end up getting sidetracked trying to find the right music to motivate me. (I just can't write certain things with certain types of music and I also have to make sure it won't get irritating with light repeating and what not.) >.>

Joel-I have to agree with all of what you said. If I do wait for the “need” to work on it, its usually very late or in a binge session where I stay up for two days at a time. The problem is I've been failing a starting for so long that when I say, “Ok, today I'm going to start.” it doesn't seem to mean anything. Same thing with me “To Do” lists. Nothing ever gets done. -.-;; When I was working with my friend Nick, he gave me similar advice about “Just doing” it, or forcing it. I'm still working on it, but I think you guys have given me some new ideas. I really appreciate the input.

Tonius- It wasn't preaching at all. Thanks so much. I've never really thought about the fact that I could just be overwhelmed with all the work. All of my projects are so big to. Like “Epic” stories big with depth and layers and crazy details. Only recently did I think about trying to start with something smaller…like making something to start out with, but everything I think of becomes this huge story. I once tried to write a short apology comic to one of my friends and I think the sketched pages were in the 50s or 60s. That seems really big to. A lot of comics are only reaching that goal after a year of work. Is it “ok” to spend a year on just an opener comic? >.>;; I mean, I guess its better than wasting four years and getting nothing done at all. I'm definitely going to keep all of your advice in mind when I make my next start.

Acadia- I think you're right. I know that I work better with people, rather than alone. I used to help other people edit their stories and iron out their plot lines, it was one of the most fun things I can remember. I don't know why I hadn't thought to get them involved in my work. I have problems asking people for help. It took me like three days to finally post my question here.

last edited on July 14, 2011 3:17PM
kaitoukage at 1:14PM, Oct. 12, 2009
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I agree with what most people have said and would add one thing: A slower update schedule.

I know many of us want people to see our work. Comics that update frequently get noticed a LOT more than comics that only get updated 2 times a week. However, if you find yourself needing to do other things while working on a comic, then maybe a slower update schedule will help. This way, you can devote more time to other projects.

For example, I'm a graduate student in a field that has nothing to do with art. I only update twice a week because otherwise I'd go absolutely insane trying to balance school, and work, and a regular comic schedule.

I guess I'll add two things in total: Settle for “good enough.” Most mistakes you perceive are things other people won't notice. Set a schedule for yourself and give yourself a certain amount of time to get your page done, and just do it. If you spend time trying to be perfect, you'll never get to where you want to be. Plus, my experience is that things you as the artist might think are crap as you do them actually look a lot better the next day.
last edited on July 14, 2011 1:13PM
ToniusTobinus at 2:41PM, Oct. 13, 2009
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Saint Stephanie
Is it “ok” to spend a year on just an opener comic? >.>;;

If that's a short enough period of time for you to maintain focus and hold out for the sense of accomplishment that comes with a finished product, then of course it's ok. Personally, I would go for a much shorter time. Three, two, maybe even one month, if you can? How many pages do you think you can crank out in that time? Can you tell a story in that many pages? Can you tell a whole story in 6 to 12 pages?
last edited on July 14, 2011 4:32PM
Saint Stephanie at 7:23PM, Oct. 13, 2009
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Kaitou- I really appreciate your response. And the “good enough” advice is good to hear. I know I'm really critical of my work. Actually, I usually love it before I put it online, but then once its online I start looking around at my “competition” and I see how…unfinished it looks. People all the time seem to enjoy my sketch book, I just seem to be letting my own feelings about the work stop me before I finish it.

Tonius- Thanks again for taking time out to reply. I think if I have it in me I would love to start of something much smaller and simpler. Something not bigger than 15-20 pages or less. I guess I could consider this a challenge as a writer, as well, to tell a short story. So I guess my the only question I have left it how to set effective deadlines. Should there be a deadline for each step?
last edited on July 14, 2011 3:17PM
El Cid at 8:55AM, Nov. 10, 2009
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I used to have your same problem for a long time. When I was in middle school, I remember at one point I had like a dozen different comics lying on my desk half-completed that I could never get around to finishing because I'd always end up jumping to something new. But now, I'll find myself at times working on a single project for years on end. It's all about commitment, I guess. And I think commitment's stronger when it's felt for other people; it's more a social virtue than a personal one. When I look back, the moment I stopped flailing around doing a different comic every week was when I started sharing my work with other weirdos at school and I'd keep it up because they wanted to see where the story went and what ends up happening to their favorite characters.

So, to provide some maybe reckless advice that has served me well, I think the best way to “force” yourself to stick to something is to put it all on the line and actually post something. Once people are reading it, and they're expecting updates, it kinda forces you to keep going. But like Tonius was saying, pick something you're really excited about and as in other literary media it's best to start with something short. Proving to yourself you can finish something will be a big confidence boost.

Also, if you have tons of different projects swirling around in your head, sometimes it's worthwhile to find ways to consolidate them.
last edited on July 14, 2011 12:20PM
Annie2495 at 10:16PM, Nov. 10, 2009
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I've actually made a tutorial on this, if you want to check it out (though it's not very good!)—>http://raexbb4eva.deviantart.com/art/Comic-Tutorial-135718202
But I did a lot of rambling there. Here's a summary:
What do you love? What makes you happy? No really-write a list-it helps. Take that and get some inspiration. Develop the idea. It doesn't have to be a full out plot and script by the time you start, but I recommend planning out at least a chapter before you release the comic. Start with the characters. You don't- and shouldn't-start out with pages right away. In my opinion, the characters make the story. Have fun with them and give them life and each one their own story. Put them together-why are all these characters together? Sketch and draw-HAVE FUN! Trust me, you will get the best ideas while making the comic, you probably will quit if you try to script all the way through just like that. As to staying with it: if you have to force yourself ALL THE TIME, the comic probably isn't for you. People here have also really kept me going and helped me to learn new things. Basically: get inspired, plan, have fun, and don't sweat having to have every plot point planned because you will develop as you draw and get to know your characters…hope that helped~
last edited on July 14, 2011 10:53AM

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