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Running the Marathon

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Feb. 2, 2019
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So it turns out I'm quite ill this week and I don't feel I have enough focus to finish up my “Writing Mental Illness” set of articles. I promise to do that next week.

For today I'd like to talk about planning, writing and drawing a webcomic that is going to take years to finish, and how to keep going without abandoning it.

Without Moonlight is such a webcomic, as it's intended to span almost 70 years of Greek history, in a series of volumes. I expect it will take me a decade or two to finish, if I keep up my current streak of updating (rather than my spotty score of the first few years).

I've already been making it for eight full years now and thankfully I'm still going strong. There are some elements that keep me going, and I think are more or less things you should consider ensuring before embarking on such a project:

1. Really liking the project

This seems like a no-brainer but it's not as simple as it sounds. You shouldn't just like a project casually. It should be something you deeply love and want to dabble in for a very long time. It's like a marriage, in a way, since it's going to take so long to finish. You must be certain you want to marry this thing for as long as it takes. If you're not sure, best to convert a part of it into a much shorter comic and do that.

2. Finding motivation intrinsically about the project

Chances are your project won't be immediately discovered, and even if it is, it's no guarantee it'll be popular or accepted or liked. While these are important elements, they should be secondary to your personal need to make it, even if nobody is reading it, even if nobody likes it. If you don't get a sense of real loss at the thought of stopping or not making it, then consider converting it into a shorter comic to make.

3. Plan, plan, plan

Some discipline is required in actually making the entire plan for your story start to finish, knowing that the finish line will be into the far future for you. Don't leave it up in the air just because it's not due for ten years. Don't leave the middle up in the air either, or you face the very real risk of veering off course with the plot and getting lost. If that happens, you might need to change the ending (not so bad) or you might write yourself into a corner and need to backtrack, restart or redo a chapter or two (very, very bad). At best, it'll lose you time. At worst, it will burn you out or demoralize you. So take the time to do the rough layout and planning of your plot and story.

4. Plan for flexibility

While it's important to keep the frame steady and strong, it's also prudent to allow for flexibility as you get to know your own characters better, and get more ideas or feedback from readers or other stimuli you get across, that will get you to change what you had originally planned. This is good- it keeps everything fresh and you are on a path of discovery as much as your readers! It will also produce a tighter story, truer to its own setting and world.

And that's my four elements for running the webcomic marathon that is a super long project. How about you? What would you add to this list?

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bravo1102 at 4:49AM, Feb. 4, 2019

I need definite goals and schedules. I cant deal with that "one day"-- even a marathon is only 26 and a fraction miles. These 1000+ pages webcomics are more akin to taking years to circumnavigate the earth in a rowboat.

usedbooks at 6:53PM, Feb. 2, 2019

I want to have an ending but also don't want it to end. :P

usedbooks at 6:52PM, Feb. 2, 2019

I have the framework for a "finale" but also have a sequel series planned. (And quite a few "episodes" before finale. There's one more key character left to introduce.)

JustNoPoint at 6:40PM, Feb. 2, 2019

"Also, comic pages take a lot of time, and that can cause frustration when your story isn't moving at the pace you want. Be patient. It's so hard when you have made it your favorite. It's like waiting for a movie or season to come out and double the frustration because you control it but still can't do it faster." This was literally what made me stop last time. I don't think I'll live long enough to see the end of my series... It's not a ton but 7 "seasons" takes forever to make as a webcomic series.

Ironscarf at 12:55PM, Feb. 2, 2019

Good advice, this is helping me to decide which project comes next. It's always tempting to go for the thing you just thought of, but there's usually a much older idea that won't go away. That's more likely to be the one. Or two, or three.

usedbooks at 10:33AM, Feb. 2, 2019

Also, comic pages take a lot of time, and that can cause frustration when your story isn't moving at the pace you want. Be patient. It's so hard when you have made it your favorite. It's like waiting for a movie or season to come out and double the frustration because you control it but still can't do it faster. I've found I can take the edge off the time factor by writing potential scripts, back-stories, or hypothetical stories with my characters or world between working on the art. (Kind of like watching shorts, teasers, trailers, spin-offs, etc. while waiting for the anticipated movie/series.) -- Oh, and join community projects! That's the best way to relieve webcomic-takes-so-long-itis.

usedbooks at 10:28AM, Feb. 2, 2019

All good points! Create for yourself and your project. Be your own biggest fan, and make your own work your favorite book/series/comic.

Banes at 8:00AM, Feb. 2, 2019

Makes sense! Great advice. KAM - haha!

KAM at 6:04AM, Feb. 2, 2019

Don't forget the most important point. Secretly climbing in a car, riding to near the finish line, and pretending you ran the whole way. ;-)


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