I mentioned a while back that I hoped to post more about me. Even writing it, I feel like saying this makes me sound like an asshole. However, a wise friend and long-time webcomic reader correctly pointed out that readers like the reassurance that the creator is some kind of human. You know, instead of a robot or some kind of lizard (though can you imagine the media exposure a webcomic-creating lizard could get???). So, here I am, ready to talk about some stuff.
My first draft of this installment was going to be something about the work/life balance, but it was boring and I had no focus, which also sums up my writing process most days. The reality is that the more organized you are and the less you cut corners or skip steps the better your end result will be. You’ve got to start somewhere, though, and that’s where a lot of people get tripped up, especially with comics.
I get a lot of people who ask, “How do I make a comic?” and I usually just tell them to do it. Just start drawing. But that’s not really what they’re asking, and so I elaborate. For short comics, you can often just draw a comic out and BAM, it’s done. For longer, multi-chapter comics, you’re gonna at least need some notes. I work off three documents for Velharthis: a large, disorganized document that manages the overall story, a document just for Book One, and then a script for each chapter. For the first two, I edit them as a please. Sometimes, an idea will come to me on the bus and I’ll jot it down on my phone for later.
For each chapter, I write a script that breaks down by page and by panel. I’ll usually have at least one person read it and give me their thoughts, and I take them very seriously. Chapter 6 and 7 were completely rewritten after such a reading.
Sometimes I’ll go back and reread the comic to make sure I haven’t dropped in elements and forgotten them, or something like that.
There’s no one way to prepare for making a comic. Some people might sketch out the whole thing without a script. I’ve done that before, most recently for The Ungrateful Son and The Leftovers over on Erstwhile. And there’s no set way to write a script, unless you’re working as part of a team. Then you might have to agree on some kind of direction. You might also want to write and organize your script as clearly as possible, so that, when you come back to it to finally draw the comic, it makes some damn sense. There are still many times when I come back to a script after a few days or weeks and go, “I don’t understand what I wrote…”
And if you change the script as you draw, that’s fine, too. My comics never follow the script exactly as they were written, but I do try to make sure that, if I change the wording, that I make a note of what I actually want it to say.
So, there you go: My somewhat messy comic script writing process.