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Author Topic: Your writing process  (Read 17941 times)

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Offline TheCow

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Your writing process
« on: January 30, 2010, 10:43:24 AM »
Since there's a "tools and process" thread over in the art section, why not one over here?

My comic is currently an ongoing story that is primarily action and comedy with an attempt at drama. The writing process for this is totally different than for my old comic, a gag-a-day comedy. I'll explain my approaches to each style.

Storyline Based

I'm lucky enough to have a general idea of where I want the comic to go, so I have a notebook with basic plots and\or gags that have come to mind. It goes something like this:

Issue #1 - Origin (Notes: parody of The Crow)
Issue #2 - Intro Jenny, have her kidnapped by Farmer Brown and Steve the Bat. (Notes: Giant nuclear marshmallow)
Issue #3 - Steve the Bat tries to cash in with Cow merchandising. (Notes: Cow spinoffs\sidekicks for more action figure sales, henchman-turned-marketing-genius)
Issue #4 - Cow vs. Morpheus
Issue #5 - Schroedinger McGee robs a museum

I actually have Issues 1-8 set up to tell an overarching story, along with at least ten other "issues" that can be swapped around randomly.

When it comes to actually writing, I'll sit down and just start doodling layouts in the notebook, marking which page is which. I tend to go in a linear fashion, occasionally redoing a page later in the book. This is kind of how I have it set up:

Issue\Page number
Big rectangle broken up into panels, with scribbly doodles and facial expressions.
Script, which can be complete, or more often than not, "Cow rants about how Morpheus is obviously a villain." In these cases, I don't usually finalize a script until I'm lettering the comic.

I'll do entire issues at a time, usually an issue ahead of time. In other words, Issue #4 is running on the site right now, but I'm almost done writing Issue #5. This helps keep me on schedule. (I try to have layouts of the entire issue done before the previous issue is done, but that's more of an art thing, so I won't elaborate here.)

And like I said earlier, a lot of my dialogue isn't finalized until I start lettering. I can get really verbose when writing, and it won't fit the panels, or I won't have much to say and there's a lot of blank space. I even go back sometimes and change things after they're uploaded, just to tweak some of the writing. I'm a little obsessive about it.  ;D

I also run each script by three people as a final check, just to see if it makes sense and to check spelling. (The people being my girlfriend, who is an amazing writer, my best friend, who is a good judge of if something is funny, and my mom, the English teacher who corrects my spelling and grammar. XD )

Gag-A-Day Writing

Writing for a gag-a-day is a lot easier. I often took things friends actually said and used them verbatim, or built on them until they were ridiculously over the top. Or a lot of times, I'd just be doodling in my notebook or sketchbook in college and I'd come up with something based on whatever we were working on. I'd basically look for inspiration in anything and everything.

In my second gag-a-day comic, I shrunk the cast of dozens down to five. Each person had a distinct personality, so I would come up with an idea for a joke, and would often try it out with each personality until I found one that fit the joke perfectly. Sure, the whole group would be disturbed at the thought of the "crazy obsessive" character kidnapping her favorite band and keeping them in her apartment, but the "laid-back shy guy" would be the most disturbed, thus his reaction would be the funniest.

While I would have a general idea of what I'd want to update when, the nice thing about gag-a-days is that you can have a time-sensitive idea and use it as your next update. I was in the middle of a mini-arc when I saw The Dark Knight and had an idea for a comic based on it. The next day, it was my update, then the arc continued.

As for actual writing, I'd do the same thing as a story comic: I'd doodle the layout in a notebook or sketchbook, then if needed, play with panel layout and timing, draw it, scan it and then finalize the script while lettering. The script was usually a lot closer to the notebook with gag-a-days, since it was pretty much "setup and punchline." Not too much room for elaborate dialogue.

So, what is everyone elses techniques? Make it up as you go? Have nine years worth of material rigidly scripted ahead of time? Hire someone else to do all the work? (I like that idea . . . )

Offline Xade

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Re: Your writing process
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2010, 06:20:32 PM »
personally, I do a rough draft, like "Alex visits Castle Overlook, hunting for a necklace he dreamed about, comes back a better man for it after a grand adventure. Character developing chapter."

Then while I'm working, I take a small, thin, notebook with me for just that chapter and just let my mind wonder as I drive my routes. (I'm a paper carrier) If I get an idea I pause long enough to jot it down then try to expand it in my mind. Like the current encounter. I had planned on him just walking in but then, once I got to thinking that Albert would be preparing his new home for the guests Alex could arrive early for the party, not knowing that there is going to be one, and Albert discovers him. [Spoiler] happens and Alex now has permission to roam the castle.

This is also how I came up with a wonderful idea on how to toss a banner ad in my header, have it look awesome, tell a little about the main characters and be funny on top of everything else.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2010, 03:13:18 AM by Xade »

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Offline jeffa

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Re: Your writing process
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2010, 09:21:41 PM »
My writing comes in spurts. I'm finishing up a story arc I first wrote out mostly on Halloween night 2008...

I can't write a script. I do more of a storyboard approach (if I were making movies...).

The images and the words have to work together, and I can't think of them separately. I do complete comics, but at a super rough, simplified almost stick figure level.

That's for my main comic, Funzietown, which tends to have lots of background detail and be as cinematic as I can make it. My influences are comics like Tin Tin, Buck Rogers, Little Orphan Annie, etc. Far more ambitious than my artistic abilities can accomodate, but I'm learning.

I also do some gag-a-day kind of comics that I post in my main blog (which tends to be mostly technical, programming related stuff). Those will hopefully grow into a second comic at some point. Those are far easier to write since they are more influenced by The Far Side in that they are each stand alone and don't have recurring characters, etc.

As a side not to Xade: I work for a newpaper too. I work in the IT dept and work on lots of stuff to support the circulation dept. One thing we did was a handheld app for single copy carriers. We had planned a version for home delivery carriers, but it never made sense financially once you buy all those devices. You essentially just get an electronic routebook and that wouldn't save very much money (especially since carriers tend to know their routes very well). My group spent several years working out of delivery branch offices so we could support them better.

Tough times for newspapers.

Offline Xade

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Re: Your writing process
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2010, 03:21:10 AM »
jeffa, you could always offer it to the carriers, and buy them on a need by need basis. Some carries might be interested in that, especiallys if they auto update.
And I agree, it IS a rough time for newspapers. :( I've lost lots of customers in the past few years

On topic: I also often do what I call "On the spot scripting" I am sitting before my comp, working on the scene and I suddenly realize what I had planned would be much better if I altered it slightly to do so and so. Chapter 3 is full of on the spots, like the last one. I only planned on a basic page but then the net acted up and I had another day so I went with my first idea that I had, show Alexis battling with the monster. I think it helped the storyline, and showed how powerful Dark Eye's new staff is.

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Offline D-Ballz

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Re: Your writing process
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2010, 01:27:22 PM »
Personally, for my writing, I write it more like a story, and leave things up to the artist, who is a good friend of mine. The only time I ever go really deep into detail on what i want in the comic is when I have a very specific scene in mind, where certain details are relevant to the story, or would be easier to draw in a certain way. I try to make things easy on her, as well as leave her enough freedom for creativity. Of course, I wouldn't reccomend this for other people unless you trust your artist! For the most part, I just write down what happens in the story, and the speech. Everything else is left to the interpretation of my artist.

However, despite this very loose approach to the story, the characters are actually very planned. There are lots of little details decided about certain characters, including speech patterns and a full backstory. I've got a whole different document, with pages full of character details.

Offline klingers

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Re: Your writing process
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2010, 12:37:38 AM »
The way I work is fairly loose. Back in the day I used to waste a lot of time with my storyline process by literally not even having dialogue finalised when I started drawing a strip.

I like to mix it up with a combination of little mini-arcs and one-shot issues, both of which I'll plan out at least 10-15 comics in advance nowadays. My basic process is that I have what I call an "idea book" where I like to jot down punchlines that come to me that'll work that I can work backwards from on a one-shot strip, basic ideas for a strip or series or even something I've discussed with the guys over lunch that would make for a good joke or two.

I'll usually (but not always) have a little spiral-bound pad that fits in my pocket that I'll traipse around with and if anything good strikes me on the spot I'll make sure to write it down.

I currently have about 150 appropriately named blank text files sitting in a directory with my comic masters. As I move closer to what I'd call my planned direction, which is usually about 10-15 comics ahead, I'll put a dash on the end of the filename and write either a comic title or a descriptive line to tell me what I want that comic to be.

I'll store comic scripts inside those text files. Sometimes if I have a new idea or something just doesn't work in my mind then I might scrap, replace or rework the ordering of those text files to keep my clear picture but keep it flexible.

When I actually draw comics I work digitally, so no hand sketches. What I'll generally tend to do is storyboard panels on a deletable layer behind my main panels to work out my character placement and scale before I get down to the actual content. I'll usually work in speech bubble text minus the speech bubbles at this point too.

It's worked for me so far and it's pretty informal, but everyone's different :)

Offline HarringtonAW

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Re: Your writing process
« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2010, 11:37:01 PM »
My usual writing process:

Step 1: Hope and pray that I get an idea for a new storyline before the old storyline wraps up.

Step 2: Think of a good idea for a new storyline, but don't take the time to write it down right now because I'm busy.

Step 3: Sit at my desk with a pencil and paper later on and try desperately to recall the details of the idea.

Step 4: Write down my idea and break it down into panels with dialog.

Step 5: Try to decipher my handwriting so that I can draw the page.

Step 6: Draw the pages of the story, which doesn't seem to be as good a story as I thought now that I'm doing it.

Step 7: Upload story to website and hope fans don't dislike the story, which now doesn't seem very good at all.

Step 8: Promise myself that the next story will be better.

Step 9: Repeat.


Offline NZSteve

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Re: Your writing process
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2010, 02:23:33 PM »
My writing tends to happen in big lumps, which benefits me in 2 ways:

1) I get 3-4 weeks of strips scripted ahead of time, and
2) Since they're done at once, continuity can be scrutinized more easily

I have a general idea of where things are going, but how I get there will be more loosey-goosey.

Offline Jack Sign

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Re: Your writing process
« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2010, 04:00:46 AM »
step 1: Tell myself I need to write some strips so I can excuse myself from doing something actually useful.

step 2: Scan news sites until I find a story that ticks me off.

step 3: Vent rage in semi-humorous fashion.

step 4 Lather rise repeat.

{  } - sarcasm    [  ] - rage    <> - sexual innuendo


Offline Lego M

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Re: Your writing process
« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2010, 08:36:23 PM »
I have a general outline of events that should happen in the future, but it's less of a storyboard and more of a reminder to myself to include those things as I progress.

My scripting process is basically just me writing whatever comes into my head; I keep a script of the next 10 or so comics which generally works like this -

- Write up some script.
- Rewrite the whole thing while sketching out the layout.
- Rewrite it all again when lettering the comic.
- Rewrite bits of it one more time before it goes public. (Optional, doesn't always happen)

Every so often I'll check up on my outline and try to decide when the next event on it should occur. There are usually pretty good gaps between them; I can't work on only story-related things or I'll go mad.

Offline plughead

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Re: Your writing process
« Reply #10 on: July 06, 2010, 11:58:07 AM »
Hey everyone

My "writing" process is kinda weird. Rather than use text and stuff, I tend to storyboard. I use stacks of 8.5 x 11 paper, and each page represents a page spread. As I write, I edit, move, shuffle and delete pages until I get a flow that seems to work.

Reading how you cats do stuff, I really should focus more on overall structure and keeping my plot and characters moving towards a final resolution of the story.


Offline Rob

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Re: Your writing process
« Reply #11 on: July 06, 2010, 12:03:44 PM »
Ok but your story is told differently from almost any other webcomic I can think of. So much of what you do is visual that it makes sense you storyboard.

Offline plughead

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Re: Your writing process
« Reply #12 on: July 06, 2010, 01:46:03 PM »
Thanks, Rob!

Yeah, I've TRIED to do the bullet-list thing, the Word.doc thing, the screenplay thing, and nothing works as well for me as simple storyboards. I got the idea after watching the Alien Ressurection DVD commentary/special features. IIRC, they storyboarded the entire film before shooting even begun. A very rare move in the movie business, if I understand correctly.


On a sidenote, and sorry for any thread derail, where's an appropriate place here for me to answer some of those questions you had?

I'm afraid to start any new threads lest it be disruptive behaviour!

Offline Dragon Powered

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Re: Your writing process
« Reply #13 on: July 06, 2010, 03:31:44 PM »
Set Disruptors to disintegrate and go for it.  If you don't start new threads, who will?

Offline Gibson

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Re: Your writing process
« Reply #14 on: July 06, 2010, 03:37:30 PM »
they storyboarded the entire film before shooting even begun. A very rare move in the movie business, if I understand correctly

I think that's pretty standard, actually.

Storyboards are as valid a way to compose your story as any. People get stuck on the idea that writing is just writing and they forget that it is chiefly composition. It doesn't matter if you plan with words, pictures or plasticine statues, any tool that helps you work out the project is your writing process.

Over the many years I was working on the storyline to Pictures of You, I used a number of different methods to get the story straight in my head, one of which was thumbnails, another (ultimately the most successful way) was jotting every single thing I wanted to happen on index cards and then organizing them, which sounds similar to the way you're doing it.