Called To Create Episode 3 – Choosing Your Project

In the third episode I discuss how you go about picking which project you might want to take on. I recorded the audio on this while in my car. Sorry for the interstate noise! Hopefully it’s not too crazy.

Remember in addition to buying Adamsville book 1 from my store, you can now buy the book through Amazon and use your Prime Account!

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Book 2 Production Blog – Honing An Old Process

Production on book 2 has been slowly building up to full steam.  Admittedly I am very behind on schedule.  This is mostly due to the fact that the script was difficult to get to a place where I felt I had done enough honing and it was workable.  I think I have taken this book and thrown it out maybe four times now…  I’m on my fifth iteration of it.

But now that I at least have a solid first act it felt like it was time to get to work on inking and penciling pages.  So I’ve found myself stolen away in the nooks and crannies of the office look for places I can work in quiet.

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In this book I am dealing with one big concern in particular and that’s that this book is scaling to be somewhere around 190-220 pages, compared to the first book which clocked in at 155.  Production wise, I have no idea how I will hit the kinds of goals I tend to set for myself.  So I have been rethinking this whole process of penciling and inking the book and how I track them all.  I mostly want to force myself to push through my penciling and writing phase so that within the next six months or so I have a finished rough draft of the comic I can share with my critique circle and get their feedback on.  Hopefully this will really reduce the amount of changing that takes place to the story after it’s all said and done.  But what it also does is let’s me have all the heavy brain work out of the way.  It’s all, butt in chair, hands on stylus from there on.

I have also been looking to eliminate this stage almost altogether:

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Thumbnailing pages.  Now thumbnails are super important to this process, but I think I can just distill them down and get rid of a step.  I tend to do like four passes on a page before I start inking it.  The first is the page break down, where I go through my script and break it all down into pages and panels, then I do a small thumbnail on the page, then I pencil it and then I tighten the pencil….  THEN ink.  That’s too many.  I think I can basically skip the small thumbnail phase and do my thumbnails as rough pencils, then tighten those up before I ink digitally.  This could be a disaster, but I think it’s worth a shot even if it gives me back just 10-30 minutes per page.

I am inking pages finally, and that has been going more slowly that I expected.  Just kicking the dust off of these old tires.  Case in point, I had inked this panel before realizing I messed her design up quite a bit.  Went back in a fixed it:

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I had started using Manga Studio 5 for this book to begin with, but I have really been having an issue with it lagging down and generally making the process harder for in the inking stage.  So I couldn’t have non of that.  I switched back to Manga Studio EX 4.  The inking engine in EX 4 is just, in my humble opinion, much better.  I feel like the current inking engine in EX 5 presents too many issues and lagging problems.  Going back to old faithful has let me focus on the work and not the software.

I hope I will have more news to share as the book continues.  Stay tuned for more!

Called to Create! A New Videocast

Hey everyone!  I wanted to chime in real quick and share with you all the beginning of a new video cast I will be producing entitled Called To Create.  We’ll be talking making art and juggling life and all other manner of creative questions.  The first video is up and you can check it out now!

The image featured in this video is actually from one of the Kickstarter backers on this project!  I plan to post a few other commissioned pieces as I work through them.

Creating Chloe: Thoughts On A Girl’s Appearance

For those that are new to this comic, the central hero of book 1 in Adamsville is Chloe Johnson.  She’s a 12 year old basketball star. She’s popular at school and adored by the other hero of the story, Todd Frederick.  Here’s her being awesome:

page012I love her character.  She’s smart, brave, makes hard decisions and in the end she’s exactly the person she needs to be.  But one of the only things I have ever been criticized on with the art for Adamsville has been Chloe’s appearance.  Every so often I am given feedback from someone on how boyish she looks.  Or that she should be prettier.  I’ve had people tell me that if I dolled her up more I might sell more copies of the book or it would be more popular.

For a long time I took these comments to heart and would feel bad about it.  Mostly I would take it as an affront on my art and ability to draw.  I would feel like “maybe I just can’t draw a pretty girl.” And I mean, I’m just a humble artist trying to make his way in the world, what if I did maker her prettier?  Maybe I WOULD make more money. It made me feel very self conscious of myself and my character.  It’s hard to have someone call a character, you feel so fondly for, ugly  basically.

I don’t know what that means for “the success of my book” or if it “turns away readers.”  I would have no way to quantify that, but what it has done is make me think very soberly about the thing I see behind comments like this.  What I really feel when someone comments on her like this is “what kind of message are we sending our girls?”  What is going on that I should feel pressured to make Chloe a character that looks a certain way to help me sell books?

A friend of mine posted this up on Facebook and I was really touched and moved by its message. It really helped me see what this sort of message does to these beautiful young ladies and women in general:

 

This is a serious problem in general within our society.  I am a father to two young girls and they will be growing up with all sorts of insecurities about themselves and their appearances.  Every movie they see, or show they watch, and magazine on the store self screams at them THIS IS WHAT PRETTY IS!  It scares me frankly.  As I know it does many parents.

The funny thing is, I designed Chloe very specifically.  I designed her to be a bit boyish in her appearance, because she’s a tomboy!  It’s an essential part of her character. I designed her taller than Todd because she’s a basketball player, so she’s lankier and more stretched out in her design. I didn’t sit down to design her and think how I could make her the most attractive 12 year old I could think up.  I had a character that I saw very clearly in my head, and frankly the way she appears in the book is exactly how I want her to look. I tried to design a character who is a person, not some sort of strange 12 year old sex symbol.  And I think she’s very pretty the way she is, thank you very much.

All this to say…  I love Chloe Johnson and who she is as a character. After thinking on this criticism, it’s actually made me proud of  what she represents to my readers.  I love the way she looks, because to me she is a normal person…  Though fictional.  So I used to feel very self conscious about her, but now… I embrace this bit of feedback.  Because 1) it means my character design came through and 2) I’m not out to reinforce these stereotypes.  Maybe Chloe can help break some of that down.

I hope in some small part she encourages other young female readers of my book to be brave in scary situations.  To believe in something bigger than themselves.  To be themselves.  And that they’re pretty awesome, the way they look and the way they are.

Pick up your copy of book 1 today.

 

Update On Book 2’s Progress

I hadn’t done a post on this in a few months, so I thought I would give you all a look into what’s going on with the sequel and what’s going on with the release of book 1.

Book 2 – The Writing Goes Ever On

I won’t lie, I am grossly behind my self- imposed schedule for starting this book.  I had hoped I would be drawing book 2 months ago, but it just hasn’t happened.  The script has been very hard to wrestle to the ground and get right.  Either it’s too long, not interesting enough or just seems conflicted with the characters…  It’s just not gotten there yet.  And it hasn’t been from lack of trying.

In many ways I look back on 2013 and see what feels like an unproductive year.  I know that is not the case.  I’ve had two successful Kickstarter campaigns, launched my webcomic for Adamsville and had my busiest commissions year ever.  But when I look at the comics works I’ve made all I can see is one script for a book I won’t produce and a number of drafts for Adamsville book 2.  The sad thing about writing, when you make comics, is it feels like you’re not doing much in the end.

It’s really a false statement though.  That’s a lot of work!  lol.  And hopefully that work will make the production end of book 2 much smoother and exciting. I have to keep reminding myself that I have been making a comic all year.  Writing is the foundation of it all.  I think it’s going to be worth the effort, if the current draft is any indication.

I’ve learned a ton through this process and realize just how much I didn’t know before.  I wrote most of my stories by the seat of my pants, just letting intuition guide me.  Which is great, but sometimes intuition misses things that matter and they come back to rear their heads much later on.  The struggle this year has presented in writing I think will pay dividends for the rest of my life when it comes to writing and doing it more effectively.

Book 1 – The Road To Print

I approved the proof for book 1 just about a week ago.  I’m still terrified I messed something up, though I have no rational reason to believe that after having reviewed the documents over and over and over again.   But I can’t wait to see it.  I’m hopeful to get a physical proof in the next few weeks.  Once that happens I will set up preorders and all so we can start getting this thing out there to everyone!

Adamsville book 1 cover: REVEALED


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Well behold the cover to Adamsville book 1!  I’m super happy with this cover.  I spent a lot of time really trying to think through the composition and just from a design standpoint what I wanted the cover to look like.  It had to be something that would follow through all three books.  So this will be the general feel of all three covers, layout wise.  I hope you all like it!  Please let me know your thoughts in the comments on or the social media!  Thank you faithful readers! 🙂

Writing Is A Grueling, Grueling Process – Some Tips

I’ve been writing book 2 of this series in some form or fashion, with intensity and purpose for… about 9 months.  I began it right after I finished work on book 1 and it became a huge struggle because I decided ultimately that I wanted to trim what could have been an ongoing series into 3 books.  3 books felt like all of the time I needed to wrap this all up and do it well.  But there was a lot of ground to cover and making it all work and not be rushed or convoluted has been a real challenge.  Especially with book 2.

This book has been a hard hard lesson in rewrites.  It gets better with every adaptation but the struggle of it is just grueling.  It’s hard to look at a body of work, be ready to step into production and then reset your brain because the story isn’t there yet.

It’s sort of interesting working on comics, because the writing process with them often seems like it’s a pretty loose thing with most of my peers.  We tend to throw together a workable draft and then move forward without much refinement.  Which I understand because the process of making the comic is so time consuming you can begin to feel like you’re not getting anywhere if you stay in the writing phase.  But I think it’s worth it to really have your script as solid as it can be before you start drawing pages.

I really don’t want to just make another book, and also don’t want to spend years of my life and money making something I know could be better with a bit more effort.  So when I get feedback, and it’s earnest helpful feedback, I take it to heart.  It’s important to remember that the people reading your script, if you write that way, are a taste of your audience.  And you want to rock that audience and have them be with you the whole way.  So be open and attentive to what their thoughts are.

One of my favorite thoughts on writing for graphic novels comes again from Kazu Kibuishi.  He and Jason Caffoe talk a lot about how brief the reading experience is with a graphic novel.  The amount of time someone spends reading your book may only be thirty minutes.  So in the end you want to give them something that sits with them a long time and you don’t need it to be long to do that.   So as I am working through this book I am always working back through if this experience will be something people will really enjoy and cherish.  It’s anyone’s guess and that’s what makes the whole experience difficult.  All you can do is work your hardest and then get some feedback and then press forward.

But I have a few quick tips I’ve picked up and work through every time I write a script and rewrite it.  I hope they’re helpful.

It’s hard, just accept it and keep going.  Writing is in the rewriting, they say, so just understand that this process is at times very long and frustrating.  You can do it though!

Try and keep the ideas expressed in the book simple and clear. I have very little interest in creating an ambiguous piece of literature.  In the end I want everyone to understand the story and hopefully the themes I am presenting.  An audience will process it all their own way, but I can do some work to control that.  If it’s unclear what a character’s motivation is, then you probably need to re-address it.  Often people say they do these things to show the complexity of a character.  More often than not though it’s just bad writing.

Trust your instincts more. In a recent feedback session with my friend Stephen McCranie he was getting really excited about certain ideas and directions I could have or should have taken my story.  The funny thing is, almost everyone of them was in my idea book already.  I just discarded them in favor of other paths.  Those other paths though often muddied the waters on clarity in the story.  So try going with your gut more.  We’re all consumers of media and stories and we know a good story when we see it.  Use that experience to guide you.  I know I should more.

Never stop rewriting. One thing I am not saying is that once the script is locked, you  never touch or change the story again.  I see the script as being the worst version the book could be.  I’m always looking for ways to build on it and expand the story.  At every part of the process there should be moments of discovery.  But getting the structure and feel of the book as solid as possible is essential.

Happy writing!

This is a great podcast on rewriting: http://www.writingexcuses.com/2011/03/20/writing-excuses-5-29-rewriting/

 

Things Are Getting Close – Update On Book 2

It is coming together finally, after nearly 8 months of writing treatments and notes and revising. ADAMSVILLE Book 2 (still untitled) is really cooking with gas now. The script is coming together in a hot hurry. I felt like it finally had it’s breakthrough about a month ago and the book finally felt like a narrative that worked and hit on everything I was after.

I am about 1/3 through writing the first draft and so far it’s a big book. Which has me a bit terrified. I am over 20 pages of written text so far and that’s roughly 60 pages of comics story. The issue is I am still a good clip away from the middle. I won’t be surprised if I end up with a 250 page book this next go around. I don’t know. Some serious trimming is in order. Not so much because it’s getting big, but it is because an economy in your storytelling is important. I feel there’s a lot of extra stuff in here that can be reworked.

The key with all first drafts though is to just get the thing out of your system. So I’m throwing the kitchen sink at it and more. Anything that tickles my fancy or seems like it works, I am just putting it in there. The biggest things that will shape up out of this will be theme, I believe. Just understanding what is going on and what they all want. That often, for me at least, feels like the most elusive thing in a script. But it becomes clearer the more I live in the story.

Another thing I am doing is sketching the characters. A lot. I really want to get a handle on them through repetition so that hopefully by the time I get to drawing the book, they are all looking pretty on model. It’s fun filling up a sketchbook with sketches of them all and seeing the whole cast of characters coming together.

I’m really excited for what this book will bring to the story and to readers. It’s very daunting writing a script for a book I know will take up the next 1 to 2 years of my life in production. The promise of what book 3 will bring though is spurring me on fast as ever.

On pitching news with book 1 and the series. Nothing new to report at this point. I haven’t heard any negative news, so for now that’s a positive.