Reflecting Back On 9 Years Of Creating Adamsville

I legit got a bit emotional inking pages of Adamsville 3 this week. It hit me that this will be the last time I draw these characters in a story like this. That ideas I first came up with 9 years ago, are finally coming to an end and becoming a reality for people to read. And it made me thankful. So I hope you’ll allow this sappy creator to say this, two months before Book 3 premieres on Webtoons in October.
 
Not much of how I thought all of this would pan out has come to pass. I didn’t get a publishing deal the way I hoped in the beginning. I pitched it to every major publisher I could get it out to TWICE! Each time they declined. After the first round of rejections it took me three years to finally get up the courage and determination to make it anyways. I had to work hard to make a book with no pay (like so many of my fellow creators), print it myself, and pound the pavement with it, slowly hoping it would find its audience.
 
And it did! I’ve visited schools numerous times where I receive letters and emails long after I’ve left, telling me just how much Adamsville has encouraged their students. Or parents who said their kids have read the books more times than they can count. And a few adults too 😉 I love that when kids are given a chance to read this series, they seem to love it. It’s why I started doing this in the first place, to create something I would loved read as a kid, and I couldn’t ask for more.
 
But then I got more. Last year, Webtoons offered me a featured comic spot on their platform and it began reaching a larger audience than I ever had before. Having the support of my editor, Emily Jae Young Han, David Shinok Lee and everyone else at Webtoons was certainly unexpected and so awesome. They’re doing awesome things in comics and I’m so glad I get to be a part of it. Thank you for the opportunity and believing in my comics. I hope I give you an awesome finale over the next year.
 
And just a final thank you to all of you guys, my friends and family who supported me in following this crazy dream I’ve had since I was in 3rd grade. When I was a kid, I dreamed of signing my own books, tabling at conventions, creating my own universes… All of that awesomeness. And it’s happened… And I couldn’t be more grateful.
 
And with that I’ll close. I have a page to finish inking and a story to finish writing… I’m so ready to give all you an awesome finale and can’t wait for you to see what I have coming next.
image

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!

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/

 

Almost There On Book 2’s Script

I wrapped up the first complete and readable draft of Adamsville book 2 last week.  It’s working title right now is Foundations.  Which will hopefully make a lot more sense when you all get to that point in the story… Like a year and a half from now, lol.

But I had a handful of friends read through the draft and was really pleased with everyone’s reaction.  It seems like I made a book that for the most part is really working.  Now the edits need to start.  The cliche of writing is rewriting is an ever present reality at the moment.

The biggest hurdle with the script is the ending.  I had written an ending that is visually arresting, but lacking in emotional impact.  So I’ve been working and reworking the ending in outline form.  I keep this composition book I bought earlier this year for the Adamsville series and it is filling up with notes and ideas.

Book 2 is where I actually feel pressure to deliver on, even more than book 1.  Sequels always seems like where a story can just fall apart completely.  I want so much to give my readers a bigger and broader experience than book 1.  Seems like the best way to do that is to raise all of the stakes.  It it’s definitely a bigger story than before and I’m really happy that the emphasis still stays on characters and relationships.

I am working hard to have the final draft done by the end of July which puts me starting the thumbnailing and penciling process in August.  I don’t see that getting derailed at all, as the feedback I got let me know it was very much on the right track.

When I get this thing right, I’ll post a nice picture of the printed script sitting in the binder that will rule my life for the next year and a half, lol.  I feel like a film maker getting ready to step into preproduction.   It’s going to be a fun time!  In the mean time, thank you all for reading the book as I am posting it and please continue to share it with others!

On Superman, Writers and Cynicism

Ok before we get started two things:  SPOILERS If you haven’t seen Man of Steel, don’t read this.  Go see it and then come back…  There are a number of movies mentioned here too, but those are older.  So in general read at your own risk.

Secondly this is a gripe towards WRITERS (and artists)!  If you are a viewer and enjoyed Man of Steel and all, more power to you.  Our job is to entertain you.  If you were, then fantastic.

Now… With that said.  I have some issues with Man of Steel that have sort of grown on me over time.  Admittedly when I saw the movie,  I actually really enjoyed it as a piece of entertainment.  Something about it sat wrong with me for a long while though.  I couldn’t put my finger on it.  I mean I was entertained.  The plot was solid.  The villain strong… What was it missing?

Then I realized what was missing…   Superman!

Now before I draw the weight of the internet upon me for me being  a curmudgeon let me break down my reasons for being upset… Because this is bigger than Superman.  This is about worldview and the role writers are playing in it.  Now I am just going to say it so we can get it out of the way…..  Spoiler…….

Supes kills Zod in the end to stop him from killing everyone.  Most of us know this already.  This is presented in such a way so that as a viewer we think that there was no other option for him.  And I’ve had many a conversation with fellow nerds and some agree with me and some don’t, but that was an awful decision by the writers.  Note I said decision…  I’ll get into that later.

Superman doesn’t kill people.  Ever.  Why?  Because he doesn’t.  It is an essential part of his character and when you take that away from him…  he stops being Superman and starts being… Something else.  He may look like Superman, but he isn’t.  It’s like saying the only thing that makes Superman, Superman, is the fact that he wears a red cape, is from Krypton and has special powers.  Everything else is fair game.  And sorry, but it isn’t.  He has a moral set of values and ideals and he lives by those. Just like your identity is wrapped up in everything you are and do.  They go together to form an identity.

Why does this matter?  Superman symbolizes something to you, me and everyone.  He’s better than us.  He always does the hard thing over what’s easy.  Killing Zod is easy.  Heck it’s justifiable.  But it’s not Superman.  By having Superman kill Zod, you  have now driven Superman down to a human level that none us can aspire towards.  Humans put themselves in harms way all the time.  And we kill all the time for justifiable reasons.  But what message is having this character who is supposed to be symbol of insurmountable goodness and the high road, sending to viewers and kids?  It’s certainly not, as Jar El says in the movie, “giving them an ideal to strive towards.”  There is no idealism to this Superman.  He’s not better than us.  He is us, only he can’t die as easy.  We’ve made the “better than”… ordinary and mediocre.  Because what makes Superman super isn’t that he has a cape, flies and has super powers… It’s him, his morals.  That he always does the right thing.  And you don’t have to sacrifice that to make him more relatable or modern.

This brings me to being upset at writers…  One of the biggest arguments against my point has been that Superman had to do that.  He had to kill Zod or more people would have died.  Yeah…  True.  If this were reality.  But it’s not.  No part of it is true and no matter how much you want it to be as viewers it isn’t.  It is an orchestrated message by the writer to take you into their world and convey their message.  They didn’t have to take the movie that direction.  And that’s my real rub with this. The message the writers  (Whom I respect immensely.  This argument isn’t about quality of craft.  All of them have made movies I love and I hold them as quality writers.) are conveying to us as viewers tears down the ideal of that character.  They intentionally wanted to change how we viewed him and remove that “better than” veneer from the character and my question is why?  Why send us this message that Superman “might be a loose cannon” (as Goyer one of the writers hinted at)?  I see this movie and I want to know what ideal humanity is supposed to strive towards.  What greater message am I supposed to take from it that every person should internalize?  I’m not sure.  It’s a morally ambiguous movie and one of the genre’s greatest characters is now just a brooding confused young man who does the same things we do and has less accountability.  That’s not a character I can aspire to.

The writers could have had that movie ended in any number of ways and maintained its modern flavor and tonality.  Case in point: The Dark Knight trilogy.  Chris Nolan has actually created a Batman that is a more morally centered and idealistic than Clark Kent…  That doesn’t make sense.  Is Batman broken?  Yes.  But does he break his one rule?  No.  Because he’s better than that.  It’s great example of how you can modernize a character without sacrificing the things that make them them.  Bruce Wayne isn’t different than the comics in the Dark Knight movies, but he lives in modern world with bigger issues.  His morality and sense of right and wrong though, propel him above the chaos.  He gave his city hope by being what they weren’t and wanted to inspire them to rise above themselves.  Superman did not.


Maybe that’s the direction the writer’s will take is a path of redemption and all of that stuff throughout the series, but instead it’s a very cynical ending in my mind.  Ending with the US government spying on him.

Which brings me to my last point…  Cynicism.  Artists get a great opportunity to convey powerful things and messages to our readers and watchers.  There’s a reason books and comics and movies and games are so popular.  Because we respond to stories.   We seem to have lost, though, the idea that you can show how awful the world is while telling them it doesn’t have to be this way.  We can do more and be more and everything doesn’t have to be so bleak.  Our world is harsh right now.  People don’t trust much anymore.  We don’t trust our leaders, our governments, our religions…   Writers and artists are just expressing that lose of faith, but what are they giving us to hope in?  What are you challenging?

Look, I don’t need your movie to know how bad things are.  Or how bad they can get.  I want your movie because I want to know that no matter how bad things are there is a  reason to believe it doesn’t have to be that way.  One of the most panned movies of this summer is After Earth.  I really enjoyed this movie, because it was hopeful.  Sure it was a bleak version of the future in some respects, but the characters and their story was one of redemption.  What saddens me is audiences seem to have forgotten how to believe.  And we keep telling them they don’t have to.  Or that they shouldn’t.

It makes me sad and I guess cynical at my own peers and I’m asking each of us… What are we doing?  What are we saying?  And why are we dragging the world down still in our art?

You know in the 70’s there was a rash of really bleak movies.  Most sci-fi was very dark and hopeless.  After the Vietnam war was over there was a lot of darkness in our culture and media.  It was a  dark time for people mentally.  Like today they didn’t trust much.   But then something happened…  Star Wars came along.  It infused our culture with optimism and hope and adventure.  It gave us one of the most memorable decades of cinema.  Arguably most of our greatest filmmakers would cite that as a pinnacle film for them.  I’m not being so naive to say that it was Star Wars that changed our culture mentally, but people were longing for it.

Man of Steel could have been that film.  He is that character.  That beacon of hope and optimism that we could have rallied behind.  You could have made that movie basically the same way across the board.  But that moment when he snaps Zod’s neck… He stopped being Superman.  He stopped being above us.

And millions and millions of people went to see it.  And love it. And have no problem with that.

And  that’s my problem.

Now… I’ve gotten it off my chest.

In The Trenches, Waiting It Out And Writing Continues – Adamsville Production Blog

Hello one and all…  Time for another Adamsville update in which… I don’t have much new to report!  Honestly you guys this is the dead zone.  I actually have a bit of  withdrawal going on.  I got so used to my life being consumed by producing this book that having to sort of wait this all out is just so odd to me now.  It was nice to have a few months off to rest a bit more, but I have stayed pretty busy between commissions and working on the project I am currently Kickstarting:  THE DRAGON BOOK AND OTHER STORIES.

At the moment I am currenly waiting to see what one publisher wants to do with the book and looking to see if there are any other avenues for me outside of self-publishing.  I want to talk much more about everything, but I feel like that’s a more appropriate conversation once it’s all played itself out.  The hard part is that it really could take months more for me to hear something back, or I could get an e-mail this afternoon.  I have no idea. I’ve been told though that a fast response is generally a negative one, so maybe I should be thankful at this point?! This sort of suspense can kill a man! Lol.

I decided what’s best is to throw myself full on into writing the second book and just keep plowing along.  No matter what I want to finish this series and not fall too far behind my internal goals of finishing each volume within a year and half of each other. 

Writing has gone slowly on book 2.  When I made the decision to make this series a trilogy (orginally I thought it could go on much longer) it meant speeding up certain parts of the storyline and character develoment.  Trying to make that happen without it feeling forced was hard, but I think I pushed through that wall finally and things are moving along well.  The book centers itself around that most time endured tradition of the school dance and getting all of that right has been difficult. I have also been watching a lot of dance movies like this one:

 

and this one:

No judgies on the movies.  I gotta do what I gotta do to get my research on.  Mostly these were the ones on Netflix so I watched them.  But what it reminded me of is just how insanely crazy the whole dance experience is for kids.  So much is wrapped up in them.  I’m really looking forward to having fun with that dynamic.

As many of you know I am pretty big process junkie.  I find a lot of efficiency comes from having a solid process in place.  As I have been writing this book my current process is actually a pretty easy one.  I set a timer and write for 30 minutes, bascially every day.  I can get a lot done in that amount of time and with all of the other things I am juggling right now that is about all I can take on.  My hope is one way or another to finish the script, be penciling pages and making the next book by July, whether I know what is happening with a publisher or not.  We’ll see what happens there.  I’m so anxious to be back to making this book though.

Tools For Building A Story

Whenever I finish up working on  a project I like to spend a little time just focusing on the learning process of the medium in storytelling.  In comics that take a lot of forms.  You could spend a lot of time learning to just draw better and you would be moving in the right direction.  I decided that I needed to learn how to write better.  Most importantly, I need to learn to understand story better.

My first writing class really was when I was in college.  I started meeting up with a small screenwriting group and this was where I first began to understand how you actually formulate a story.  It stayed fairly high level, focusing on the basics of a three act structure.  Admittedly that’s where my learning stayed.  The funny thing is I could tell you what I loved about a story, but I couldn’t tell you how you make those things come together.

My buddy Will Terrell recommended the book SAVE THE CAT to me recently when I was discussing the challenges of pitching a book.  I picked the book up on that premise alone figuring $10 was a small price to pay for the help it would provide.  It has opened up a whole SLEW of things for me learning about stories.

I finally am start to see WHY a story works, not just know that it does.  The good news is I have sort of intuitively done most of those things right in my stories (plenty of them wrong too).

I have ended up pulling tools together from two separate resources to put together a worksheet for building stories and I wanted to share it with you all as well.

You can download it here: Worksheet For Story Building (right click and save)

It essentially combines the story structure and pitching points that Blake Snyder presented in SAVE THE CAT and the character and theme structure as presented under the STORYMIND theory as introduced to me by my friend Stephen McCranie.

As a writer I tend to care about theme and message A LOT!  Without too much of a soap box being stood on, I am greatly bothered by much of the message media is giving viewers today.  It’s bleak, fatalist and rather than celebrating the good things of life, it wallows in the bad.  So a story with a message matters to me and often that is what drives me to tell it in the first place.  I want to talk about something that is important.

The Storymind theory (or Dramatica theory) present a very effective and useful way of doing this.   It is a theory that basically presents a story as an argument in the mind to arrive at a conclusion as it relates to your theme.  One of it’s most useful tools has been assigning characters a role in relation to that argument.

 

There is a lot to cover here, but if you are interested in it you should take some time and delve into their extensive video series.

As I have been writing the script for Kevin and the Light of Destiny, I have been working hard to bring what I have learned from both tools and make a better, more effective story.  It’s getting close to being readable and I look forward to the feedback from my critique group.

As for the worksheet I have made, I would encourage you to try and work through the whole thing (minus the one pager synopsis portion, that’s more of a pitching thing) before you jump into writing.  Getting a road map to your destination in a simple format is much more efficient and helpful than while writing it.  Because I promise, the rewrites present enough problems (most of them fueled by not figuring this stuff out first.)

On the ADAMSVILLE front I am quite close to knowing what the fate of that book will be.  In the next month or so I should be able to share more, but plans for book 2 have been put on hold until I can get those things figured out and start writing the script.

I hope this tool is helpful!

The Sicky Times

image

This past week I went about setting an awesome new schedule that would allow me to get my work load done and then have my weekends off. Annnnndddd then I got sick! Lol. Life. What do you do?

I did heed the nice advice of my friends and family and just rested a whole bunch. I wasn’t happy to take a mid week break from the book, but quite honestly there was no other option. I felt terrible. But I’m pretty much back up and running. Just some minor congestion at the moment. I appreciate people’s concerns and nice urgings to take it easy.

I am back on track though and we’re plowing through pages again. I am aiming for an end of August end date and I really think I can actually get there.  And then I can’t wait to enter a whole new process of adjusting pages, preparing pitches and getting early feedback on the book from friends.

I am now going between coloring and inking pages, just keeping things changing. But so much of making a book really is just keeping yourself motivated and moving along by getting excited about something else. Some people can just stay focused on one aspect of a books creation at a time. That doesn’t work for me. Except for writing.

Well, glad to be back. Again not much to show because I want to keep the bag of magic hidden. I am getting more and more excited about the book it is becoming though.

Managing The Crunch

Download: Comics Production Spreadsheet

It. Is. Crunch TIME! I am in the final two months of work left on book 1 and things are getting intense. I am basically doubling up all effort to be finished by the end of August. And that is a daunting thing.

For months now I have been doing a series of math problems based around the steps needed to finish my book and keep things manageable. The problems is everything would shift, or I would miss a day and then everything was thrown off and I couldn’t keep it all set in my head.

Then in the recent Making Comics interview with Kazu Kibuishi he mentioned how they had effectively managed this all themselves through using a spreadsheet and it would hold them accountable. I was really interested in this since I was already trying to do it and failing. Turns out a lot of my comics friends had the same reaction and we all started talking about it. After gleening from Kazu the basic idea of it, I set out to make my own version. I had my own set of goals in mind and thought how can I make this useful for others as well. So I mocked up a version of what I was looking to make and sent it to my buddy Chris Wharton and he worked his magic and made it a very nice and user friendly tool for everyone. ANDDDD we wanted to share it with you all!

Already it has been a huge benefit in just a few days. It helped me realize that I actually can have weekends off and enjoy some down time. While the workload is still really heavy it makes the crunch feel more like a video game and really helps you see the long term effects of today’s decision on your reaching your goal.

I hope it helps you all as much as it has for me…

Well, back to plugging away.

On Resting And A New Phase Of Production

RESTING

Recently I took a few days off from work to rest and relax.  My body had sort of been telling that I was pushing myself too far.  A lot of it wasn’t comics related, but just a combination of personal things that needed my attention and had taken a toll on me.  It was something I thought would be worth mentioning.

In our pursuit to work hard, you also need to realize that your health is ultimate.  That’s not to say there aren’t many ways where you have to make a sacrifice, lose sleep or play less video games (I will not sacrifice my personal time after work to make this book over my family.  My daughters and wife come first and often I work long after my wife goes to bed).  But sometimes you have to listen to that voice in your head that’s saying, you’re about to crash if you dont slow down.  And that’s where I was headed.

So I took the weekend and rested, watched movies, read books, took naps and went to bed early.  I also finished up a fun little story with my daughter, that you can read here:  http://www.michaeleregina.com/blog/?p=994

But be wise in your activity, work hard, but remember, rest is also very important.  It’s OK to take a day for yourself here and there.

BOOK 2, HELP FROM OTHERS AND ANOTHER PROJECT

Another big thing that has happened is that now that I’m done penciling the book, it’s opened up my day time hours considerably.  I actually penciled this entire book during my day hours up at work on breaks and lunches and all.   Now that that is done I’ve been in the beginning stages of writing book 2.  The first step for me is to open up a document in my writing program of choice (celtx.com).  In this document I just regurgitate everything on to the page that I think I want to be in book 2.  It’s very broad strokes at this level.  I really have no idea how it will all come back together, but I’m beginning to see movements.  Then from there it will be time to write a one page synopsis so that I can actually put a structure around the madness.  That’s still a bit off.

I am also working on a children’s book with my wife that will be my immediate focus once Adamsville bk 1 is over before beginning production on bk 2. It’s actually really working well.  Because I figure all in all, this will take me about 6 months to bring everything to a head on bk 2 from a script perspective and finishing bk 1 as well as the children’s book.  It’s all shaking out really well time wise.  Not to mention pitching the series to publishers once book 1 is done.

Lastly, thank you all so much to everyone who has offered their help on flatting pages of Adamsville.  The response has been great and we powered right through the scene I just finished.  Lots of work left so we’ll see how quickly we can bring this book to a close.  Hold on tight! I’m having blast working with my friends on the book together now and making new friends in the process!

Here’s a quick panel from an earlier scene for your enjoyment.