Just A Working/Process Post

My main fiction writing these days is slowly chipping away at the final script draft and layouts of WHERE YOU BELONG, the long(er)-form comic project I’ve been brewing and working on for the past year. Figured I’d throw something together for those interested in just how I’m doing it.

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The whole first script draft is done in these little faux-Moleskine notebooks I get for cheap, rough dialogue and direction as well as page layout. Pretty much everything I’ve ever worked with starts on paper in a notebook, I very rarely start straight at the computer. I remember hearing Ed Brubaker talk about how when he first started just writing comics instead of writing and drawing, he’d put rough layout “maps” of how he thought the page should look at the bottom of each one for the artist to reference. From what he said, the artist hated it, but for me, it definitely helps since I’m only doing it for myself.

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The next draft of each chapter (I’m actually working in chunks of two to four chapters at a time) get polished and redone onto the computer. I use Evernote to write and cloud-store a lot of stuff these days, I can access it from my phone too, which is good. This is where I expand on stuff, change things, etc. The computer draft is the final draft of the script in terms of dialogue and page layout (some pages take longer to crack than others).

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In terms of “thumbnails,” I take copy paper and turn it sideways, getting a 1/3 to 1/2-sized version of a page to figure out panel borders, dialogue bubbles, bleed, etc. I can crank through these real quick, I use a pencil and some Sharpies, and it helps to visualize how the story is going so far. Some of these thumbnails are detailed, some are super-rough, it depends on whether or not the page has a lot going on.

My comic art is simple panel-wise compared to other stuff, but this is still the most ambitious comic thing I’ve done so far.

From these, I’m going to work towards final pages, so this way when it comes time for the final pages, I’ll have a final script draft plus the page layout guides.

Blogging about it (blogging and posting something on a semi-regularly basis in general) helps to keep me on track with getting anything done as well as feeling some level of productivity as writer. I like to say I’m of the school that as long as you do something every day, that’s what counts, and you have to try to do it every day in some fashion. Then again, I also want to only work on my own terms and at my own pace, so what you get is bits and pieces done whenever I have the time and energy (but I’m not dedicating that time and energy to other things, because I’m only human).

Whatever, I had a point when I posted this. WHERE YOU BELONG will probably start appearing in some fashion in 2016, most likely online in a serialized fashion.

We Were Pioneers

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This is a (poorly-done) hi-res doc cam shot of a one-page comic I did recently, a sort of teaser/preview of a comic I’m slowly getting into pre-production. More a proof-of-concept, really. Some of the stuff in this page has already changed between doing this and doing some more notes/planning, I just wanted to post this to show it off.

It’s called PIONEER, and it’s a very cool idea that I’m really excited about. After I’m done writing WHERE YOU BELONG and are just drawing pages for that project, this is what I’ll be focusing on writing-wise for the most part.

Anyway, back to your regularly-scheduled shenanigans.

Monkeys Monkeys Everywhere

I’ve been obsessed with the modern work of Lynda Barry for a while now. The alt-cartoonist legend, who is professional rivals/best friends with LIFE IN HELL cartoonist (and “The Simpsons” creator) Matt Groening, has, for the past few years, been teaching writing/cartooning classes, posting her lesson plans and assignments online through her Tumblr blog The Near-Sighted Monkey

It’s been a really cool and weird thing to watch. There are drawing as well as writing exercises based on listening exercises, on photos, on prompts, and other stuff. Barry’s assignments and lessons, combinations of free-form art and practical tips on writing, journaling, and embracing irregular/imperfect art styles are a really cool thing you can follow along, read, see the work her students do (she posts some periodically), and even follow along if you want to.

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Honestly, I’m a little jealous as a teacher, because her work is pretty much what I’d love to do in a classroom environment. It combines the three things I do and love (writing, cartooning, and teaching) in a way that makes it fun (but actually work as a class with assignments and whatnot).

Anyway, check it out. She’s also got a book compiling her assignments/work/syllabus (called, appropriately enough, Syllabus), and other books/comics going back a while. Her body of work as not just a cartoonist but artist and writer overall is amazing.

Every goddamn day…

This blog post by Jamie Rubin is an interesting read, and since I’m trying to get back into the swing of blogging more regularly (as I come into the home stretch on one or two things and hit peak efficiency on others), I figured I’d chime in.

A previous blog post by me has a few ongoing things I’m working on listed, mostly one or two short comics and stories and one long comic, with maybe another long comic in the very loose pre-production stages of “sketchbook doodles”. Most of my long comic work these days is scripting, so I’m not drawing a lot, mostly writing to be honest.

Rubin talks about making time to just get SOMETHING down, even if you can only dedicate a few minutes, half-hour tops. The important things are to A) not always assume you need to do it for a set amount of time a day, and B) not get tied to the idea of needing an idea situation. These two points are probably the things I’ve worked the hardest to get into my own head, feeling I needed a special place or a quiet place, that I needed to do it at least an hour or so (a lot of this crosses over with the fact that I used to freelance write/blog for a living, so there was a clear line between “work writing” and “for fun writing”).

Most of that was bullshit, now that I think back on it. Holy cow, how much goddamn time did I waste?

Where do I write?

  • In my home (at the makeshift office I have set up on a kitchenette breakfast nook table I work on)
  • At work (in my classrooms on downtime or office hours)
  • At my girlfriend’s place (while she reads or plays video games)
  • On the subway/bus (I use both physical notebooks & cloud writing platforms like Evernote, so I can use my cellphone to work)

I used to have this awesome office, with a drawing board, a desk, my lamp, natural sunlight, art and books up everywhere. I did a lot of work there, I did a ton of comics in that office for over a year, proofed my first book there. But at the same time, I wrote my first book in a coffee shop. One of my first attempt at writing long form comics? The kitchen table (that comic is lost to the world, but I always look back at all the work I did on it fondly). All those places worked just as well as the other. It was the regularity that drove the work, the ability to tell myself “Alright, I have a week off/a day to myself/a few hours/a month/a bit of time, let’s write.”

So yeah, as stupid as it sound, wanna write? Want to be able to write regularly and actually finish?

Just write.

My Nights

I feel like I don’t post here enough, and since I’ve slowly been settling into some sort of routine recently, I figured I’d do a blog post about my workload.

TEACHING – I’m currently a full-time faculty member for a local parochial private school, teaching middle- and high-school English. I’m also teaching American literature once a week at night at a local college I’ve periodically been teaching at since I finished graduate school like ten years ago, and will soon be teaching and helping manage a “pre-college” course for some of my high schoolers through a nearby university.

The workload for teaching eats up A LOT of time. Even with my expanded office hours on campus at the high school and an assistant, I regularly stay late and bring work home to grade. At home I write and research exams to do, answer emails, (I have about 40-odd 12th graders this year who were all clamoring for letters of recommendation), and prep for the upcoming days and weeks (our administration suggests we be about two weeks ahead in terms of planning, so I throw another week or so in there), etc.

WRITING/CARTOONING – I’m in the middle of transcribing/editing/proofing the first draft of the script for my big comic projects, WHERE YOU BELONG, into a readable second draft I can start to work with for chapters 4 and 5. Once that’s done I’m moving on to thumbnails for those two chapters, which will mean I’ll be about 1/2 done writing the comic. I’m still deciding when to start penciling pages on that, because I’m doing the whole thing myself (art and lettering and post-production)

I also try to have at least one other short prose piece or short comic being worked on around my desk, I just wrapped up “Asleep” (available to read below!) so right now it’s something prose, tentatively titled HANDS/KNIVES as a code-name on my computer desktop. I haven’t had regular scanner access in a while so comics on any semblance of a regular schedule isn’t a priority. I’m working a lot in sketchbooks to just beef up my chops, doing one-pagers for myself, little sketchbook comics, pin-ups, etc.

MISC. – Emails w/an artist on a project we wanna do once he’s done a few things. Periodic website maintenance, I recently discovered that a lot of links on my site here (for stuff like press and links to work I’ve done for other people) have gone dead/disappeared, so it’s triggered a gradual spring cleaning of the old site/blog. Social media pimping of work once in a blue moon (it’s weirder to do when you’re not regularly putting work out, but I like to use it for more than just chatting with guys about death metal and tacos, believe it or not).

Also…I have a life. My girlfriend and I love to cook together, go to bookstores and concerts and the park, walk around, watch bad TV together, spend time together. I have friends I enjoy seeing and spending time with, bullshitting, so once in a while, I actively ignore people telling me I should be slaving away every waking moment on my personal projects. Writing and comics has gotten to a point nowadays where I work on it because I love it, and therefore can accept my own rate of work as me doing it on my own terms.

Other things are just as important, and they definitely influence how I work. Which isn’t to say I don’t work, because it’s 8pm right now and I’m listening to French trance-metal writing this after working on prose stuff and doing my laundry, instead of watching TV or running around at the corner bar knocking back bourbons.

I could actually go for a bourbon, come to think of it. I’ve got a lovely 1870 Kentucky bourbon, 92 proof, sitting on the shelf, with a wonderful sweet aftertaste and notes of warmth that I’m sort of in love with. Might have me some before bed.

Slow But Steady

Been slowly but steady working on writing stuff and improving my drawing. WHERE YOU BELONG is cranking along a bit at a time, a few short stories are sitting on the computer, half-done,

In the meantime, here’s an art dump of a bunch of stuff I’ve been posting on Instagram and Twitter!

Writing/Cartooning in 2014

A “year of” update post…

I taught a lot this year, and it was intensely hectic, eating up way too much of my time. Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching, but the increased workload and desire to keep pace better with my kids and grading meant that I took a lot more work home this year than last (online in the past few months have I managed to get into the swing of just increasing my office hours, getting an assistant, etc).

Writing- and comics-wise, I didn’t get ANYWHERE NEAR what I wanted done this year, but did manage a few things.

WHERE YOU BELONG, a comic I’ve been working on writing for about a year now, is very very VERY slowly being worked on after I dropped it for a few months. I’m about halfway through writing it, with about 1/4 thumbnailed out to be drawn. The release format isn’t totally clear yet, but I’m hoping to have something to show preview-wise in the next few months. I’m writing/drawing/lettering everything myself, so…it’s a work in progress.

I finally got to release THE DOOM ON THE MOORS, a comic short I’ve been working on, on and off for a few years, with Stephen Garza. We struggled and had to deal with some shit, but it got done. Thanks again to Ben Daniels for helping with the lettering. Hoping to work on another (horror) comic series with Stephen in 2015, which is in very preliminary stages right now.

I also managed to do a few little things, like put together a new book, an e-book collection of the serialized spy novella I was doing online, THE FOLLOWER. It’s free, with a very cool cover by artist Lauren Denitzio. Also, I did a short comic called THE DOOM PYRAMID and a new prose short called “Drop Off”.

Coming up next year, I’m hoping to get a ton more done on WHERE YOU BELONG, as well as return to my other serialized monthly prose series BLACK INK, the new aforementioned comic with Stephen, and maybe or or two other things. We’ll see.

Anyway, I just wrapped up on transcribing some script notes and fixing some continuity/story missteps, which is officially it comic/prose-wise from me in 2014. Merry Christmas and all that shit, guys.