Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I Don't Trust Shortcuts. By Which I Mean, I Don't Know How To Use Them.

So this book. The one i've been working on for seven years. The one i've struggled with, shared, hidden, despaired over, forgotten about, rediscovered, loved, hated. The one i've scribbled during breaks at Quizno's, edited in Spanish apartments, typed up in my dorm room while Buffy episodes played in the background. The one that i finally realized was actually a comic book.

This book is a pain in the ass.

At least two drafts of each story exist. There are as many as six drafts of some of them. I start by writing them longhand, then i edit them in a different color of pen, then i type the drafts, then i print the typed drafts and do some more red pen editing, then i type the changes. Currently, i'm printing out typed drafts and rewriting them by hand.

As if all of this isn't already enough work, the decision to write a comic book instead of a traditional novel should make things considerably easier. Comics scripts are not fully-formed novels. They are more like, well, scripts. Some of them are fuller than others, but none of them are complete novels. (The exception may be the rare cases where a prose novel is adapted into a comic book, but even then i suspect that a looser script is first written from the novel, and that the comic is written from the script.)

What this means is that i should be able to relax. I can stop writing so furiously and start outlining. I can write a few expository and descriptive paragraphs, then focus on dialogue. I can simply suggest what i want to happen. I can storyboard and sketch and then collaborate with an artist to fill in the blanks.

What am i actually doing? I am handwriting a fourth draft of a handwritten, then hand-edited, then typed, story. And i am writing it in full. I'm perhaps a little less worried than i might normally be about getting all of the wording exact, but i am not writing a comic script. I am writing a novel.

Neil Gaiman says that there is no right or wrong way to write a comics script, as long as you and the rest of your team understand what is happening. So the fact that i don't know how to write a comics script should in no way prevent me from writing a comics script. So let me be very clear, here: what i am writing is NOT a very full comics script. What i am writing is a novel.

I know exactly what i want the final script to look like. I know the formatting i want to use, the way i want the writing to happen, the contributions i want to make to the finished product. There is no doubt in my mind of what my final draft will look like, before handing it over to artists, inkers, colorists, and letterers. I just don't know how to proceed straight to that final product. I don't know how to write the thing i want without writing a whole bunch of other things that i don't want. I don't know how to dive in without warming up.

There is absolutely no reason at all in the world to do this the way that i'm doing it. It's not better. It's not easier. It's not the "right" way that you're "supposed" to do it. There is no reason for this except for my own neurosis.

I don't know how to do what i am doing. And rather than reading stacks of old comic scripts and learning by diving in, i read part of one comic script and a little bit of information about comics scripts in general, and now i am easing into the shallow end. I'll get there eventually, but this will be a very long journey. Because i don't take any other kind. Because i have a terrible sense of direction and get panicked very easily when driving, and like to stick to the route i know even when there is no good reason to do so. Because that's the way i know.

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