HOW I'M GONNA GET THROUGH
Since I work retail Mondays and Tuesdays in the evening, I try to manage my writing time to have projects that fit within the shorter space lined up for those days. Like formatting "Can You Picture That?" was perfect for Monday, where I have to go in at 3:00. And if I am going to start going over The Everlasting, I would hold that until a Wednesday, so that several days are clear to work on it.
But like I noted last week, I am using the opportunity to get some work done on the graphic novel I am doing. I've been writing all day today (Tuesday, as I type, but since I am working at Starbucks for a change, I won't post this until later), and if I keep on the track I am on until I am done this week, I'll be able to give the artist twice as much material as I delivered already, bringing the current page count up to about 50 pages. It's an old editor's trick. Even though I know that other commitments will precede the drawing of the book, I can play on the artist's guilt by piling on the pages! (This is why a writer should never be heard to say, "But Mr. Editor, I don't need to write #12 yet, because #10 isn't even drawn." Mr. Editor knows better than you, you layabout!)
More importantly, though, working on a comic book script is providing me with a welcome break from prose. I don't want to say that comics are easier than prose, but this particular project is more easygoing. The Everlasting by its very nature requires more energy, because as a novelist, I am required to detail every moment, every aspect, every thought. With the graphic novel, the production is scaled back. You can't convey the same level of detail, and so it's all about choosing the essential moments, distilling your story down to the proper beats. In a novel, I can take as many pages as I want to explore something, but in a comic the same scene has to be showed on a limited number of pages with a limited number of panels. So, it's all about choices, about picking the right things to see, to convey the emotion or the event. (Add to this that I know the artist very well, and thus can leave a lot of the staging and other things to someone with a much more visual eye than my own without having to worry about the book jumping the tracks. Much of my stage direction is preceded by the word "maybe," as in, "Maybe we could show this tight, over the shoulder.")
My process right now is working scene by scene. I have a pretty good outline of what I think I want to do, and so I just go one step at a time. In some cases, since it's mainly people talking, I write the dialogue out straight with a minimum of description, and then I go back and break it down into the proper units (pages and panels again). Interestingly, though the approach is much more laid back, it's also more controlled. Like I said, I pretty much have every story point noted on my outline, whereas with The Everlasting and Cut My Hair both, I had major holes in my outline right up until the very end. I like to say that if the books were the alphabet, I would know there were 26 letters, but I would only know the first and last letter, the vowels, and maybe some of the consonants, and I would discover the rest as I went along. Not so much here.
That doesn't hold off experimentation, though, or even lock me in too securely. Today a scene naturally evolved to include a story point I wasn't planning on introducing yet. As of right now, I think it can lend an air of tension to the story that will be under the surface the whole time even if it doesn't pay off until later. The novelist in me says I can just take it out if I get farther in and discover I did go too far too early--but then, only if I stay ahead of the artist. The flipside to putting on the pressure to draw!
Current Soundtrack: Pet Shop Boys, PopArt: The Hits (Pop disc); Bryan Ferry, As Time Goes By
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich