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Thread: Week 44: Putting the Cart Before the Horse

  1. JohnLees Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by AdamH View Post
    It's an interesting point you bring up John.

    I'm either lucky in that respect, horribly short-sighted, or I haven't come up with a "big idea" yet.

    I want to write a great story, my magnum opus, but I have no idea what it's going to be yet. At this point I come up with ideas, I develop stories, but I don't know which one could be "the big one". My way of thinking is not to put too much "pressure" on one idea and work just as hard as you can on every idea.

    I feel I can do this because I have a filtering process for my story ideas. I'll let small story ideas "simmer" in my head for a while. Over time I'll come back and mentally add to them. When I feel like the idea gets big enough (story idea, a few character ideas, one or two plot arcs), I'll actually write it down.

    I personally think if you have a "big idea", like this idea will be "the one", then it's big enough to put down on paper, even if it's just in the form of a rough plot outline. Maybe you work on it and develop it feverishly after you get it out on paper, maybe you get it out on paper, then put it away for a while. In either case, this idea was good enough to get as far as the "putting it down on paper" stage of the creation process.

    - Adam
    Yeah, I agree with what you're saying. You worded it a lot better than I did. I don't think I've found my opus yet either. And if any of us had, odds are we wouldn't be on here looking for guidance.

    What I was trying to get at, is that every story you write - be it an ongoing Pen Man epic or a 5 page Future Shock - should be your "Big Story", while you're working on it. I think having some other "proper" story cooking in your head while you write something else is a surefire recipe for hurting that story you're writing. If you don't think what you're writing is important, who else is going to?

    To use an awkward movie analogy, would Blood Simple have been as great a film if the Coens had simply saw it as a means to get Oscar nominations Fargo a decade down the line? Then again, the Wachowskis simply made Bound so they could get The Matrix greenlighted, and that turned out okay, so I don't know.

  2. rhannah Guest

    I agree with AdamH. Basically, I'd suggest that if your current passion is for a 'big idea' then develop it into some sort of first draft. The process in itself will teach you things. But, don't plan to go all the way with this big idea immediately. Just work on it if that is where your current motivation lies. There's no point working on something you don't care about. If you can't find an angle that makes a 'smaller idea' more interesting to you, then go with whatever gives you the drive to write for the time being. Just don't put all your eggs in your best basket. Put the basket on the shelf for a little after you've got a draft done, and work on some other projects.

    I have a TWO big ideas. Neither of them am I pursuing right now. Both are most likely going to happen next year at the earliest. I've developed both a fair bit, but I know they need a lot more work too. I think it would be getting ahead of myself to go straight for those BIG IDEAS first. Instead I decided to work on a stand alone story, in the super hero genre, in order to show I can write, I can add a fresh outlook on a caped character, and that I'm in the game when it comes to being a writer who has actually completed something... 22 full pages of self contained story. My medium sized goal with the stand alone project is for it to be a ticket to helping me in networking with the guys who are already in the biz, and making me an option for a back up story, or Marvel Adventures. Slim chance sure, but then I see my stand alone as a part of my networking tools to help promote who I am, and what I've done... as opposed to anything I am planning to pitch or turn into a series. I wouldn't say no to an offer, of course, but I look at it similar to the 'ladder' analogy that drgerb made above. Each rung... each step... needs to be small and upwards. Making a comic that you hope will get picked up right off the bat seems like trying to take a running leap at the ladder and hoping to skip the first few rungs. Why on Earth would anyone think they would be that lucky? Come on, work hard by taking the right steps and reap the rewards of that hard work.

    This business is primarily about who you know. So you need to work on the networking as hard as you work on the writing.
    Last edited by rhannah; Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 05:20 PM.

  3. drgerb Guest

    From my view, I've got a handful of projects, one of which will hopefuly become a 16 issue miniseries (300+ pages). Why jump into that when all I've written so far has been about 16 pages? That's my point. Is that procrastination or is that logic?

    I'll instead concentrate now, on a smaller bit that has a bigger chance of being done sooner. It's not necessarily a "stepping stone" to reach the bigger project, as I care deeply for both of them. I'm a perfectionist. I guess where I am... Bleh, here's my point, and it touches on something John mentioned.

    Every creator in the world should believe in what they create. If you build houses but wouldn't live in one you built because it has bad structure, then take a step back and let somebody who's passionately about their job take yours. If you're a musician and don't enjoy your own style of music, what's the point? I think every writer should truly believe in whatever they are writing. If you don't, you're no better off than the potential fan who passes at buying your stuff.

    I guess my personal view of this whole thing would be a decent analogy too. Picture this, you're standing in a great big beautiful field, bright green grass everywhere, sun shining, a few white clouds in the sky. To make you motivated, screw it, you're standing there with the girl of your dreams, talking to her the first time of your life, and realizing she digs you too. Okay. She says, 'let's go for a walk while we talk.' You look around, all this bright beautiful grass blanketed over everything, and you realize there's all these little hills all around you in varying size, varying steepness, and off in the distance against the blue sky, there's a very high dark grey peak of a mountain. Do you go off running through this beautiful field, passing up the nice gentle hills, growing in size as you're passing them by, in favor of this giant mountain when you have no rock climbing gear? You're passing up all this beauty, all these hills of varying size, stories of varying quality (when each one is beautiful, covered by that soft grass), in favor of running at something you may never even be able to climb, aaaand boom you're hit and killed by a drunk driver.

    Nobody knows you had all these hills, all these mountains you passed up on because you wanted to climb the biggest one. Even if that drunk driver didn't hit you, maybe you finally reach the mountain, finally take one step up it's steep side, and you realize you're too tired. You're exhausted, you're thirsty, and you look up and see that beautiful girl of your dreams who's been by your side ever since the beginning of the journey. You don't feel like climbing that mountain anymore, you just feel like laying down next to her. So many hills have already past you by, so much time and you feel like starting a family. So you take that lame 40 hour a week overnight job, deal with the stress, the bull to support your family, knowing that in the back of your mind someday you'll be back on the edge of that mountain. But your wife announces she's pregnant again, you've got bills to pay, cars, your children to care for, and the mountain will just have to wait. Instead of climbing a mountain with your free time, you gotta take a second part time job you work during the days, on top of your 40 hour a week night job that drives you insane. You sleep 5 hours a day, barely even see your children, and your doctor tells you that "...You have issues."

    Now where are we?

    I don't think I've found my opus yet either. And if any of us had, odds are we wouldn't be on here looking for guidance.
    I think I've heard once that Alan Moore didn't think he was the best comic book writer in the business. I mean if you're a perfectionist, there's never a ceiling above your head. If there is, you're standing there up on the table with a pitch fork trying to get through it. Even if we've found our opus, I'd like to think we still strive knowledge, may still hang around these forums looking for advice, input, or helping others. There's knowledge everywhere. Once you've gotten to "the top," where do you go next? Do you go down the other side? Or start jumping, reaching for the sky, reaching up to see if there's anywhere else left to go? I'd like to think we'd all jump as high as we can, even if we're at the top of the biggest mountain in sight.. I mean, metaphorically speaking.

  4. tylerjames Guest

    I really enjoyed this article, simply because it resonated so much. Now, I'm a big fan of setting wildly ambitious goals for oneself. But the higher the goal, the more steps there are to achieve it, and Steven's article was a good reminder of that.

    Want to be a comic creator? Start creating comics. Like, today. Seriously, if you've been spinning your wheels on that epic, put it aside and do a 5 page short. Even 22 pages is probably too much for your first go around. If you're a writer who won't be drawing it yourself, finding (and paying) a reliable artist for 5 pages is a hell of a lot more manageable than a full issue. I'd suggest starting there.

    When I first got back into comics, it was with a pretty big idea for a mini-series that could potentially be an ongoing. I even scripted out a full 22 page issue. But I didn't start there. I started with a 5 page short, to test the waters, and see if this was something I wanted to commit the time and energy into pursuing. I was happy with how it came out and it gave me the confidence to attack that full-length story.

    Start small, but DEFINITELY START.

    Now that I have four complete self-published books under my belt (which means I have merchandise to sell at cons, and am at least in the game) I can now set my sights a little higher. My next goal is a longform comic/graphic novel. Something I can sell through Amazon, get into libraries, and something I can sell at cons for more than a few bucks (which is all you can get for floppies.) This is going to require a lot of work, and I'm just putting my head down and doing it. But, the successful completion of the previous books has given me the confidence that it can and will be done.

    It's all about taking it one step at a time.

  5. rhannah Guest

    Hi Tyler,

    Have you thought about repackaging your single issues into a trade format? That way you can sell 'floppies' as well as a trade with material you already have. Just do a brand new cover for the trade, and that is your only expense (assuming you're going through Ka-Blam / IndyPlanet that is). The new cover will help add value / collectability to it. Just an idea for an additional way to get the most out of your existing work.

  6. tylerjames Guest


    Yeah, a trade is eventually the plan. Right now I have 3 issues of Super Seed done, and the fourth and final issue to the mini-series partially completed, but still needing a lot of work. I can't wait for the day where I go back, edit and re-letter the entire book, touch up some pages, add some additional content, and just produce a really dynamite trade. (Someday.) It's on hiatus as I work on these other projects that fortune and passion have put ahead of SS #4 in terms of priority.

    But it is really something worth pointing out. If you are going the graphic novel route, I highly suggest doing a small print run of at least the first issue, if not just for the sake of holding a book you've created in your hands. That'll be great motivation, and you'll have something you can sell much sooner, for a (very) modest profit, at cons. But the only way to start recouping any real dollars is by selling trades and other higher margin merchandise.

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