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Thread: Week 60- Scheduling

  1. StevenForbes Guest

    Week 60- Scheduling

    Huh? Tuesday already? Werenít we here just a few days ago? A week already? No, Iím not complaining. It just seems like things are going faster. But itís Tuesday, and youíre here, Iím here, so letís get to some Bolts & Nuts!

    This week, I thought weíd talk about something a little more topical. (HUH?! You just started the fantasy talk! I was looking forward to characters!) I know, and weíre going to get there. Promise. This is an aside. I said those would happen more than a year ago.

    Anyway, this week, weíre going to talk about being lucky enough to be almost overburdened with work, and the things you can do to keep that under control.

    Time to talk about me. Sorry, but itís the best way I can make my point.

    Currently, I have this column, which runs weekly, as well as The Proving Grounds, which is also weekly. Iím also privately editing three of the alumni of The Proving Grounds, two of which are for project management. I have a huge project called Lionman that Iím editing, as well as a webcomic [not Group] that Iím writing. Believe me, all of that keeps me hopping. But wait, thereís more! There are also my own projects that Iím writing and having drawn and possibly lettering myself, two of which Iím just waiting for the artist to get pages back to me. Those could start coming in any day. And then waiting in the wings are another couple of editing jobs, writing a couple of graphic novels, finding an artist for Group, finding an artist for Bullet Time, and making travel arrangements in conjunction with Lionman, which is going to invade my life. Then, thereís Hollow, a book Iíve edited thatís going to come out through Archaia; and two of my writing friends have books theyíd like for me to edit: one has found a home with a mid-level publisher that Iím sure youíve all heard of, and the other has a project he just sent off and is waiting to hear back from. The mid-level publisher doesnít need my services, but the other one will, if it gets green-lit.

    All of that is on top of holding down a regular job, family time, some reading for pleasure, some entertainment for pleasure, and sleep.Busy doesnít even really begin to describe me.

    And yet, the work is needed. No, worse. The amount of work I have is a necessary thing in order to stay relevant in comic books as a writer/editor. So, what it really amounts to is having discipline to do the work, and working out a schedule so that the work can actually get done.

    So, how do you schedule? How do I make it work? How can YOU make it work?

    First, thereís the discipline Iíve spoken about. Back in the early days of this column, I told you that writers write, and that you should be writing every day. Learning, honing your craft, getting down to the nitty gritty of things so that you can be prepared for this. The advice of writing every day is crucial, because it gets you into the habit of sitting down, ordering your thoughts, and delving into your creative worlds in order to produce your scripts. Thereís nothing else that can be done about it. You have to build up your stamina, both mentally and physically, in order to sit down and do the work. Taking breaks is fine, but you still need to sit there and do it.

    This will also get you thinking creatively. Your brain will be making connections, and the stronger the connections, the more ideas youíll be able to generate. [And just write those ideas down and set them aside for now. I know theyíre nice and shiny and pretty captivating while you think of them, but you have a job to do right now, and that job isnít getting down while you go off and start writing another story. However, I just want you to know one of the consequences of doing the discipline. Youíll be fine.]

    Once youíre able to sit down and start cranking out scripts and such, you have to come up with a schedule. This can be the hardest, most frustrating aspect of writing. You have to do something that works for you and your lifestyle, while at the same time not interrupting your lifestyle too much. However, creating also calls for sacrifice, so keep that in mind, too.

    For myself, I try to get ALL of my writing done while at work. I try to get a good amount of my editing done there, and whatever lettering I need to do. The more I can get done at work, the less I have to do at home, and the disruptions there are less.

    While at home, I do all of my internet stuff, which is basically writing and responding to e-mails, and staying up on the current events in comics. I also make my phone calls, and keep everybody on their taskóor see why I havenít heard from them in a while. It gets even MORE hectic when people start to fall down on the job.

    But, I said all of the work was necessary, right? I canít possibly do it all, not at once. And neither will you be able to. The key is to stagger the work. Look for work, ask for due dates, and then stagger it. (Duh!) I know, I know. But itís been a while, and I didnít want you to get out of practice. Anyway, you want to avoid having all of the work due at the same time. You donít want to have to pull too many all-nighters in order to meet a deadline if you can help it. Believe me, once you get behind, itís easy to stay behind.

    Staggering the paying work also means that youíve got a more or less steady stream of income. As writers, I know this may seem like a new concept, because weíre used to paying instead of being paid, but being paid is the goal, isnít it? Thatís what weíve been working towards all this time. Youíre going to have to get used to it, just like youíre going to have to get used to looking for paying work.

    For my own schedule, I carefully considered what I wanted to do, and how I wanted things to be presented. For this column, I knew that I wanted it to be before new comics day, and for TPG, I didnít want it to be too close to this column, but also be during the work week. When I had little to no paying work, I would fit them easily around the columns. Now that things are ramping up for me, Iím having to fit the columns around the work. Itís nice, but frustrating. Iím working a LOT. I go to work and am doing two jobs, and then I come home to more of it.

    This is the life youíre trying to live. Youíre trying to get to a place where you can sit around in your underwear [or less], do the work, make some phone calls, and then go back to bed. Thatís the goal. Making sure things are due on different dates and keeping up with your schedule is how you get there.

    (Seems pretty simple and straightforward, Steven. Whatís the catch?)

    Besides getting there and staying there, the catch is having to actually do the work. (Huh?) Let me tell you something. A harsh reality that few of you want to take on and realize.

    Youíre all lazy. You all want to do the bare minimum of what you have to do in order to get by. Youíre lazy, youíre unwilling to put in the hard work, and you expect someone to come down from on high to give you a gigóa gig you did nothing to earn. Your family and friends tell you youíre talented, they tell you that youíre going to go far, and they tell you that you will have the world at your feet. Theyíve never seen anything like the ideas and such you have, and when you show them extremely mediocre artwork from Pen-Man that you had commissioned, they tell you they want the first copy off the press. You drink the lemonade, swallow everything they tell you hook, line, and sinker, and then when it doesnít happen because youíve been generally sitting on your duff, you think itís because the editor that you submitted to is stupid. That they donít ďget you.Ē

    Youíre damned lazy, and scared of the hard work and sacrifice needed to actually make it in this industry.

    (Kinda harsh, donít you think? I mean, weíre not YOU, are we? Weíve got lives, weíve got responsibilities.) No, itís not harsh, and what youíve got are excuses. Go back and take a look at my workload. Go take a look at this column. Take a look at the Proving Grounds. Neither column has been late once. Not once. Even when I was out of town, or thought that I wasnít going to be able to post up a column because I was moving, I made arrangements for things to be done. Thatís sacrifice, thatís scheduling, thatís looking ahead to make sure my self-imposed deadlines are met.

    Thatís what you have to learn. Being lazy isnít going to get you there. Whenís the last time you sat down and wrote a script, or the outline of one? Plotted it out, had some snippets of dialogue, and then went about doing the work to making it coherent?

    Digital Webbing recently ran not necessarily a contest, but someone had the idea to come up with an anthology under the DW imprint, and a lot of people jumped on. In the writerís section, lots of people were writing pitches that were being accepted or rejected. How many of you tried to get in on that? Even for practice?

    When was the last time you pushed yourself when creating?

    Hereís an exercise I want you to try. (Sounds like homework!) [Isnít it ALL homework?]

    I want you to write a version of a B&N column. Any topic you choose will be fine, but the trick is to be at a minimum of two thousand words. Itís harder than you think. Then I want you to write two six page scripts that have a beginning, middle, and end, complete with pitch and outline. Then I want you to think up a new pitch for a graphic novel that you want to write, and you need to sell it in two pages. Then, I want you to think up a company-wide crossover for Marble Comics. [Yes, you read that right.] Iím talking main characters, motivations, complications, and how it rolls the Marble Universe into a different place.

    As for the schedule B&N is due on Tuesday, the scripts are due on Wednesday, the pitch on Thursday, and the crossover stuff on Friday.

    This is where discipline and scheduling the work comes into play, because thatís a lot of work. You do that exercise to the best of your abilities, and youíll then get an inkling of what it will be like to be a working writer.

    However, hopefully, there will come a time when youíll just be unable to take on more new work. Youíll have an ongoing series or two to write, a few miniís, and hopefully, some of that is creator owned. Youíll be looking to get your creator owned stuff into different media, and donít forget the convention circuit. The meet and greet is important. Almost as important as the web presence you have to cultivate and maintain. You have to juggle all of that in order to keep your visibility up, and in keeping up your visibility, youíre keeping yourself in work.

    So, when you know the miniís going to end, or that you can bang out the scripts to them within a month, and you have four of them scheduled, start looking for more work when youíre halfway done. Or, if youíre able to get a popular ongoing started, make sure those storylines get collected in order to bring you another revenue stream, which would then possibly fuel another series.

    But youíre not going to get anywhere without the discipline and the schedule. And once you get the schedule, STICK WITH IT. If you know that you do the most writing on Wednesday afternoons, then thatís when you do your writing. Answer the e-mails in the morning. Reward yourself with internet porn only AFTER youíve accomplished your goals for the day. (Steven!) [Hey, donít look at me. Truth hurts. Deal with it.] Make your phone calls in spurts. Clump them up in order to make the most of your writing time.

    If you do all of this, making and sticking to a schedule, letting it evolve as your jobs evolve and grow, then you should be in a good place, and able to stay on top of things. I suggest getting a day planner or calendar or something to keep you on task, so that things donít get forgotten. It becomes easy to forget when you start piling the things on your plate both high and deep.

    And thatís it from me for now. Next week, weíre back into the genre stuff. You already have your homework.

    See you in a week.

  2. JohnLees Guest

    Great column, Steve. And a good kick in the ass for me.

    I try to take onboard the advice from these columns each week, and I feel there are a lot of things I've learned. But the big thing I just can't get on top of - my repeated attempts at it have fallen apart before long - is keeping a schedule, consistently writing stuff every day. This issue with motivation, or lack thereof, is my critical weakness as a writer.

    I think part of the problem is I overthink things. It's very hard for me to open up a Word document and just start writing out the ideas that pop into my head. An idea pops up, and I have to sit and think about it, I wonder where I could go with the idea, I immediately try and fill it out into something substantial. And if the idea doesn't hold up to that, I lose confidence in it and it tends to fall apart before I so much as type a word. And even with the ideas that come to something, I often find writing comes slowly, as I spend ages agonising over the right word placement, character names, things like that. In a pitch I wrote for Steve, I literally spent a whole day, from 10am to after midnight, trying to come up with a catchy opening line, having written everything else pretty quickly earlier that morning. And Steve STILL hated the crappy thing I eventually slapped on top of it!

    The latest script I submitted to The Proving Grounds (Steve will be editing it at the end of October) was a deliberate exercise on my part to try and overcome this overthinking habit. I got a weird, random idea for a story one night while walking the dog, and the more I thought about it, the more those doubts of "Nah, this is silly, I can't build a story from this" came creeping into my mind. But as soon as I got home, I started writing. No notes page planning out plot and characters and structure like I usually do with stories - I didn't want the idea to stagnate. I immediately started writing the script, with some vague beats in mind but mostly making it up as I went along. And over a few days of frenzied writing, I hammered the whole 22-page script out. The end product was nothing spectacular, but I am nevertheless proud of it because it is an example of me just thinking of something and writing it, rather than dwelling on it and procrastinating.

    I don't want to be lazy and unmotivated. As a writer, I know that's what I am all too often. To try and remedy that, I'm going to at least make an attempt at Steve's homework challenge next week, counting Monday's Comic Book Club as the Tuesday "B&N column". Will I be successful? Probably not, odds are I'll fail spectacularly and not make it past the 6-page scripts stage. But I'll keep you all informed on how I do!

    Thanks for another great Bolts & Nuts, Steve.

  3. tiggerpete Guest

    good lord man, is there a way to get college credit for this? I am pretty sure I want to write something someday, but not for a living, I don't think I could take it. One day I would love to write a book, or if I could get my roomate to illustrate it (he was an art major, so I figure he should know what he is doing) I could write a comic, but I have never considered being a fulltime paid writer/editor. I would participate in your experiment, but I have classes and work for them and a job, and there isn't enough time left over to give this project any justice. Just in case anyone was curious, if I were to write a book, it would center on how I see the world and what goes through my head at any given point (I know sounds boring, but what you don't realize is is that I am crazy, and have a weid understanding of the world) I figure that other people similar to me would get a kick out of it, and I figure it probably wouldn't be a best-seller or even get published by a major publisher, but hey, its something I want to try once in my lifetime, and I am thinking it could easily morph into a memoir somewhere down the line. More than likely though, I will just end up writing papers for journals to stay relevant and be a professor at a college somewhere (at least ten years away at the rate I am going)

  4. jamesfairlie Guest

    Thank you Steven for that fantastic advice that as usual goes far beyond the realm of writing for comics.

    As perhaps the least organized person in all existence there is no way that I'm going to claim that this is good advice, but the thing that really works for me is having a dedicated place to work. I find that just saying "I will do creative work from 10 until 5 on Thursday" just isn't good enough. I've worked both as a freelance graphic designer and musician from home (never a writer, but hopefully its close enough to still apply), and always ended up working through the night before deadlines. However if I have a dedicated place to work I find it a whole lot easer to get started working. Its not that there are less distractions - the place I work from at the moment has just as much internet as I do at home, but when I'm there I feel like I'm at work, and I find that actually doing the work is many many times easer.

    Everybody's different of course, but I hope that that was of some use.

  5. MartinBrandt Guest

    Preach that on high!

    Man, now I don't feel bad for working the double duty at work. I used to find I get the most productive writing done there. Now I have nice head phones and a understanding wife. LOL

  6. CalvinCamp Guest

    I can already sit around in my underwear, do my work, make some phone calls, and go back to bed (I primarily work as a freelance draftsman). I don't need writing for that. The writing is about something different. It's something to keep me sane in between the things I have to do to make a living. If I tried to write for a living, what would I have to keep me sane? I'd kind of like to make some money with my writing someday, sure, but my goal for writing is definitely not to just get paid and treated like someone's employee.

    Could I accomplish that homework assignment? Maybe. I think I could pull off that volume of work, in that time frame (at least on a week where the day job wasn't too pressing - Unfortunately I don't have the kind of job where I can just show up and they'll let me work on writing. Wouldn't mind finding one like that, though ). But I just don't want to do those things, on demand. I wouldn't enjoy it.

    Why should I give a hoot about Marble Comics? Why would I want to plot out a company-wide crossover when I don't much like company-wide crossovers? Why would I want to work on two six-page scripts when I could be writing twelve pages on the one I already have started? I could maybe see myself writing a column some day, if a compelling theme were to occur to me (and I felt I could do it justice). But the rest... bleh. I'd be willing to write for someone else, but it would have to be a project that inspires me (or it would have to pay better than I believe writing to spec ever could).

    Independent creator and part-time hobby writer. That's my goal. But I don't think it means I'm lazy. It just means my goal is different. If I was just lazy, I'd be watching tv or reading a book during the time I spend practicing and learning to write.

    Cool column, though. It provides some confirmation of things I already felt were true. And it should be a wake-up call for those who do want to make a living from writing. But, for myself, I'm more looking forward to next week, and seeing if you can give me any new insights into writing fantasy.

  7. Sliverbane Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by madelf View Post
    But, for myself, I'm more looking forward to next week, and seeing if you can give me any new insights into writing fantasy.

  8. AdamH Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by jamesfairlie View Post
    As perhaps the least organized person in all existence...
    We might be fighting for that title, we'll have to compare apartments and office spaces...the horror...the horror.

  9. tiggerpete Guest

    hey, you haven't seen my room or my car, everything is just one big pile, falling off of other piles collecting on the floor.

  10. JohnLees Guest

    Right, Steve, I'll count the latest Comic Book Club as the column for today's deadline, even if it was posted yesterday. It can be found here (CHEAP PLUG!):

    I've thought up my two 6 page script ideas, and planned out one of them. Sorry to say that the one I've planned out seems like it might end up as 8 pages, I hope you don't consider that cheating! Tomorrow, I'll come back to this thread and post either my scripts or a grovelling apology explaining why I couldn't get it done.

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