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How do you keep up with a long-running story-based webcomic?
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Doogl McDoog
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Joined: 28 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2012 2:27 am    Post subject: How do you keep up with a long-running story-based webcomic? Reply with quote

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rylearron



Joined: 30 Jun 2011
Posts: 52

PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2012 3:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You're thinking about it kind of odd. It's not like books and long running comics are any different. I suppose with a book you personally hold on to it longer before you release it, while a comic you release in small tiny pieces, and once they're released they're out there and part of the comic's continuity.

My advise, treat your comic like a book. Script out large while chunks of it at once. Think of a story arc. Flesh it out, hold on to it for a while, make some changes here or there, then when you're satisfied with what you have start making the actual comic, all the while thinking of what you want to do once the current story arc is finished. Having a friend to bounce story ideas off of is always a plus. Getting someone else's input can be very helpful.
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vaslittlecrow



Joined: 01 Aug 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2012 4:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I totally second rylearron's advice. Creating detailed character profiles also help.
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Fenmere



Joined: 30 Jul 2012
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2012 4:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I delved into the media of story comics the long, slow way. I started a gag strip that had sort of a story behind it but could be produced when inspiration hit me, and I could post absolutely anything I wanted, with the only rule that I must adhere to what I'd already created. It was more of a story by exploration, and a good exercise.

I've now developed a method for writing full stories, outlining them, fleshing out the dialog and breaking them up into pages. I got there through trial and error and a lot of practice building habits that work for me. It turns out that what I do is a lot like what rylearron suggests! Including the sharing with friends.

I have two bits of wisdom for you:

1. Go easy on yourself. No matter how experienced an artist or writer, learning is still the name of the game. And when you're learning, you're gonna make mistakes and work yourself into a corner. Don't waste time beating up on yourself, just fix it or move on (whichever works best for the situation). There are ways of working this attitude into a professional publication, but as long as you're still doing this as a hobby, there's no reason to worry about those yet. You'll develop them in time.

2. Realize that stories are like drawings. You've got 10,000 bad ones in you. You gotta get them out where you can see them before you can see which ones are actually good and gonna work. I'm still not good at this part. I have no idea if the stories I'm working on are good or bad. However, I can tell you that for every finished comic story I have (one), I have 9 unfinished stories... And this is OK! I think even when you're a professional and you're getting paid to knock out stories every month, you're still most likely gonna have these odds.

I've basically used my own experience here to rehash things I've heard from writers like Neil Gaiman. They're not necessarily universal truths, but you'll probably have a much easier go of it if you just let loose.

Also, read lots of advice from the pros. They each have a different story to tell, and a totally different method of producing their work. You'll find yourself adopting the things that work for you!
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vulpeslibertas
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Joined: 19 Dec 2005
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Location: Here and there...mostly there. Sometimes kinda in between.

PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2012 5:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mostly it's just planning ahead. If you've written a chapter or two down the road, it's more likely that "whoops" moment is going to happen before you've actually released the comic, so you can fix it before it's too late. The down side of this method is that when you draw, you're always drawing old material, because you've already had it for months. That tends to wear at your motivation a bit.

The other thing is Dues Ex Machina.

It turns out that the time machine broke down, so now the characters have to fix things the hard way. The brilliance of this is amazing when you consider that the time machine in Back to the Future spent about 90% of all three movies being broken down somewhere. If it had been in working condition, the entire series would have lasted all of about 15 minutes.

So if you're stuck, blow something up, introduce a new character, discover your ruby slippers really have had the power to take you back to Kansas the whole time, etc. If nothing else, there's always the Alternate Dimension solution, where nothing that already happened actually happened in this reality.

And finally, it's a webcomic. You don't have to stand up to the scrutiny of a scientific peer review. Sometimes, you're better off closing your eyes, holding your breath, and chugging on through. Plot holes be darned.
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Lavenderbard
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Joined: 12 Sep 2006
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2012 5:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Personally, I didn't release it to the public as I was doing it. I did it all first. And then I revised it.

And I'm planning to not release it to the public until after I've found someone willing to take a look at the completed product and let me know if the revisions were effective, and reassure me that there aren't any plot holes.

Um... any takers on that? In exchange for this service I'll offer... er... what do I have to offer? I can write php code. Is that worth anything?
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smbhax.com
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Joined: 10 Apr 2009
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 2:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Regret is part of life. But this is a comic, man! Have fun with it. :D
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vulpeslibertas
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Joined: 19 Dec 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 8:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lavenderbard wrote:
Um... any takers on that? In exchange for this service I'll offer... er... what do I have to offer? I can write php code. Is that worth anything?


I might be interested. How much comic/material are we talking about (# of pages/density per page). Fair warning: I'm pretty busy with some projects right now, and I've had to bail on some things in order to get things done, so I can't make any promises.

I think I'm probably good for PHP code for now. I'll do it in exchange for... um, something at some point if you feel like it, but nothing too demanding.
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katastrophe



Joined: 19 Aug 2008
Posts: 286

PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 1:14 pm    Post subject: Re: How do you keep up with a long-running story-based webco Reply with quote

Doogl McDoog wrote:
Every time I think I'm ready to start a webcomic, I'll suddenly realize that I want to change the story or create something completely different. I've started - and dropped - several short-lived webcomics because of this.

How do you deal with such a medium? You can't easily edit it like a book. If I don't like old comics in the archive, I can either unhappily leave them alone, or redo them with the time and effort that I could spend to do other things.

What happens when you have one of those "oops, actually I should have done X instead of Y" moments? Do you ever regret your decisions?


- I did about thirty strips before I posted anything online, to make sure I had enough steam to keep going.

- I did much, much more work on the characters and worldbuilding in the beginning than was put into the strips. My concept of both changes, but it's touching up the paint, not bulldozing and rebuilding the whole wall. It's a lot easier that way.

- I left the format flexible. The comic started out a great deal more of a funny, self-contained strip with shorter stories, and I sort of worked up to the sprawling epics I seem to be writing now -- but there was plenty of room to take it in either direction from the start. Big, well-planned worlds let you do that.

- I do try to write, if not draw, ahead. A written script is a lot faster to turn out than a finished page, and it should give you an idea if the plot starts to starfish on you. I hang at around a month of scripts written, but that's lack of time, basically -- the more the better. When I was running five months ahead life was awesome.

- When all else fails and I canon something I later regret... I run with it. *shrug* The case study here would be a character I tossed in in the first six months of the comic who was, basically, a collection of stereotypes dredged up from my hindbrain and tossed onto the page with little thought. Then I ended up needing her for a big serious storyline. I could have tried to retcon her into something different, but... instead I just started pushing the stereotypes, seeing if I could take them in a different direction, seeing how far I could go. She's really hard to write, but she's got depth of character now, and it's a depth I would never have explored if I hadn't been forced to. Silver linings and all. Smile

- Most of all, you need to know what's driving your comic and plan for it. Characters drive mine, so as I said I had tons more work done on the characters than showed on the page. If it's plot, you'll need to plan out huge swathes of story beforehand. If it's a world, lots of world notes. Get the heart of the story sound, and it'll carry you (and your readers) through the rough patches.

Works for me, anyway. Smile
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Clint Wolf



Joined: 15 Apr 2010
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 5:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I didn't take the plunge into doing a long-form comic until I had an idea put together that really seemed like it held enough story potential to keep me interested over the long haul. I think outlines and world bibles can help, but at the beginning their main benefit is probably in determining whether you're ready to "commit to the relationship" or if your brainstorm is just a spring fling you're going to want to move on from as soon as the shine wears off.

As for plot holes, they can become opportunities. I always try to avoid them, but one thing I also deal with is that I'm not drawing the comic, and sometimes miscommunications happen there. The visual element might introduce or omit something that might raise questions in an alert reader. When that happens, rather than going back and fixing pages, I'll usually go forwards instead and see if there's a way to write things through to where the plot hole becomes a plot point.

It's also entirely possible no one but me is noticing, anyhow, but it makes me feel better. And sometimes the brainstorming involved in these "maintenance sessions" actually ends up enriching the storyline and setting in a way that would never have happened if everything had gone as intended.
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Lavenderbard
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Joined: 12 Sep 2006
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 7:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

vulpeslibertas wrote:
I might be interested. How much comic/material are we talking about (# of pages/density per page)


Thanks, I'll pm you about it. Smile

But I'll answer the length question here, in case other people are interested. It's 302 pages, but most pages only have 2-4 panels.
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Lavenderbard
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2012 8:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Clint Wolf wrote:
I think outlines and world bibles can help, but at the beginning their main benefit is probably in determining whether you're ready to "commit to the relationship" or if your brainstorm is just a spring fling you're going to want to move on from as soon as the shine wears off.


Wow. That's... very different than anything I might have thought to say. But then the whole "shine wearing off" thingy is a something I don't much experience.

Once I've come up with an idea, it's there, in my head, wanting to get out. And they just don't seem to go away, no matter what. The simple little "easy" ones are much more amenable to getting shuffled to the back of the line than the big huge sprawling stuff, but I don't lose interest, exactly. It's more like the little projects just get pushed out of the way by the big projects.

Doing worldbuilding or outlines wouldn't change anything or prepare me for anything (except, of course, that I have to have the world if I'm going to write in it, but I can make it up as I write if I want, as long as I stay a step ahead of myself).

On the other hand, I can't really imagine trying to draw a comic I didn't have completely scripted in advance. I mean, sure it changes when you do the storyboards. And again when you do the real art. And then again when you get reader feedback and discover you screwed up x, y and z...

But I just can't invent stories and visualize at the same time, and to stop writing a story partway and switch to drawing it instead...

I know MOST of you do that. But I just don't get it. I want to finish writing it. And then I want to finish storyboarding it. And then I want to finish the real art (drawn or CGI, whatever). And then I want to finish the revisions. Each step carried out in full, all the way to the end.

And I want to go straight from beginning to end when I'm reading too. At least my creative needs are consistent with my consumption wants. ::rueful::
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smbhax.com
No! Don't post it there!


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2012 12:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, while I have an ending somewhat in mind, I'm in absolutely no hurry to get there, because I'd just as soon stay in the story and keep exploring possibilities--for as long as it stays interesting, at least. So the challenge for me is to keep coming up with story segments that may move toward the end, but still leave a lot of room in between.
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Lavenderbard
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2012 1:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

smbhax.com wrote:
Well, while I have an ending somewhat in mind, I'm in absolutely no hurry to get there, because I'd just as soon stay in the story and keep exploring possibilities.


If I don't end this story, when am I ever going to get a chance to do the ten or eleven sequels I've come up with?
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vulpeslibertas
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Location: Here and there...mostly there. Sometimes kinda in between.

PostPosted: Wed Aug 08, 2012 3:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Clint Wolf wrote:
It's also entirely possible no one but me is noticing, anyhow,

And, really, if our readers are following closely enough to care about plot holes, isn't that a win?
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