Tuesday, March 12, 2013

In Which We Explore Unsettling Things...Like Writing.

(Before I launch in...Thank you EVERYONE who is buying Issue #1.  Means the world to us.  We love you.  Stay tuned.)

I suppose this is only unsettling if you're me.

So, I finished my first draft of Issue #3 last night.  Late into the night, I'm typing.  I keep telling myself, "cut yourself off", and then it's 12:45am, I have to be up in 4 hours, but I have a finished working draft.

My "process" is punishing myself into working, it seems.  But it got me thinking...what is my process?  What do I do to get pages out.

I do other writing too, besides comics.  I went to film school, so I write screenplays a lot, and I'm currently figuring out what my process is for writing a TV pilot, which in my opinion, is about as hard as writing comic books.  But I'm going to dive in a little today about what it takes for me to write an issue of "Youth".  First I'll talk about formatting a little, and then I'll get into content and my basic "process".

To begin with...Comics do NOT have an accepted format, like screenplays and TV does.  There's no set way to do it, you just...do it.  For instance, Alan Moore, the god among men in the comics world...

I have read the first 10 pages of Alan Moore's script for his Batman one-shot, "The Killing Joke".  Now, I say 10 pages because that's what the THIRTY-FIVE pages of script he wrote cover, comic book-wise.  It's insane.  Look for it sometime, because it's pretty incredible.  but when I started writing comics, I knew that wasn't going to be me.  I have the patience for description...but I'm not Alan Moore.

Teasing Issue #3.  My desktop is that Teddy Bear Meme.
The format I use (which is mine as far as I know) got it's basic idea from pages I saw in my trade of the legenedary Loeb/Sale Batman story, "The Long Halloween".  Loeb kindly placed some pages at the back, showing an alternate ending to the story.  I saw this, and assumed that was the accepted format.

I went to film school...we learn that it's either "you format or you die!!!!!!!!!"

So, imagine my happiness when I found out my way of writing comics was...perfect, in a sense.  It was joyous.  We were off.

Evan, of course, doesn't care, because he's drawing it.  But there's times when he asks me about panels, and the action I've described.  Here's the tricky part about comic writing...

...you gotta pick your spots.

You pick the wrong image, and it's gonna come off wrong.  You pick the wrong movement, and people are going to be lost.  Film School has been a great stomping grounds for this issue.  In my head, it plays like a cartoon.  So I know what images I need to tell the story.  but I'm not infallible, and Evan and I are close enough where he'll say, "yeah, that needs to change."

Describing panelling can be difficult.  It's a good exercise for anyone who is married to dialogue, like I am.  Because the visual component is the most important part of comics, picking that out and putting it into a panel is going to be the most important part of your job as a writer.  Same goes for other writing...problem is with comics, you get one shot.  It's one look, and there's ways to manipulate it, but I'm as clueless as anyone is on how that works.  That's for Evan to know, and luckily, he does.

The benefit of us co-creating "Youth" is while it's my job to write the scripts and move us through that way, Evan and I worked on the story first.  We took a cue from TV shows we love, and we have a 12-page PDF file that we call the "Bible" for series 1.  It maps out everything that needs to happen in each issue, and how the events unfold.  There's things we already need to change, but that's essentially the idea of writing a bible for the series...we can change it and not look sight of anything in the larger scope because it's all right there.

And each issue is challenging in it's own way.  Issue #3 for instance, the timelines and story events for these characters happen simultaneously, so I had to, at least this first draft around, figure out how I wanted to do that.  I'm the first person to admit I have a lot of weakness as an overall storyteller, but one of my main issues is muddying timelines with too much focus on a single character.  It's a habit I have because sometimes I fall in love with one story as opposed to the others, and "Youth" is no different.  But it's all about the give and go.  I'm learning, and I hope you guys will forgive when you think it's an issue, and love us when it's not.

So my process for actually sitting and writing varies for each thing I do.  I write with a partner a lot for screenplays, and that involves a lot of pots, yes POTS, of coffee and scribbling in my notebook.  It's good to learn to work with others because when you get the chance to work with yourself, you savour it a little more.

Evan and I's sock choices.  It's telling.
For "Youth", Evan is usually working on the art on his own, and I write alone.

It's hard for me to sit down and write.  I'm the kind of person that isn't distracted, just annoyed with my ideas.  I have a fairly bad habit of "logic"-ing my way out of stories I want to tell, and that presents a problem of thinking anything I write is total garbage.  For the record...I don't.  I think I'm a competent writer, with a lot to learn.

The takeaway is the thing that sets me up as a writer in the first place:  Courage.  I have the courage to sit there and write something that not everyone is going to like, including me.  And I'm nobody, by the way.  I'm not published outside of "Youth", I've never sold a screenplay, so my words here are with a whole salt lick.  But it's my opinion that 90% of anything worth writing is having the courage to write it, and that's usually how I approach "Youth".  Evan knows what kind of a writer I am.  If I can entertain him, give him something fun to draw, then that's my goal first and foremost.  He'll tell me if it sucks.

All that being said, it helps to have a series bible to look to and say, "Oh YEAH!  That was a moment I really liked that we came up with."

What I usually do is sit at my computer, and look at the final draft document for a little while.  I type "Youth", the issue number, and then think of a title.

Listen to it again when Issue #3 comes out.
Now, this is something important...I do NOT listen to music when I work.  It distracts me (probably left over feelings from being in a band in high school) and always impedes or muddies what I'm writing.  What I do, is find a song that sets the mood for what I want to start with.

For Issue #3, for instance, I listened to Brand New's first record, "Your Favorite Weapon", which sets me up in a pretty good, "high school" head space.  I hone in on one track ("Logan to Government Center" here) and then I turn it all the way down and put it on repeat...

...and then I start writing.

It's a fairly simple process.  I've written scripts in a week before, which is probably my record.

Editing is a different thing for me.  Some people just want to get a draft done, however shitty it may be.  I usually edit as I go, so by the end I have a workable draft to send to Evan for notes.  After that, I take it back, and REALLY polish what I've got, fix a few things here or there.  This is where I pay a lot of attention to the dialogue I'm writing, because the words are so precious in the bubble.  Thank God for twitter.  It's taught me to choose my words carefully to get my point across.

So it's polished.  That is the draft I send to Evan and that's what I title an "Illustrator's Draft."  That's essentially how I do it.

Everyone is different.  Some are better, some are worse.  It doesn't matter, as long as you finish.  Finishing is the other 10% of writing for me.  Courage and Finishing.  Just get it done.  You did it.  It's yours.

That's about as much as I need to say on the subject.

WonderCon approaches.  We'll be there all days.  We're having a release party, thrown by my wife and all the details are here:


We'll have Issue #1 there for sale and a 3-page preview of Issue #2 to take a look at.

Finally, follow me on twitter @alexdandino.

See you around, friends.  Thanks for your support.


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