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A concluding point

Posted: Tue Mar 30, 2010 1:38 am
by TheMrLee
Hi David,

Do you have a plan to conclude the CD story at some point (and therefore are writing with a concluding story arch in mind), or do write small, episodic story archs as they arise from the current plotline(s)? Do you write big chunks of the story before you start illustrating, or write only a few panels? And, finally, do you outline?

I ask as a writer whose struggling with the story arch on my novel (which would make for a dreadful comic, despite originally conceived as something of a Hergé collaborates with Carl Theodore Dryer on rewrite of Don Quixote). I've really enjoyed CD so far and would love some insight into your writing process.

PS, it's nice to see you moving towards making more and more of your own parts.

Re: A concluding point

Posted: Tue Mar 30, 2010 2:12 am
by David
Thanks TheMrLee, I'm glad you're enjoying Crimson Dark.

I devised CD to be episodic from the outset, but with a core arc plot. There are key points in the arc which could be logical places to conclude the story, if I were to choose to do so, but as long as I want to work on CD there will be story to tell. THink of it as being like seasons of a TV series. You could end a series with the Season 1 finale, but then comes Season 2.

I have the CD story planned out as a series of beats. These beats consist of story points and character growth, and most chapters only have a handful of each. Some beats are vague, others are meticulously planned right down to the smallest detail. Moments such as Ophelia crashing into Espenson Station in c3, or finding a dead Republic Marine in c8 are critical beats - I plan stories around them.

On top of these critical beats, I have minor beats - ones which I want to hit at some point but which aren't critical to the progress of the story. Examples include the scene where Kari samples and enjoys Vaegyr's chilli in c8 - I'd been holding onto that beat, particularly Vaegr's little dance and the line "Wife, I want a divorce" since Chapter 1.

This approach leaves a lot of room to improvise as I go, which helps keep the story fresh for me (to avoid burn-out), and also lets the story move in directions which surprise me as much as anyone else. Sarah, for example, was written in to Chapter 2 at the last minute, and was only intended to appear for a handful of pages. However I realised that Chapter 3 could work well if partly told from her perspective, so her story grew. Recently I explored her character further with one of the short stories for the Supporter's Club, and I can guarantee that we'll see her in the comic again too.

As a wannabe-novelist I can say that writing a webcomic and writing a novel are very different processes. While the fundaments of story-telling still apply, the delivery format is radically different. A webcomic is portioned out over time - possibly years, a novel is delivered all at once and may be read within a day. A webcomic, like a TV series, will ebb and flow, with changes of rhythm and pace as befits the story (or the writer's mood). A novel will also vary in rhythm and pace, but from the outset has a preset beginning, middle and end - everything must come together to form a cohesive whole. Novels go through multiple drafts until a final version printed before a single word reaches the public, whereas webcomics may be uploaded mere hours after the writer is struck by inspiration.

The best advise I've received so far re: novel-writing is this: Write. Don't stop, don't look back, don't revise, just keep writing until it's done. Do not re-read an earlier passage or make revisions until you've written an entire draft. If, while writing, you think of things you need to fix earlier in the story, then make a note somewhere and keep writing ahead. If you're struggling to write through a particular story-point, just write "Stuff happens" and then move onto the next story-point which you're happy with. By the time you've finished the first draft, you'll have figured out what needs to fill that gap you left earlier.

Getting a first draft done is a monumental step forward, and gives you a broad picture which you can start to refine into something good. If you keep worrying about how well the first three chapters read, then you will never get it done.

Re: A concluding point

Posted: Tue Mar 30, 2010 4:30 am
by TheMrLee
Thanks for the generous, thoughtful reply, David.

I'm going to wager you've read a bit about screen writing. The "beats" concept is one I've mainly encountered in those marvelous commentary tracks on the BSG DVDs (is there any better commentary on episodic writing than those commentary tracks?).

The whole "webcomics may be uploaded mere hours after the writer is struck by inspiration," while very, very Dickensonian, would make me a mess of anxiety. I'd be worried that I'd get to some future point where the plot I wanted to—indeed, felt I must—follow was rendered impossible by what I now regard as a tremendous plotting error (kind of like the average season of 24).