GPF, Webcomics

Too ambitious

October 12th, 2007 by Jeff | 5 Core Dumps

Last month I stated that I hoped to have GPF back to a M-W-F schedule by November. Nuh-uh. Not gonna happen. While Ben’s sleep patterns are much more predictable (save for the occasional oddity like this past Wednesday night, where none of us got more than two hours sleep) and we’ve made significant headway in cleaning up and organizing our basement, I haven’t gotten any strips done since that September 10th post. Getting seven comics done in that week must have been a fluke, because I certainly haven’t been able to repeat it.

The hardest part of maintaining my schedule has to be the scripting. Drawing the line art is difficult because it means I have be sequestered in the basement at the art desk for about a half hour to an hour per strip. I’ve been working on ways to do the line art digitally, but all those R&D efforts have been largely on hold since Ben’s birth. And while it’s possible for everyone else to come down to the basement with me, I really don’t want to dictate what everyone else can do just to buy me art desk time. (At the moment, there’s little down there to entertain Ben with anyway.) Doing the digital half of the strips (clean-up, text, colors, etc.) can be time consuming but at least I can do those on the laptop in the living room with the rest of the family, so I can be a part of what’s going on and readily available if someone needs me.

But scripting is tough because I really need to shut myself off from everyone else and concentrate. Big stories like To Thine Own Self… usually have a large, overall time line that I follow from the beginning, but I very rarely script things down to the individual strip level that far in advance. Individual strips, jokes, and dialog are usually written as I come to them unless they are so critical to the plot that they need advance planning or I come up with something so good I can’t afford to forget it. So before I work on each “week” of strips (Sunday + six dailies) I hide myself somewhere quiet and script each line of dialog, block out each panel, and occasionally reorder things if necessary. This way I have a plan by the time I get to the art desk so my time there is most efficiently used and I’ve got a second chance to improve the art before it becomes semi-permanent. Scripting is time consuming because I write out each line of dialog (which I don’t do during the art desk phase; I just leave sufficient space and add the text digitally), occasionally erase and reword it, and sketch every panel. Often I have to think hard about how the dialog flows, who says what in what order, and what kind of punchline I can use for the last panel. I actually think scripting is the most time-consuming part of the process, because to do it right I can’t be interrupted. I can step away from the art desk or laptop and come back with little mental paging; scripting is a mindset, and when I am forced out of it, I often have to reorganize my thoughts to get back to where I was when I left. And none of what I’ve mentioned so far has brought research to light, since many times I have to go back and re-read old stories to make sure I get all the back references correct.

And that’s where I am now. I’m in the scripting phase for the next “week”, and I just can’t get enough time together to step away from everything else to hide myself away and just write. I may need to re-evaluate my process and look for alternative scripting methods, like typing dialog and descriptions into the computer first at times when I can’t sketch. I’ve tried that before, usually when I’m working with another artist for a crossover, but it rarely seems to work well for me. Part of the scripting work is figuring out how much space the dialog takes up per panel and balancing text versus art so one doesn’t overpower the other. That’s hard to do in a word processor. But right now, I can’t think of anything better to do than forsaking my family and effectively ceasing to exist for several hours.

So no big comeback in November. Sorry, folks, but thems the breaks. Nobody could be more frustrated about it than I am. I’m not sure what, if anything, I’ll do for GPF’s ninth anniversary. The strip will likely continue on the weekly Monday schedule at least through the end of the year; there’s no way I’ll be able to up my schedule with the winter holidays coming up. The Sketchbook Reruns will probably continue the “Rejected Story Month” updates during that time, and I’ll probably run the Book #2 bonus story on Fridays once the Book #1 bonus runs out. After that… we’ll just have to wait and see.

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