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Summarizing Proust

When it comes to writing, I've never had a whole lot of success with outlining in any formal way. I generally think of an interesting character or two, a premise, and start writing with a very vague idea of the ending, which becomes more solidified as I go, doing on-the-spot revisions as needed but generally putting down a mostly-finished product straight on the page. (I suspect this came from learning to write on a typewriter, which made rewrites a ginormous pain compared to the breathtaking ease of cut-and-paste.) For many things, especially my short fiction, this serves very well, as I've got a good ear for "polishing as I go."

For epic novels or comic strips spanning the course of several years, however, this can lead to a lot of false starts, shaky transitions, and repetitive storytelling. Comic strips in particular, where I find myself trying to "feed the beast" every day, have this problem. I've launched several stories with no idea where they were going to lead or what ramifications they might have to the larger picture simply because I needed "a strip, any strip" to run.

So, one of the "behind-the-scenes" changes taking place in both Suburban Jungle and NeverNever, and one of the reasons they're both on hold at the moment, is that I've decided to write from outlines on them from now on. There'll be no drawing until I have completed scripts, and there'll be no scripts until I've worked out the current plot to a satisfactory conclusion first. For SJ this will become an absolute necessity when switching to the comic book format because I'll have such tight per-issue constraints (maximum 32 pages/issue, only so many panels per page, etc.), but I don't want to wait for that.

So last night, I began working in earnest on outlining the remainder of the current NeverNever storyline. At first, there was a lot of staring at a blank page, which is what usually happens when I try to plan stuff; so to get myself warmed up, I summarized the situation as it stands right now, with Widow Shins, Slim and Mopsy's investigations, and the subsequent attempt to infiltrate Widow Shins's house. Much to my surprise, when I got to the end of that, I immediately knew what should happen next, and wrote that down. That led to what should happened next after that, and I wrote that down, and so on. It was easy!

I've never had that happen before -- the easy part, I mean. Time constraints prevented me from running all the way to the finish, but I did make a lot of progress. The ending, which I had a vague idea of as usual, came into much sharper focus as well, so I can write towards it with more precision.

I hope to finish the storyline tonight, and from there writing individual strips should be a snap. So, w00t for developing a new technique!

-The Gneech


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 4th, 2009 03:14 pm (UTC)
Proust in his first book wrote about, wrote about-
Proust in his first book wrote about, wrote about-
Proust in his first book wrote about, wrote about-
Proust in his first book wrote about, wrote about-
He wrote about the-


Start again!
Feb. 4th, 2009 03:44 pm (UTC)
Too bad about the hobbies; golf's not that popular 'round here.

-The Gneech
Feb. 4th, 2009 03:18 pm (UTC)
When doing Bad Bunny or any other creative writing, I've always used a rough outline to start from...I find it's easier to keep plots inline even if I let my characters play around a little.
Feb. 4th, 2009 03:47 pm (UTC)
Occasionally my characters do zig when I tell them to zag, which has been known to throw a giant monkeywrench into my plans. So part of this process is going to be reminding myself that outlines can be revised, too!

-The Gneech
Feb. 4th, 2009 03:32 pm (UTC)
Dude, no offense, but...FINALLY. Yes, I'm SO glad to hear that...if nothing else, you definitely need to get into the habit of solidifying the ending first. ^ ^;;
I know you've witnessed that I don't always finish a script before starting to draw, but at least I do outline.

So congrats. Hope the process continues to go well for ya :-)
Feb. 4th, 2009 03:51 pm (UTC)
I imagine that I will eventually get into a kind of hybrid mode, where I start with a few neat bits of script to get myself rolling, then bust out the outline to figure out the rest of the plot.

re: finishing the script before you start to draw, I suspect that's just a matter of different approaches. You're a visual person who also writes; I'm a verbal person who also draws.

-The Gneech
Feb. 4th, 2009 04:00 pm (UTC)
Wooo! You learned a new skill that's essential to writing great print comics.
Feb. 4th, 2009 04:22 pm (UTC)
My brain immediately hopped to selections from the Dead Parrot Society CD. "Have you ever heard of Marcel Proust?" "No, he must work down another mine..." /random obscure.

The outline sounds like a great idea, good luck with it.

Additionally, you may wish to come up with some side items. Not exactly a part of the main storyline, but a vignette to be written and drawn up ahead of time that could run parallel to the main continuity/storyline/plot, basically as filler when life hops up and gets in the way of normal publication schedules.
Feb. 4th, 2009 07:01 pm (UTC)
"And that's why I could never be a judge."
Feb. 4th, 2009 09:28 pm (UTC)
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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