John "The Gneech" Robey (the_gneech) wrote,
John "The Gneech" Robey

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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
Tags: comics, nevernever, suburban jungle
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