Tonis asked me a question about how I deal with page lengths when I’m writing a comic - - that is, how I determine how much plot to allot per issue and page. I figure this is a good enough reason to talk shop, so I'll break my M.O. down into some handy steps...
- NOTES: I carry a notepad everywhere. In college, I used the "classier" choice of a moleskin but I've been using KINGDOM notepads ever since my friend gave me a pile of 30 he had left over from doing street team promotions for Paramount. They fit easily into your pocket and that’s key as it's cumbersome (and a little weird) to carry a notebook everywhere. I never actually saw that movie, so the point is that it doesn’t really matter what you write into, so as long as you get your stray thoughts down before you forget them.
- OUTLINE: When I get to actual plotting, that’s when I’ll break out a bigger notebook and start filling pages. Maybe it’s a little inefficient to write in pen with the intention of transcribing the notes to computer, but I find my mind’s freer in longhand. I’ll map out plot in bullet points, usually with an idea of where the issue breaks are going to be. == TEASER ==
- BREAKDOWNS: After the outline's transcribed, I copy all of the beats to Movie Magic, which is my preferred program for writing scripts. The price is close to $200, but you'll quickly find your investment paid off when you avoid the redundancy of having to type “PANEL," "PAGE” and every character's name over and over again. Anyway, I'll do one pass dividing the beats into pages, and then another pass dividing them into panels. At this point, the document's unintelligible to everybody else, but it makes perfect sense to me.
- SCRIPT: With the map worked out, I go through and write all the dialog first. Once that's done, then I'll go back in and rewrite all the beats into cogent panel descriptions. For whatever reason, I find it's easier to do it in that order, as the dialog cadence will inform my choices for the panels. Also, punchy sentence fragments are easier to write than prose.
- DIALOG: I always look at the dialog in the first script as a place-holder and will always plan to rewrite it based on the art. This way, I cut out dialog that conveys what's already obvious in the art and, conversely, add dialog to make clear what isn't obvious in the art.
- No more than 25 words per balloon.
- No more than 50 words per panel.
- No more than six panels per page.
...but there are frequently reasons to break all three of them. Anyway, you might appreciate some script pages from UNIMAGINABLE, my next comic (an OGN, coming out from Arcana Studio next month, which is currently available on Amazon and through Diamond's ordering code OCT100764! PRE-ORDER!) You can see how everything evolves from this stage to final execution by comparing these to the excerpt above.
So I've answered questions about writing for comics here and also about what I think makes a good comics store. But, like I've always said, I'm open to all kinds of questions, so put them here in this thread I started and I'll gladly answer them for this column.