I had an epiphany earlier this week, the kind you get when you’re standing in the shower washing your hair and the soap is running into your eyes, but if you stop to rinse them out, you’ll lose it.

It’s a pretty simple epiphany, and I’m kind of ashamed to admit that I hadn’t realized it before. But it’s something that lends well with my writing style and has turned my “I’ve been stuck on page 14 for 2 days. that’s it, I quit everything” to “dear page 36: stop being a dick. Where do I stop you so I can work on page 37”.

And it’s this: I write a webcomic. I have no intention of publishing these in the real world by issue. Maybe I’ll break it into 2 or 3 books if I ever get enough readership for a kickstarter, but I’d never publish single issues. So why the hell should my chapters start at the top of the right hand page? Also, why the hell should it matter if a chapter is only 7 pages long?

As a result, I’ve got a 7 page long prologue and a first chapter that’s 16 and a half pages. Neither needs to be any longer, and they’re short and sweet and say exactly what I want without pile driving you through the story.

I’m a big fan of Faith Erin Hicks (see my bookshelf if you don’t believe me), and I read a blog post of her’s last year where she said she didn’t want to announce a chapter, just set up an establishing shot and dig in. I’m paraphrasing, but the gist is still the same. I’m also a fan of Studio Ghibli, like most of the world (though not of Totoro. Totoro can just not ever enter my house again), and I got my hands on the artbook from Miyazaki’s  Nausicaa manga a while back. In it, he said that he was so busy trying to cram as much story as possible into the page’s they’d given him that he couldn’t be bothered to waste a page on an issue cover, and certainly not the time drawing it.

I had already decided I liked both of these techniques enough to use them when I started in on this reboot. I don’t want to break up story flow to throw a cover in here or there. Also, I’m a freak and a single image like that takes me 4 times as long as a multi-paneled page from start to finish. Which means that my chapters are really just scene changes–and even then, not always full scene changes–from a reader’s perspective; and from mine they’re arbitrary guidelines in my notes. Which, to put into perspective, means an event that took 159 pages to happen in the original version will happen on page 35, a page that would be published within half a year of starting the actual comic. At most.

I’m not cutting the story down to its bones to do that, either. I’m just getting rid of the unneeded fluff. I actually know how to use a transition, but for the bulk of the years I spent trying to eek a page out as soon as possible with neither a script nor guidelines to follow, I didn’t know how to translate those transitions from words to pictures. I didn’t even figure out what the hell I was doing until 50 or 60 pages in. But being able to treat this story as a whole, and not as a chapter and another chapter and another ad infinium, means that I can keep the flow and transitions smooth, and not create fluff to round out a chapter. Which means you can see the fucking plot. Because even I couldn’t follow it last time.

More than anything though, it means less pages to thumbnail and that I’m not drawing panels I don’t want to just to get a page count. Which is important. Because I really fucking hate thumbnailing and layouts.

-Kat

Current Page count: ~300. ish. super heavy on the ish.
Scripted Pages: 36
Thumbnailed Pages: 33