Comic Non-Sans: Flying Solo

The co-writer I’m currently working with consistently has asked for a sabbatical to get his head back in the game before we launch into a pretty bulky bit of story.  The friend in me understands, but the creator in me is utterly horrified at being left alone for an indeterminate amount of time.  In fact, I wasn’t even going to use this as this week’s topic solely because thinking about it and working on it horrifies me.

I’m aware that in any long-term collaboration, this happens at least once — someone needs time off, be it for personal reasons, health, or just a chance to make sure they’re putting enough energy toward turning out the good stuff.  And it’s not as though I’ve not written alone before.  That’s how I started, albeit elsewhere.  This project has always been a collaborative effort, and for the first time in almost six years, I’m alone.  And I’ve no idea how long it’s going to be.

I’ve covered this in personal rants thus far, but I do think there’s something to be gained from addressing it in a more “professional” area.  All personal feelings aside.  Because personal feelings are pouting, panic, more panic, and more pouting.  In this solo flight, though, I’m setting myself up a handful of rules.

1. Don’t touch continuity. We have some pretty tightly planned stuff.  Not all comics do, but we have a beginning, middle, and end.  And they’ve got to stay where they are.  I think I can Moff things a bit continuity-wise (asides in reference to stuff addressed in the story that are either irrelevant or possibly even a character lying), but anything else is out of bounds.

2. Root it. The side story I’m working on actually stems from a blip of atmospheric exposition used quite some time ago.  It’s a scenario that’s been varied a few times to show a baddie in action, but one instance struck me as being an oddly good jumping-off point for the character my co-writer requested be the center of the piece.  By giving it a place within the story without making it necessary, it feels like less of a fly off into nowhere.

3. Remember what your writer would say. This doesn’t necessarily mean copy them.  In my case, I have to look over my script and think of whether he’d be satisfied with writing something like it.  He pushes us both; I’m lazy and need a push.  I’ve been pushing myself forward deliberately, just so I don’t get complacent in his absence.  Readers are going to notice the difference — our writing styles are different, and I like it that way.  My job isn’t to make the gap unnoticeable, but rather to make it comfortable.

4. Stay loose. If you’re writer has said “I will be gone from this day to that day,” you’ve got it easy.  My schedule consists of him saying “I’ll try not to take too long.”  I need a story that can stretch or compress based on when he returns, provided he gives me about a week of flexibility after he comes back.  Writing a malleable story like that is difficult, but again … it’s a matter of pushing myself.

5. Don’t be paranoid. This is my big issue.  In the world of webcomics, things fall apart.  Stories stop, people disappear, things just end without reason.  And it’s one of my big pet peeves, as regular readers know.  But in a five-and-some-years creative relationship, I’ve got to trust.  It really is only temporary.  Before long I’ll have my writer back, things will go on as normal, and we can torture our characters just like normal.

It really is a terrifying thing, and I’m not sure the readers … or even the writer … can quite understand that.  As I write this, a couple days early, I’m actually only an hour or two friend sending myself to the ER.  In other words, life gets complicated.  It’s the flexibility of a good partnership that keeps any creative endeavor alive.

I still think I’m writing utter rubbish, though.

Posted on October 11, 2011 at 01:00 by Kara Dennison · Permalink
In: Columns, The Written Word, Webcomics, Webcomics