So guys, I thought I would check in with you. We are about 6 months through the year and I thought you might be interested in how I am going with this graphic novel project -- you know, using hindsight and stuff.
Part one: The goals.
Even before I started going part-time at my day job, I wrote down what I wished I'd ideally be able to achieve with this GN project by the end of the year. They are pinned to my studio pinboard, sitting there waiting to be forgotten about.
Some of these goals were achievable, and I have actually been keeping pretty well on track with what I was hoping to do -- with one, tiny, difference: instead of finishing the whole book by the end of the year, I'm only planning to finish part one (of three).
I soon realised that I couldn't conceivably do research, write, thumbnail, pencil, ink, colour and edit 200+ pages by the end of the year when I only had two days in the studio a week.
Part two: Starting a blog / keeping a studio journal.
At the very start of the year, I thought to myself that I should keep a weekly blog and a studio journal. Not only so I know what I need to do, but also to remind myself how much I have actually achieved. I didn't want to get lost in the project, going down the wrong rabbit holes.
As I am queen of list making, I also made daily (which turned into weekly) To Do lists. I stuck these side by side with my studio diary so I have both a list of things I did and my feelings about those things (and other things floating around my brain).
Part three: Mentors.
As part of my scholarship, I organised mentorship from two radical Australian cartoonists: Pat Grant and Mandy Ord.
Mandy: I'd never met Mandy before; I just wrote her a letter and asked if she would consider mentoring me. I couldn't believe it when she said yes. I was terrified to meet her for the first time.
We have now met a couple of times and have been sending each other a sketchbook through the post.
It's been lovely getting to know Mandy (and getting mail!) through writing comics to each other. I'm hoping in the second half of the year that I will be able to spend some dedicated time with her going over thumbnails & pencils and figuring out ways of story telling.
Pat: I had met Pat last year at the Comic Art Workshop in Tasmania.
Next week I'll be in Wollongong, doing a two-week visit to Pat's studio and hopefully gaining all the comic knowledge and pulling apart my script for Part One. I am still a little terrified of what Pat will be doing and worried that I'll be painfully shy for the first few days. So I thought I'd take a sketchbook with some things I want to talk about with Pat (so I don't forget them or can get him to read them if my words fail me) and also fill in the pages while I'm there -- in other words, keep a little comic record of the trip.
Part four: Story structure/scripts and getting my teeth stuck in.
Now, what did I get a scholarship for again? Oh yeah that's right, writing!
For the first few months of this year I did interviews with family and Rob's carers. I wrote down stories & anecdotes about my childhood growing up with Rob on post-it notes and colour co-ordinated them into types of stories.
Then, under the recommendation of mentor Pat, I started thinking about the story beats. I also started thinking about who I wanted to read the book (I would ideally like it to be like a good Pixar film: for kids but adults can get something out of it) and what I would like to get them thinking about.
From writing all this down, I realised that my stories all fitted into three bigger topics: Communication, Obsessions, and Fears.
I started using the 'Milk Bottle' way (again a suggestion from Pat) of tackling the project. Chipping away at a little bit every day, using the first part of the day (the cream on top of the milk) to do my main thinking and story nutting out before tackling all the other things in life (emails and admin and the stuff that you want to do less).
So I started writing for at least 15 minutes a day, then moved on to writing at least one story a day in script form (describing what visually will be in the panels as well as the text). I found that I tackled writing the script-writing best when I was in a cafe.
I seemed to be drawn to the stories about communication and started focusing on writing those, my goal being to finish part one of the book (which is about communication) by the end of the year.
Part five: Time struggles and Leave Without Pay (LWOP).
Time is a funny thing. It doesn't matter how much you think you have, or how well you manage your time, you always seem to run out. I mentioned above that I knew I would not have enough time to finish the whole book by the end of the year. I soon started worrying/realising that I might not be able to finish even part one if I kept working a day job.
I would have my Monday and Tuesday in the studio, start getting on a roll and then, bam! I'm back at work. It's really hard to enjoy work when you've got a comics project sitting in your studio waiting to worked on.
So I sat down, did some sums and lots of thinking and figured I could live comfortably for 6 months without working. After sleepless nights and bundles of nerves I got up the courage to ask my manager about taking LWOP for the second half of this year. To my surprise, it was approved. Which means as of this week, I'm doing comics, FULL TIME. It's pretty exciting.
I am of course terrified that I will fall into bad habits of watching re-runs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and falling asleep on the couch. But hopefully my willpower will prevail.
Phew, this was a wordy one this week, sorry guys!
Hope your day has as many sparkles as you want it to have.