Let’s Talk ‘Trash’
OK, so every chef has had a disaster in the kitchen, every fashion designer has looked at some of their clothes and wondered what they were thinking, and every writer has thrown stuff they’ve written into the rubbish bin.
I’m no exception.
‘I realise it actually is terrible, and I delete it on the spot.’
When Do I Know Something is No Good?
I think time is a useful tool. I often scribble down ideas for a story, or even an entire outline then leave it and work on other things. Then, when I go back to review it days, weeks or months later, I realise how terrible it is or I can’t understand the note, and I get rid of it on the spot.
Other times when I review a note I’ll still like the idea or see something in it, but I can’t think immediately where I can use it, so it just stays on file – maybe I will use it in the future, maybe not.
‘If I properly like an idea, I start to write it out in prose.’
But if I properly like an idea, I start to write it out in prose. I flesh it out more and think about the dialogue, plot, characters, universe and where I’d insert page breaks in the story. Then again, I need a little time to step back from it. When I read what I’ve just written, one of three things happens:
1) I realise it actually is terrible (or too similar to something I’ve written before) and I delete it on the spot
2) I see potential but it’s not a priority so I shelve it for now
3) I am happy and move to the next stage, which is converting it to comic book script
From Scribble to Script: Creating a Comic Book
This is an important step. The artist needs to be able to take your story and illustrate it, so it’s essential they know what exactly you want drawn. It is a collaboration and some methods (e.g. Marvel) leave almost everything to the artist, while other writers (e.g. Alan Moore) write out extremely detailed scripts for every panel. There is no set structure for a comic script, but I like to write mine in tables with a box for each panel.
‘A good editor is so important.’
It’s painful, but sometimes scripts you’ve written and think are good actually aren’t all that interesting. It happens and it’s why having a good editor is so important. I have written dozens of scripts that haven’t been illustrated yet. It’s a matter of priorities and economics: which titles are likely to bring in a profit. But also, some of them just don’t make the cut and a good editor will tell you that.
Once I commit to getting it illustrated, 99% of the time it will be fine and go into a book. However, there are still times when I have it illustrated and even coloured, and it still ends up in the trash. And the reason is always this: it just isn’t good enough. Either the writing was poor, or the art style and choice of shot just didn’t work for the story. I’ve included two examples where something wasn’t good enough: one is for Twisted Dark and one is for Twisted Light. One day I may go back with the Twisted Dark story and redo it, but for now, it just doesn’t quite work.
Spousal Habits (Twisted Light)
The Little things (Twisted Dark)
Expect to Throw Away Your Work
I guess what I am trying to say is that I’ve learnt that a fair chunk of the work I do will end up being thrown out.
And that’s OK.
Michael Jackson used to write 100 songs for every album and then junk 90 of them. If you keep writing, you are bound to make something that people will like!
Again, all these thoughts are just my opinions, but that’s all I can offer. If any of it is useful, then great! If you disagree with any of it – ignore it! For anyone inspired by this, I’ve actually created a free course on how to make comics, which you can access by visiting the store on the website.
There is also a series of videos where I did a Q&A where I gave my thoughts on writing. Here are two: one on premise, and one on dialogue.