Aedre’s Firefly is Back On Track!
Above is a watercolour (3.9″x9.7″) of the barn behind Aedre’s house. also a thumbnail sketch of the same area from a different point of view. These are backgrounds for my Aedre’s Firefly graphic novel. The thumbnail sketch is about 5.5″ x 2.5 inches. I can fit three strips this size on a page of my sketchbook, and still have room between to add notes to myself. Each strip is usually three 3-4 panels. In the last three weeks I have sketched, usually in detail, over fifty of these pages, that is 150 strips; about 1350 panels! And I’m gaining momentum.
Note: There’s a link at the bottom of this post to a gallery of pics of some of the thumbnails that won’t be spoilers. I’ll be adding to those as work progresses.
It’s been such a long time. I feel like I’ve been on a great Quest, to properly create Aedre’s Firefly, the graphic novel. Like I’ve been wandering lost in the wilderness for about a year. But wandering in the wilderness can serve a purpose, if you enter into it as a seeker. A kind of Hero’s Journey of my own. And that I have been doing. The question I was seeking the answer to that was foremost on my mind was
“How can I speed up the workflow on Aedre’s Firefly appreciably, and at the same time overcome the constant feeling of being overwhelmed and burdened every step of the process?”
Because, burnout! I really hadn’t grasped what an albatross Aedre’s Firefly graphic novel had become for me, until I finally stopped updating, and took on the Big H* challenge. I’m sure some of you have been in that position.
(*H is for Hiatus)
It was hard going off on my own for so long, but I learned that a Hero needs allies and tools, a Magic Sword, a Magic Shield, and a Mighty Steed, in order to fulfill their Quest.
I have gained some super allies. Like C.A.Morgan, who volunteers to help me with the website when she has some time to spare from her own creative projects. And James Malveka Allen, who reads over my blogs and helps me make them better as well as supporting me in so many other ways. And you guys, patient and always encouraging!
Yes. I have amazing allies!
I think that over the last year or so, looking for those tools, I read every possible book on how to write a script and how to make comics. I hoped that by learning how to write scripts I would accomplish what I needed. But the harder I tried to write Aedre’s story as a script, the more I just wanted to forget the whole thing. But I really wanted to, needed to, finish the graphic novel!
I wanted to keep my promise. My promise to you. And my promise to me. Yet no matter how hard I tried to learn how to script, it just kept slipping away from me. I felt I was getting farther and farther away from what I needed. I even tried out numerous scriptwriting apps, but (and this should have been a clue…) none of the apps would let me quick-sketch thumbnails next to the words I was typing.
And then I found +Scott King ‘s Finish The Script! The audiobook is beautifully read by Eric Summerer, co-host of The Dice Tower.com. I decided not to do any of the exercises in the book at first to get a feel for it. Glad I did. Because near the end was the penultimate gem I needed. I’ll get to that in a minute. The book is a fun read, and very helpful, so if you get the chance purchase it.
Around the same time, I was listening to one of the Lean Into Art casts, with +Jerzy Drozd and +Rob Stenzinger, and the subject of overwhelm and burnout came up. They discussed how to make things more manageable. The key thing for me from that episode was about asking ourselves,
“What is the minimum viable version of your project?”.
I wrote that down very large and hung it up behind my monitor. And to that I added my own version of Scott King’s invaluable advice:
“Finish the Project!”
I had the hilt and blade of my Magic Sword!
One last piece of the puzzle fell into place as I was replying to +Debra Rowe ‘s post on G+ about how her creative time and energy gets drained away by her inner editor optimising the use of her time –even the basic decision of “What creative thing am I going to work on first?” Like me, she has a lot of creative projects she could be working on. She’s a composer, a musician, an artist, and makes beautiful things out of beads. Her inner editor was dithering about should she do what would earn income fastest, do something that would be most relaxing, or work on something that could be finished quickly so she could do the dishes before going to work. In her post, Debra said she would end up after that struggle with no energy left to do anything creative.
That whole dithering, energy drain thing sounded very familiar to me. I commiserated with her, and while doing that I realised what I needed to do for me. I needed to protect my creative energy from my own inner editor. I needed a Magic Shield!
Being committed to a specific project isn’t enough. What I need to do, is
“decide beforehand which creative task takes priority for that week, or that month, so the optimising is short-circuited.”
That puts the inner editor in its place, and saves valuable creative energy for, yeah, creating! We need the inner editor’s skills only when we need to optimise a decision or edit a piece of creative work, after we have a first draft of that work. If it’s getting in the way of actually creating the work, then it’s like a weed. Time to pull that weed out of the garden, or move it to somewhere where it can be more useful. Now I let the inner editor dither a little over what to do next after I’ve fulfilled my commitment. A great way to protect, to shield, my creative energy.
I had my Magic Shield!
Now here’s what I learned from Finish The Script!.
“Do it your way!”
At some point in the book, I realised I was feeling more and more futile about the finishing the script for Aedre’s Firefly. Hopeless, really. Getting ready to finally give up. Here’s why: for some reason, I would script a scene and then couldn’t remember what I had written. The written word just didn’t stick in my brain. This is good in that I can read the same stories over and over again. But when it comes to writing scripts it’s a huge drawback. I think most of my brain is in use for visuals. No room for much else. So when I heard from Scott’s book what was essentially “If one way isn’t working for you, find some way that will work for you”, a light bulb went on!
I asked myself then,
“What way of working on Aedre’s Firefly was the easiest, most interesting way for me?”
The answer was not, writing the script of the story.
The answer was, telling the story by sketching it out panel by panel! I started to feel excited again!
It also has the happy coincidence of being the minimum viable version of the project.
By “writing” the story completely in somewhat detailed thumbnail sketches, I can keep track of where everyone is in the story, including where I am as I create my minimum viable version of the project. Add to this, the commitment to thumbnailing at least one page (9 panels) of thumbnail sketches every day, until the episode is done and…
I had my Mighty Steed to move me forward!
The Quest, the Sword, the Shield, and the Steed.
So now I have
My Quest: Finish Aedre’s Firefly Graphic Novel,
My Magic Sword: Finish creating the minimum viable version of Aedre’s Firefly Graphic Novel.
My Magic Shield: Commitment to completing at least one full page (9 panels) of thumbnails sketches of Aedre’s Firefly Graphic Novel every day until each episode is complete.
My Mighty Steed: My own way of telling the story via thumbnail sketches.
And I have a growing Party of Allies!
It’s working. It’s magic. I get more excited every day, as I see the story grow pictorially. I’m usually doing more than one page a day and still having time to work up a watercolour painting, or make a sketch, or an artist card piece, or a commission sketch, or write a short piece of fiction.
I also learned from Ryan Estrada to do the work in large chunks, and to automate as much as possible. I plan to do all the thumbs, then scan them all, fix any layout problems, then ink them all, colour the covers, then start publishing them here while I work on the next episode. I hope you’ll be happily surprised by the results. :`D
If you managed to read this whole blog post then you get a reward! Here’s a link to my google plus gallery of Aedre’s Firefly Thumbnails and Process Art. While you’re there check out my watercolour pieces and see how much I’ve improved over the last eight or nine months!
See you next update!