Archive for the ‘Nyctalopia’ Category

Image courtesy of Christine Kozol

This past Saturday, I had the honor of moderating the panel for Womanthology at c2e2 in Chicago with a bunch of awesome women. The program listed 7 of us: me (you know…Jessica Daniel), Candice Reilly, Lauren Burke, Raven Moore, Stephanie Hans, Katie Shanahan & Jean Kang. Unfortunately, Stephanie couldn’t make it. Some of our Chicago food did not agree with her (I know it wasn’t the pizza. In fact, that might have cured her.) and she was greatly missed, but at the last minute, we had two additions to the panel that made it that much more awesome…Gail Simone and Janet Lee joined us. Surprise panelists much to the delight of our modest yet awesome crowd.

This was my first time moderating a panel. Heck, this was my first time public speaking, but I managed to pull it off with only a minor twinge of nervousness playing out in my voice and a few missed opportunities when it came to question time. A few of us were quite a bit nervous, but as the panel went on, we all started to loosen up a bit and our excitement over the project and what it has done for girls and women really showed. We discussed our work on Womanthology, why it was important, why we got involved and how it has helped us in terms of working in the comic industry. You can watch it all on YouTube…

The questions were overall great questions from the audience that really added to the discussion and led to further conversation after the panel about the direction of the industry and the desire for more women-centric comics. One of the things I found quite interesting was the discussion on creator owned comics and the uprising trend toward self-publishing. Besides discussing this at the panel, I had this conversation multiple times over the very long, tiring, crazy, fun weekend at C2E2. I do a lot of lurking about when it comes to this topic as a writer. As I get more and more work out there and bit by bit, more recognition, it is something I research extensively. I am really not sure what I will do when it comes time to get Nyctalopia to the masses, but I do know that retaining rights to my own work is important.

If there is one thing this project has done for me, it is get me to come out of my shell more, step back from the keyboard every once in a while and get out and actually meet some of these terrific women who all had a part to play in the massive tome of fantastic-ness that is Womanthology. As I continue to work toward my goals, I am learning more and more how important it is to have a network of not just people who might just click on a link you share and actually take the time to look at your stuff, but a network of people who you can consider friends and who will support you and share enthusiasm about each other’s projects. The comics community is really a great community of people who sincerely want to help each other succeed. If anyone has any thoughts about the panel or the topics we covered, I would love to hear them! I am still much to exhausted from the weekend to cover everything from C2E2, so in the next couple of days I will get at least one more post up about  Sunday-when I took my monsters with me and possibly one about networking on Friday.

When I sit down to write  Nyctalopia, the graphic novel I am writing, my writing process is very different from that of a short story or novel-writing. The only similarity is that it still starts with prose. I begin as if I am writing a story, but with the idea in my head that pictures will take place of the descriptions. I focus a lot on describing the scenes from the beginning. Dialogue rarely factors into the beginnings, knowing that as the process goes along, I will add dialogue based on my artist’s drawings. I keep tidbits in the back of my mind, and as I continue writing the story, the dialogue begins when I need it to. Sometimes it’s a matter of needing to see the drawings first before I know what the characters will say, or sometimes they really don’t have anything to say and I would rather have narrative in that panel. But I am getting ahead of myself here. In the beginning, I don’t think in terms of panels but more in telling the story. I just need to get the story out on the page, trying to make scenes that I want a certain way as vivid as possible, leaving others with less description because I’m unsure how exactly I want it to look, and what I need from the beginning is the bones of the story, with some bits of fat hanging from them. This is my first draft. Occasionally, my artist sees them. In fact, she drew the first 5 pages of Nyctalopia from prose, not script. My first draft is messy, filled with typos and errors, but it’s still a story. These first drafts are usually handwritten, although they are occasionally typed as I sit on the floor, glorified typewriter on my lap, with a cup of coffee next to me. I finish the scene or the short story or the page in prose form, breathe a sigh of relief and walk away from it. I’ll work on something else, or work on a different character’s scene but I always leave it to sit for a while, even if it’s just a few hours (but more likely a few days, or a week, it depends on how much my artist has done and how soon she needs the pages).

I revisit the pages and start the script. I go through the prose, editing the typos, writing notes in the margins for changes I want or crossing out entire sections altogether. I start writing out the script, going through each panel and describing the scene in detail. Occasionally, I’ll only write a bit about what is going on, knowing my artist can draw that particular scene better than I can describe it with words. As much as I love words, sometimes a picture says so much more, showing an idea in all its glory, full color, in a way that my words can’t capture. That’s the point of a graphic novel though isn’t it? If the words worked better, well… there wouldn’t be the need for the pictures. My script is her guideline, but it’s really a way for me to understand the layout of the scene and see the flow of the pages before I see the pages. I fully expect that my artist will take the panels and draw them the way I want them, but change it up. She may take my script for one page and turn it into two pages, or she might combine panels together into one. She will call me if she thinks something should actually be changed, but I expect her to bring the pages to life in her own way. It might be my words, but it’s our story.  I’ll write what I think the character will say, or think, or narrate, or the sound effects. This helps me see the panel in its entirety, and it also gives my artist a story to read.

Once I have the draft of the script finished to my liking, I send it off to my artist and wait, talking to her about anything she needs changed or any clarification. She sketches it out and sends me the sketch or comes over so we can go through the pages together. I tell her if I want anything different, but that’s pretty rare, and then I take copies of the sketch pages and start writing all over them as she works on the finals. I decide loosely where I want the text, now that I have the images to work from. These pages get scribbled on, and maybe one day I will remember to do this part in pencil so that I can erase. I change wording, give new dialogue altogether or leave it as I wanted it. I might give these pages to my artist, but usually I wait for the finals to do my final draft. I fill in the text, send it off to her and let her put it in and finally have a finished page (hopefully).

What is the point in going through all this? Well, if you are like me, I actually like to read about other’s processes, but I also had another motivation. We (my artist and I) are currently working on a project for Womanthology. This will be a short story, 3-4 pages in length and I have been writing out a few of my ideas. I write them as prose, using the same method, but as a whole story, not just a scene or chapter. These stories, just like Nyctalopia, start with a lot of description. These are my first drafts, before I take the pen to them and turn them into scripts for my artist. I decided I wanted to share them on this blog, in all the first draft glory that goes along with them, so that I could invite feedback and comments, share my work with my fellow creators and anyone else who cares to read them, and hopefully make a decision. The first one will be up in the next day or two, followed by another when I have it finished. I wanted to share the process as a sort of apology for the roughness of the stories. First drafts are never the prettiest. Read, comment, and don’t forget to check out the Womanthology page to see what the project is all about.

First, let me inform you this is not a traditional review of the comic-con, what they had there, how it differed from last year or others, or why I was happy/disappointed with the experience. I went to the convention with a very specific reason in mind. It wasn’t to see all of the amazing stuff throughout (which I didn’t have time to do), or go to a bunch of panels (I went to one), or to get cheap light sabers for my kids (which I did). It was to promote myself, get an understanding of the industry, and meet some like minded individuals, whether as established graphic novelists or beginners like me. We arrived later than intended (by we I mean myself, my artist/cousin, and fellow writer/note taker/sister) and immediately met up with some other fellows we knew who were also attending and began immediately whipping out our portfolio and talking about our story shamelessly whether they wanted to hear it or not.

Lunch time came fast, and while we sat there eating our salads and talking about the weird things kids do, we started to peruse the panel lists for the day. Really, we should have come better prepared with a schedule of events and what not, but the fly by the seat of our pants approach enhanced the day’s outcome I do believe. (On a side note, fly by the seat of our pants is a very weird phrase when you think about it. And I really wish I could fly by the seat of my pants. I wonder if butt wings are necessary, or if it just happens?) After attempting to watch the costume contest, which when you are 5’2” tall and in the back is really impossible, we took the trek to the Archaia Comics panel all about writing indie graphic novels. In that one hour panel, I learned quite a lot about the industry, and what to think about when submitting a proposal. Things that as a beginner in the field I never would have thought about, like page size, and color scale for printing. (Another side note. If my cats keep popping holes in the fabric of my couch, I am going to murder them and fry them up for dinner.) The culmination of the day came when we were informed at the panel that Mark Smylie would be doing portfolio reviews at the Archaia Booth.

I had done some research on the possibility of getting anyone actually in the industry to review our work, and it seemed like the possibility was pretty slim . I had no hopes of it actually happening for us.  (OK so I may have had an extremely slim hope of it happening, just like the daydream that they would immediately pick it up, it would become an immediate best seller with a high budget movie to follow, leading us to become multimillionaires in a matter of a year, but hey, who doesn’t have dreams like that?!) I was happy to show our measly 4 completed pages, 3 more inked, and a sketchbook of script and sketches to anyone that happened to look in my direction. (I tried to get R2D2 to look at it, but he just made some beeping noises and flirted with my cousin.) So anyway, we made our way down to the booth, got an appointment with Mark to take a look at our stuff and spent an hour in unbridled excitement over the opportunity we just landed. We wandered, we talked to a friend in Artists Alley, I called my husband, we fretted, we were flushed, nervous, excited and scared. In short, we were everything a newbie would be in this position.

Finally, the time came to go back to the booth. We got there a little early and were able to sit down with him early as someone along the line didn’t use their whole time. He takes a look, says “Oh, post-apocalypse, huh? We are actually looking for something like this.” The amount of air that filled my head at that moment could have powered a hot-air balloon. He then went on to tell us how we could improve the work and artwork for a submission, talked about the story and gave us some advice on that, and 45 minutes later someone else from the booth came over to tell him they were getting backed up. 45 minutes?! No way, I thought. It was over much too soon, even though we had overstayed our welcome and were getting glares from others standing around waiting, large portfolios in hand. The rest of the day was spent wandering around, not really paying attention to the comic-con itself, (which I’m sure was awesome. Please C2E2, don’t leave us in the hands of Wizard World alone!) babbling about everything he said, what we could do, and telling anyone who would listen that we actually got a portfolio review. Including the 3 paragraph text I sent my brother-in-law who had already left so I wasn’t able to babble in person. I am sure we annoyed some people, probably got some aggravated looks, but for all that I examined all of Mark’s body language while he talked to us, everyone else could have disappeared for all the attention I paid them.

Now maybe Mark Smylie really is just that great of a guy to be able to talk to all of us trying to break into the industry in a helpful manner, or maybe he actually saw some potential in us. I don’t know. Either way, I am still a little high on energy, my regular freelance writing gig is taking a big hit, as are my finances, as I devote more and more time to the graphic novel. We are beginning to self-promote, get a web-site started, work on the facebook page, and write and draw so that we can submit the first chapter, summary and all that good stuff by the fall. The name of the graphic novel you ask? You are on the edge of your seat you say? You can’t wait to see some of it? Well, I won’t keep you in suspense then. Head on over to our Nyctalopia Facebook Page and “like” us. The first 4 pages that we showed are up there for all to see. Leave some comments, tell us you loved it, or tell us why you didn’t. All we ask for is that you play nice and be constructive in your criticism. Or I’ll send my cats over to your house to pop holes in the fabric of your couch.