I consider myself a writer even though I have never been published and I do something completely different to earn a living. To keep my interest in writing fiction I write whatever I can motivate myself to create. Which are usually stories that likely will never be “finished” and certainly not published, but have serious potential to be long running series.
In a good year I may write a short story that has a beginning, middle and end. Most years it is a few good starts, with maybe one really good start on a promising novella. I’m comfortable with all these stories coming up short. It is the phase of life I am in. It is better for me to keep practicing so when the phase of life comes where I can devote more time to seriously honing my skills I’ll be ready, and I’ll be able to work with the best ideas I’ve accumulated over the years.
And if that phase of life never comes…. I am absolutely comfortable with that possibility.
In any case, when I started reading comic books a few months ago I thought, “Hey I bet I could write a story line for a graphic novel.” A large part of my enthusiasm was the chance to collaborate with an artist.
I picked up one of the short stories I had tinkered with a year or two ago and began reworking it as a graphic novel. Inspired by this new endeavor, I quadrupled the content and charted several intense conflicts. So it basically became a novella in a weeks time.
To be clear, I had no delusions about commercial success. I wasn’t dreaming movies, merchandising, or an entire theme park based on the super hero universe I was outlining.
Quite the opposite. I was excited about doing this because… I really didn’t care if it was any good. I know it is an unusual motivation, and it flies in the face of the “follow your passion” movement. But I’ve learned when I work on projects I care almost nothing about I listen better to people who care tremendously about the work. And that has lead to some pretty impressive outcomes. So from my backwards point of view I was approaching this graphic novel for the right reason: not caring.
True to the form of my not caring methodology, I needed to talk with someone who did. I bent the ear of another Dad I run into a couple of times a year at birthday parties. He used to work in publishing and he had a lot of great suggestions. And yes, we had this conversation during a 4 year old’s birthday party.
Weeks later everything he said began sinking in and I understood what was required of me: scale back. Writing a graphic novel is considerably more work than writing a short story. A familiar phrase (finally) resonated in my mind: you don’t have time for this.
Sidetrack #1: Please observe there is a difference between “you don’t have time for this” and “you are wasting your time”.
In any case, I wasn’t giving up on the idea of writing a comic book. I explored some options and thought a “one shot“ was appealing. I even came up with a separate idea from the graphic novel adaptation of an unfinished novella. To be fair it didn’t take me nearly as long to acknowledge that I was over committing.
Sidetrack #2: Over committing is an art. Some people can do it gracefully and pull off amazing feats of craftsmanship. I am pushing myself in this direction, but I still acknowledge that I have limits.
Somehow I arrived on six pages. Shorten the one shot idea so it can fit on six pages. Then find an artist. Maybe I’ll get lucky and after reading this post one artist will say, “Hey I want to work with someone who doesn’t care!” Or maybe another one will say, “Hey I want to work with someone who will listen to my ideas”.
Because that is how the Internet works right?
Enough randomness for this post. Give yourself +5 if you read this all the way through. If you are interested in another post like this one, I suggest this one about comic books and Christmas shopping.