I am in no way claiming my technique is great, but it's been working for me and I am able to update color pages daily while also working 20-30 hours of retail a week. My philosophy is as follows. I do not strive for perfection. I strive for decent foundations. My goals are to tell an engaging story with artwork that compliments rather than distracts from that. The average reader will not dwell on every panel. If your story is pulling them in as it should, they will be flipping through each page, spending maybe a few minutes to absorb it. Your story and art will seldom, if ever, be appreciated in full, so make the process a less painstaking one. Strive for a good overall product that is clear, concise, and consistent. Entertain people. I strive to be story teller above anything else. I will never tell all my stories in my life time if I update at 1-3 page a week.
There is no magical short cut to make the pages draw and color themselves. I still devote a good 3-6 hours per colored page. Some people will tell you to take a break when you hit a slump or aren't "feeling it" like somehow the work will be awful if you "force" it or that art and story are dependent on a magical state of zen. These people have probably never worked professionally for a long period of time. "Force" it enough and no one else will be able to tell the difference between when you "felt" like it and when you "forced" it. How do you force it? Simple. You don't allow yourself to do anything else. If you are like me, you will get BORED enough to suck it up and just do it. And if you're like me, when you look back and view your archive, you will be happy you did.
I would like to clarify that it's perfectly fine if you update comics inconsistently, or infrequently or treat your art and stories like a hobby or stress reliever. I personally abide my own conviction, that if I want my work to be treated seriously, I must first treat it seriously myself. And oh boy can I be serious! Perhaps I have no authority to be writing such opinions on the artistic process of making pages, but I still have an opinion for whatever that is worth. If you are unfamiliar with my work, I invite you to read it at Witch's Quarry
and judge for yourself if my opinions have any merit.
My secret to writing quick scripts is that I've trained my mind to multitask. I'm usually scripting in my head while other things are going on. If you're boring and I'm replying with a "uh-huh", and "oh I'm sorry, that sucks", I'm probably scripting while I'm talking to you. And thanks to all the times teacher's would try to "catch" me drawing comics during their lectures; I can still recite back what people tell me while I'm not paying full attention. Listening and being ENGAGED are two different things! Typing out scripts are a guilty pleasure because I can finally write out my thoughts. They usually just flow out with no effort at all at that point. I read them out loud in funny voices to do a final "character" check and syntax check. In other words, I spend more of my waking life thinking of my scripts then not thinking of them. I am perpetually in la-la land but have learned to hide it. This step, even though it is the most important, ironically is not accounted for in my production time. It takes no time because I'm always doing it. It doesn't mean however, that I carelessly throw whatever comes to my mind in my pages.
My writing has been self taught. Ignorance is bliss I guess. To paraphrase what Neil Gaiman once said, I didn't know I couldn't write, so I write. I made up some rules for myself along the way that may or may not coincide with expert opinion. I managed to engage some readers, so I don't believe everything I am doing can be wrong. Most of all, I feel like I told the story I wanted to tell, so I will continue with what I believe works for me. With that said, I do believe in having some structure when it comes to writing comics. It's a pretty bad feeling to look back at hundreds of pages of work and think "geez, that story sucks/doesn't make sense/didn't do what I wanted". I think of my story in terms of series>book>chapter. I like to have a broad idea of what needs to happen within each breakdown. I try to keep these to one major event. That gives me plenty of space to work with pacing and add the important character building moments that give credibility to the world and characters. Series=One major conflict and resolution, book=one major arc that takes one step to build/resolve the major conflict, chapter=one important event that takes a step towards the major arc. I dislike chapters that are fully dedicated to a fight or to comic relief ect...I think if the pacing of your story has a natural flow and purpose, you shouldn't need to consciously add action to wake people up or add humor to give people a break. Life is naturally a roller coaster of tension, humor and ups, downs. In my experience people do not generally dwell in one state, unless they are really forcing it. Even through the most traumatic grief, most people will find a way to laugh. Sometimes at completely unfunny, inappropriate things just because of how traumatic their grief has been. When you focus too hard on one emotional state, your character and story start to lose grounding and fall prey to melodrama, cliches, or whatever other way to describe, "oh please, now you got my eyes rolling to the back of my head."
I have a very strong feeling towards characters and maintaining their integrity. In my opinion characters>events. Nearly every plot device you can think of at this point has already been done. What can make your story unique is your perspective; your "take" on these events. In comics, I believe this is told by how your characters deal with the events. Therefore, I believe you should never ever have your character do something just for the sake of driving the events forward. You must always put yourself in the characters shoes and ask yourself honestly, "how would this character feel, and how would they react?" Would they resist driving the plot forward? Then I must create a plausible reason for them to cooperate. If this is impossible, then I need to change the direction of the events. Because first and foremost, the reader must be able to get a clear idea of who this character is, and they must have established credibility with the reader in order to have the reader invest care in what happens to said character. Your characters need to become their own people living inside your head. It's more then just knowing their background, or knowing what their favorite color is. They should have a distinct voice, that defines itself apart from your other characters, without relying on weird catch phrases or accents. They should have their outward persona, as well aspects of who they really are that they may not even be fully conscious of. They should feel like real people, who would give you a strong impression within 15 minutes and then take a life time to truly understand.
1c. My personal thoughts on action
Like everything in writing, I think the more concise you can be, the better. Too many times I see in scripts something like "They fight. Draw 5 pages." I am not a huge action fan but I still like action movies for the characters and drama the action revolves around. Okay, even if it's super important for them to fight and it showcases how cool and bad ass your characters are, the actual fight itself needs more meaning and directive then "they fight." Do not bore your reader with whatever generic, copy based, overly posed fight scene/fight moves, no matter how awesome the drawings are. Use this opportunity like any conversation your characters would have, to continue to build your characters, plot, and world. You will be soaking up a good amount of pages to convey this scene. Don't waste it with something that could be interchangeable with any other comic. I'm not terribly good at drawing interesting perspective and crazy action lines. I try to make my action necessary and with some element that is unexpected and takes advantage of the nature of the characters in some unique way. Find a way to showcases your characters personality and style. Again, put yourself in the realistic shoes of your characters. Fights should not feel choreographed and no matter how much they trained, things will not always go as they expect. This does not make them any less cool, or less powerful. It gives your fight an interesting element and can get the reader rooting even harder for your hero. Think of competitive athletes in this regard. Half the battle is a mental game and dealing with whatever unexpected shit files their way. I personally like to add humor to my action, because fights strike me as chaotic, and all kinds of funny shit happens when people start panicking. Do something in your action scene that is memorable and distinctive to that scene alone.
1d. My personal thoughts on drama
Even in a dramatic story, powerful emotions should be used as sparingly as possible or else they start to lose impact. They are your trump cards and should be saved for pivotal moments. When you pull some really powerful emotions, that involve crying, or breaking something, for pity's sake make it more meaningful then, "they are a crybaby" or "they have a temperament issue". People DEAL with this stuff all the time. I need to feel them actually DEALING with their issues and not just displaying them on a whim because they are who they are. Emotions shouldn't be the sole definition of who your characters are. Most people have better things to do and accomplish then sit around and wallow in their feelings. And even those really emotional disturbed people who don't have better things, will still devise complex ways of DEALING with their emotions. They self-medicate in either constructive or destructive ways. I'm making the assumption that we are dealing with non-infantile characters. If you want your readers to take your characters emotions seriously, you'll have to make them have the same restraint that most well-balanced individuals have. If you want to evoke powerful feelings, you'd better be willing to dedicate some hardcore pages to making your reader feel it. And I strongly advise against shaping your characters personalities around hugely traumatic events that you have no personal experience with.
1e. My personal thoughts on humor
Like pretty much every other element of stories, I think too much of anything can be bad. However, if you are going to make your story heavy on any one element, I'd say humor is a good choice. Because life and stories are entertaining to those who can see things with a good sense of humor. If you have a bad sense of humor, or no sense of humor at all, don't force it. I think it's either something you have or something you don't. Perhaps you have larger goals in your writing then being entertaining. I don't like longer stories without any humor at all, (dark and ironic is just fine) and conversely, I seldom find pure comedies funny. Go figure.
1f. Final thoughts on scripts
I do have two proof readers to look at my pages before I post them. I love them but they have been doing a bit of a shoddy job of late. I've been catching stuff they missed. I'll take this as a compliment though, since their feedback has mainly been "great pages!" If you have someone you can bounce ideas off, take full advantage of them. Hopefully they will ask lots of tough questions.
This is the longest section of my "Making Witch's Quarry." Script is the most important part of the comic to me. In the end, it's a story telling medium. This is the one step of the process, you shouldn't have to force. If you have to force it, seriously consider working with a writer. Your story should be on the verge of bursting out of you. If it's not, I don't know what drives you to draw comics. It's my raison d'etre. Part 2 Thumbs/layouts/pencils/inks