Planning or Improv?

Discussion in 'Creative Discussion' started by ZTG, Aug 6, 2017.

  1. ZTG

    ZTG 4-Stripe White Belt

    So here's a good question I think can apply to all genres of comics, and that is of course, the planning that goes into the comic.


    Recently I've been burnt out by FON, taking a hiatus to step back and plan again, but that got me thinking. How much planning is too much? Can it lead to a burn out? Is riding by the seat of your pants even worse?


    I know that every artist is different and has a different means of going about their comic, but I thought this would be a nice discussion when it comes to plotting out a course for your story.


    Do you prefer to get every detail down? Completely make it up as you go with no gameplan? Or something in the middle of that gamut?
     
  2. Kevin Pass

    Kevin Pass White Belt

    I plan out how many panels I need in the page and what those panels need to have in them. When it comes to the plot/flow of the comic I try to plan ahead otherwise you risk making up filler as you try to work out the next plot beat.

    But when it comes to scripting I tend to be very loose getting the keywords/phrases and the overall meaning I want to convey down first then refine it after all the art is done. This can lead to problems where theres either too much or not enough room for what you want written so you have cut down or have it go into other panels/pages and ruin the flow you want.

    I'm currently working on revising the script and adding two more page to my comic because I found a story beat was too fast and needed more room for the moment to breathe.
     
    ZTG likes this.
  3. JamieMe

    JamieMe Administrator Staff Member

    As a writer it is all about planning, but I'm always flexible to change. If an artist tells me "I think I can present this better" then I'm going to listen. They are the sequential artist after all!
     
    ZTG likes this.
  4. Polyak Attila

    Polyak Attila 4-Stripe White Belt

    As a writer, I'm all for planning with a flexible end.

    In my opinion, you should always know where your story is headed in the long and medium run, or in other words, know what the end goal of your story is, and what's the next big event the story is headed to. In this sense, I'm all for detailed planning, however as these are big and distant objectives you can't really go into details. I try to keep my non-short term goals as rigid as possible.

    As for the short term stuff, well... I draw up the general panel layout, write down the description for what's in the panels plus a write the dialog and narration tied to each panel. When a page gets drawn, text and panels get moved around freely, sometimes my layout stays, while other times you can't even recognize my original panels in the final version. Same goes for the dialogue. Now the real details come in the page-by-page writing, so when I have something that is extremely important for a long term goal I take a note for myself (what happened, where, why, and what's the impact on later events) and build on these notes during my writing later.
     
  5. AnitaComics

    AnitaComics 4-Stripe White Belt

    As the others already stated, planning the very end of the story is key. It keeps you on track and gives you room for details without losing control on the overall project. However it's important to leave some space to improvisation, because...well, mostly because otherwise writing and drawing becomes boring! You must be entertained by what you do, and having a too strict schedule often conflicts with the fun. Enjoy writing responsibly v_v

    As for myself, I planned the end of the story before starting to draw. Then I broke the big story into a definite number of chapters. Now I plan each chapter from the start to end (script, dialogues, storyboards). I always finish the one I started before jumping to building the next one, and I usually take a break between the two to recharge the batteries. Having the whole storyboard planned out helps me keeping a steady schedule: "when you can't create, you can always work"
     
  6. micahdraws

    micahdraws Blue Belt

    For those of us doing all the writing, editing, and drawing by ourselves, I think planning is what makes the entire process more palatable. I think it's good to stay flexible until you have your script thumbnails finished but I think at some point you need to set your plans in stone and go with it.

    I have seen webcomics do what I call "chapter bloat." I've been guilty of this in the past with my first webcomic, too. Basically, you see people's chapters getting progressively longer and longer. Chapter 1 is, say, 20 pages, Chapter 2 ends up being 30, and Chapter 3 goes on for a year or more. Even in the world of webcomics, that just feels agonizingly slow to me. Depending on the comic and writer, it can read to me like there's no plan for the ending and the story is just kind of meandering as the writer comes up with things. It's not always the case, of course, but it seems to happen often. I feel like this kind of "make it as you go along" can work better for humor or gag-a-day comics but for long-form I think it's important to at least have an outline so you don't go off-track.

    Webcomics are a slow enough medium as it is. It takes us a year or more to release what most big publishers can produce in a few months, tops. There are all kinds of good reasons for this, of course! I bring this up to show that it's especially important for webcomic creators to keep the story moving forward. This doesn't mean you have to get on the railroad and go straight ahead, no detours whatsoever. To me this just means we need to be more conscious of our story, especially if we do a long-form arc that spans many pages. Forty pages worth of updates take a while to post, even at 2-3 updates per week.

    Something that helps me keep my story moving is setting "rules" for myself. I don't set a lot of rules, just a few things to help me stay on track. For me, the structure really helps me build a more cohesive story and I think it helps keep my story feel like it was written and illustrated by the same person. Here are a couple examples of my "rules"
    • Each story arc contains 120 pages split into six 20-page "issues."
    • Each issue must reveal (minimum) one new thing about the setting and at least one character
    • Each issue should have its own beginning, middle, and end, and set up for the next issue
    These are the biggest rules I keep in mind. They're not a lot and they're kind of vague to give me room to be flexible, but they also keep me moving. The first one helps me keep my story from wandering off too far and helps me stop chapter bloat. The second one reminds me that I need to keep character and setting development moving because nobody likes flat characters or a flat world. The third just helps me keep story structure in mind.

    When I sit down to write an issue, I actually take out 20 index cards and jot down the story outline. It helps me plan my page progression and get a better visual idea of where I may need to fill in gaps or adjust my overall story.

    Some of this may make someone go, "well, duh," but it helps me a lot to write that kind of thing down so I keep it in the back of my mind while I'm writing.
     
    Wakaxo and ZTG like this.
  7. Polyak Attila

    Polyak Attila 4-Stripe White Belt

    I'm really happy you brought this up. Setting such rules up helps a lot, I, for example, decided that on average every chapter I write will be 21 pages long with coverpage included, and every 10 chapters will form a book, which is exactly 200 pages of content + book front/ back cover + chapter covers + content page. This helps in getting to your goals and makes your general aims a bit more plannable.

    If anyone wonders here's how long my chapters are: (note, the first 10 have extreme variance, cos the first chapter was meant to catch the readers with a longer, totally self-contained bit)
    38
    18
    20
    19
    18
    18
    22
    19
    18
    20
    20
    22
    20
    21
    21
    22
    20
    22
    21
    21
    20
    20
    19
    20
    20
    24
    20
    21
    23
    23
    20
    22
    19
    20
    21
    22
    22
    22
    21
    21
    20
    22
    20
    19
    24
    23
    19
    21
     
    micahdraws likes this.
  8. BlackMagicWolf

    BlackMagicWolf White Belt

    I like to have a general storyline outlined, key events and what not, and then see what my mind comes up with as I write. It's because of that that I've come up with some great ideas for my stories. It's ok to do every detail beforehand per se, but if something better comes along, you should definitely be flexible in swapping it out.
     
  9. Bakertoons

    Bakertoons 4-Stripe White Belt

    On The Fuzzy Princess, I always plan every story out, writing a detailed outline explaining what happens, how it ends, etc.

    With Ask a Cat, being a gag-strip, I pretty much improv on the fly.
     
  10. Wakaxo

    Wakaxo 4-Stripe White Belt

    Personally, if I don't have a detailed game plan I find it very difficult to start working on a page and to stay motivated while working.

    I try to break up my planning into stages to not get overwhelmed, but most of my planning occurs in the thumbnail stage. I keep my scripts loose so I can improv material in as I go, that's why the thumbnail stage is so heavy planning wise. If I don't do detailed thumbnails I find it nearly impossible to start a page.

    It takes me awhile to get in the mind frame of planning out pages so when I do thumbnails I like to do them in big batches 10 - 20 pages each. The same goes for scripting, I'm more of a discovery writer so I tend to write large chunks of the story at a time. Knowing the writing and thumbnail stages take me longer, I give them more time just to be cautious incase I get writer's block or the such. I thinks it's important to REALLY know your habits and plan around them.

    Omg yes, if I haven't made a concert page plan by the time I actually start the drawing process I'm screwed. The worst thing that can happen is to have to re-draw panels, and it is for the most part easily avoided by simply having a solid plan by the time you start the actual page. There needs to be a cut-off point where planning ends, or you'll never get any pages done! When I get the urge to go back and add more to pages, I remind myself that the whole story can't happen on one page and work the new details/ideas into later pages.

    A few people have suggested writing the end of the story so you know where you're going and I agree with that wholeheartedly. As long as you know the beginning and end, you don't have to meticulously planning out the middle. ( or at least that's how I approached working on my story.) I think too much planning can make a story tedious to work on, but you have to find what works for you.
     
    Trinket Trance and micahdraws like this.
  11. SpaceTurtleArt

    SpaceTurtleArt Blue Belt

    I'm doing a very long-form story, so I definitely need to have things planned out in order for the tension and pacing to work correctly. I do have the overall skeleton of the story pretty planned, with all the major 'beats' worked out, and then I fill in more and more details over time. Some very late scenes are already scripted, but for the most part I've focused on fleshing out the details on the first couple chapters, since that's what I'm working on now. Some plot points later on are vague for now-- for example, in my notes I have something like "then they make a plan to stop the enemy." What is that plan? Man, I dunno, I'll figure that out when I get closer (probably like three years from now).

    I do most of the planning in the script stage, but a lot of details aren't hammered out until I do thumbnails/layouts, and even then I may edit things in the pencil and inking stage. Generally, though, by the time I'm sitting down to draw a scene, I have it pretty well planned, otherwise I have a hard time working on it.
     
  12. Eleviken

    Eleviken White Belt

    Personally, I've planned up to a few chapters in the future, but the rest is improv after that. I'm not very good with remembering plot lines that are too far into the future - something I should probably improve on! TBH I'm fine with seeing where the story takes me, as long as I have a few chapters to tide myself over.

    I actually don't script more than 10 of my pages ahead at a time, but I do write down the general plot so I can flesh it out later!
     

Share This Page