Dead Work
by Carapace

I have spent ALL DAY- as in, twelve hours- drawing a page I am still not happy about. This isn't artblock; I know what I'm drawing, I'm on the inking and shading phase, and but and...nothing's coming together. Inside Hill House lines do not meet and expressions do not cohere. The occasional sense I've trained into my fingers that lets me lift or impress a line is just not working for me today. The inks, today, are failing like meringues in wet weather- I KNOW what to do, and conditions are just not letting me do it.  

Except that if this were really meringues I would know how to fix the problem. I am aces with meringues. I can save them in a monsoon, without even using extra sugar. With this page I am just watching my work fall into a sodden heap again and again.

A great writer once called this "the dead work", like chopping wood all year to enjoy the living warmth of a fire in winter. Just sheer bull headed practice with faith that it will pay off in improvement later, in those moments when I get to  look at my hand doing its dang job and be briefly satisfied that I have, maybe, a little bit, improved.  

I believe in the dead work.  So I do the wretched stuff,and if I were on any deadline but self-imposed betawork deadline I'd take this wet mess o' page and post it. But I'm not, and I've worked myself into a migraine and hand cramps, and I'm pretty sure I'm at the point where continuing will only make everything worse.  So I'm headin' to bed for a couple hours.

So all of this to basically say, yeah, page will be late. BUT WORK IS HAPPENING.  So much dead, rotting work.  And any hour now the lightning will strike and it will come to unholy unlife...

Coming Back in October
by Carapace

So hey, it turns out living in close-quarters exile creates doomplagues! WHO KNEW. And now it's almost the end of September, and I've been so sick for most of it I didn't even post a note! haha, it's awesome because I'm horribly behind.


I'll be back next week, though! With...something. I SHALL SEE. But I miss my updating, I do, even if I'm the only one here. :P

I'm On Fire
by Carapace
Well, not ME, per se, but my home and surrounding wilds are fenced in by fire, smoke, and the constant threat of MORE fire and smoke. I've been evacuated; I'm fine, or as fine as a person can be when they don't know the existential status of their earthly goods. But this IS interfering with my production schedule juuuuust a touch. I'll be back next week either way! Just, packing my life up has proved to be more disruptive than I would wish.

Next week! Bet money!
Reboot Redo Reformat
by Carapace

Before I forget to mention it: I'M GOING TO ANIMEFEST IN DALLAS! I WILL HAVE MY OWN TABLE! I AM SO NERVOUS I MAY BEGIN DEVOURING PENCILS LIKE A BEAVER ah frack if anyone reading this is going to Afest stop by and say hiiiii and make me fun of me so I know I'm not alone.


50-some pages in, and I'm beginning to feel like I know something about how I want to tell this story. >_< Good  thing I had planned to redo the first 20-some pages from the beginning anyway, right?

Especially since I appear to have lost those PSDs in the Great Hard Drive Crash of Aught 'Leventy. Those grapes aren't sour at all!
No, really, they're not. I HAD planned to redo Overture from the beginning. I reached a point where getting an inadequate draft out was the only way to get anything out at all, so there I went.  Losing those files only adds to the inevitability of doing them again.

I'm not alone on this, of course- a LOT of webcomics end up remaking early pages. Some remake the whole comic. Even the big company shared-universe comics restart with fair regularity. While I'm not intending to reboot a darn thing- I just want to edit my horrible bloated intro-plenty of people do. Some to the point of addiction (don't name names, Cara, don't name names...) or to the detriment of the story actually going anywhere.

Not a lot of other media get away with this sort of constant rejiggering...except oral traditions. A song, even a popular one, is a morphic entity, changing for every performer.  Could plays be considered to change the original material by performance? Bedtime stories and fairy tales USED to get this sort of treatment, back when it was possible to tell a story about kidnapped princesses without having seven varieties of fanboy pop up to tell you what the "true" version is.*  I'm not sure why comics** also get this treatment- imagine a novel series announcing in volume six it was just going to start over, it would be Not Popular. Maybe it has to do with the ephemeral nature of original comics? Printed in papers or as books, they were pretty much meant to be thrown away once. The idea of hoarding and obsessing and remembering every detail of continuity is pretty new.

But that's another post. This is just a thing I wonder about, and a thing I am going to totally take advantage of.

Only two pages this week, because I AM GOING TO ANIMEFEST AND I MUST PREPARE LIKE THE WIND! Whoosh, and away!


**Yes, yes, COMICS IN AMERICA. That's the culture I know, so I'm not going to pretend to speak about any other.  Well. And online. Which is a little bit bigger than "America" by juuuuust a pinch, ya know?

Of Schedules and Timing
by Carapace

Since I'm debating whether to add a fourth page to this week's PTH update (I make a comic! Yes! Go comment on it now!) this seems relevant for the week...

With webcomics the size and shape of the comic is totally up to the artist-- Scott McCloud's infinite canvas has been discussed to the point of becoming an in-joke.  But I think it might matter more that, for the first time, frequency is also totally up to the creator.
This is something I haven't seen even McCloud discuss in any detail- a crying shame, since I"m sure his thoughts on the matter would be far more coherent and useful than mine- but it affects every webcomic I've come across.  Release once a week? Three times? Every day? Single pages, chapters, multiple pages? Keep a schedule, and update with whatever you've got, even if you have to edit it later(the Girl Genius approach- GG updates EVERY MWF, but there are times it's been just penciled for a while)? Update when you can, but make sure it's brilliant (the Tracy Butler/Rich Burlew method, and not recommended for those not brilliant, but hey, maybe you ARE)? Does the when matter, as long as it's consistent? And matter to what?

Pretty much every book on making a career in webcomics advocates updating absolutely consistently, as often as is possible without letting the schedule slip. But then pretty much every book on making a career in webcomics is written from the standpoint of gag-a-day strip format comics, which worked out their pacing, as a genre, over decades in the print media. I happen to think it actually works better in webcomic format, where individual gags can also build a long term story arc* that's easily readable in archives. But then I'm prejudiced towards my sweet pixels, so, hey.

Long--form narrative is a whole 'nother pony show, though. Most long-form comics I read have much more involved art than the gag strips, for whatever reason;**some titles might break that rule occasionally (Oh, Watterson...) but in general Peanuts is gonna be faster to draw than Prince Valiant. It just IS. So in deference to the time demands of the art if nothing else, most long form comics end up posting new installments less often than a gag strip.

But most narrative strips STILL seem to go for a multi-day, 1-page-at-a-time update schedule.  I know the logic- more frequent updates means more frequent reasons for readers to come by, more chances to be noticed and voted for, or on the front page of the hosting hub, or whatever. It's not bad logic, and keeps readers- many of whom have been trained to expect updates in that pattern- happy.

I'm just not sure it's good for the story. One of my favorite comics, What Birds Know, updates on the "Good and Ready" schedule-- but their updates are multipage minichapters, pages separated by no more than loading time. That allows individual installments to go through an entire argument, or drift over a detailed silent landscape, without the feeling than an update has been wasted on installments that don't advance the story. And I could, but won't, name several webcomics I liked quite a bit until they had too many installments spent on silent pages, blank pages, covers, and other mood-and-tone setting tricks that work just fine in issue form, but in the single-page update format resulted in weeks of no story progress at all.

Obviously I've gone for once-a-week-multipage update, because the standalone page thing felt very restricting to me. Yes, ideally, every page should be its own 3-act structure, every panel its own story, and so on; but darn it, sometimes a long form story needs a few pages that do NOT stand alone to serve the larger story.***

This isn't even getting into the interaction of anticipation and enjoyment and frequency. If a comic comes out once a month or once every couple of months, it's something of an event; once a day and it's a routine. Does that make a less-frequent schedule more appropriate for Big Event stories?

I don't know. And I don't have a real point, here, except maybe that I don't think there is a single ideal update schedule.  But I'd love to hear anyone else's opinion.

And I still don't know if I want to include this last page in today's update!

*Please, everyone- it's ARC, not ARCH. Same root word, but they've diverged.

**Note that I said "more involved" not "better". Good cartooning is an art unto itself, and requires tremendous skill. It's like the difference between an orchestra and a champion fiddle player- one is just going to require a whole lot more time to get itself together.  

*** True even in brief stories, sometimes- one of my favorite paper comics, Halo and Sprocket, had a story with two pages that were pretty much pure white starburst. In context, it was hilarious. As a webcomic update? One meant to hold people over two days or a week? Would've been useless.