How to Build a Buffer

buffer

You’ve all heard about them, and if you’ve been in the game for a few years, you wonder if they’re even achievable – I’m talking about the elusive buffer.

It’s one of the most prized assets of comic artists who have a specific posting schedule. Perhaps you’re one of those folks who post a page once a week and would love to be able to have an extra update in the can – in the event life happens to strike and ruins your schedule. Or perhaps you’re part of the group of creators that posts 5 days a week and has that ultimate wish to have 3-5 days worth of strips on hand.

Well folks – it is possible. The problem is, when you’ve already got a packed schedule and don’t have an extra day to crank out a strip or start a page.

Here’s a few tips that could help with that.

1) Focus

Authors are always looking for ways to be more focused and put out our best work in the least amount of time. With so many distractions, its very easy for time to bleed away and leave you with less to work with.

disconnect

Start by
– disabling your internet / hiding your phone
– working in a room with no TV
– refrain from watching movies on your computer if you work digitally

Try cutting these things out and focus primarily on the task at hand. Although these things may be running in the background, you are still forcing an additional portion of your brain meats to be stimulated. That could potentially increase the level of distraction, which turns into procrastination.

Here’s an article about watching tv + using a PC ‘multitasking’ and how ineffective and distracted you are.

2) Bulk

The typical comic creation pattern is think / write / thumbnail / pencil / ink / colour / upload / promote. Most creators tend to do this from start to finish for each individual page or strip. Now spread that out over the course of a week and the task may seem daunting. But what if you took larger strides more methodically?

ryancomic

Ryan Estrada outlined a more efficient approach to creating his comics by doing things in bulk.
He calls it Speed Comicking.

The premise is simple – do all of your work in bulk. The preparation may take a while, but once your templates are in place, you will increase your production speed. Check out the full article for the complete tutorial. Worth a read!

3) (Good) Habit

You already adhere to an update schedule(more or less), so you’ve proven your commitment. Now you’re training yourself to adhere to a more efficient creation regimen. Once you iron out the kinks, you’ll become a comic-making machine. But you have to create a good habit, which comes from a positive, efficient routine.

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There is a common saying that you can make/break a habit in 21 days. If you commit yourself to best practices when creating your comics by using some of the tips above, you’ll be well on your way to forming a good habit.

How does this help me create a buffer?

Your focus, doing things in bulk and having the habit of doing these things by being in control of how you work is the first step. Now comes the hard part – figuring out how to physically create the buffer.

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First off – do the math and figure out how long it takes to produce a comic. Now map out an average day from the moment you awake to the moment you go to bed. Hidden in there somewhere is the equation that leads to how many extra hours you can dedicate to producing more comics.

For some, the routine of being more efficient may be enough to provide an extra hour or two during your week to create (or get started on) an additional page/strip. But for those who still don’t make enough time from the productivity methods above, some sacrifices need to be made and extra bits of time need to be found.

 

For me, the day looks like this:
– up at 6- 6:30 am
– get myself and daughter ready for the day, leave house at 7:30
– arrive to the office around 8- 8:15
– begin workday by 8:15/8:30
– spend lunch + breaks doing comic related stuff = 1 hr. (usually between the hours of 11am to 2pm)
– hustle to get all my work done for the day, spend extra time for comic related stuff (adds up to around 1-2 hrs)
– leave work by 4:15
– get home at 5:00
– dinner, family time, exercise, bedtime for daughter – 5:30 to 8:30 pm
– in bed by 11pm

Rinse, repeat.

On first glance, extra time I can use for myself could be created in the morning. I could go to bed earlier to compensate for that hour in the morning. Aa an alternate method, I could cut out TV time at night or schedule 1 day a week that is free time for me.

Let’s explore these possibilities…

Getting up earlier.
Jason Brubaker of reMIND got up an hour earlier each day to work on page spreads for his graphic novel. Because there was no one else that was awake at that time (he had a young child and his wife was expecting their second) he was more productive and less distracted in that extra hour, and was able to stay ahead of schedule with his work.

He mentions it in his process blog as he was putting reMIND together. 1 2 3 4
It was a short term sacrifice for a long term gain.

The FREE day

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The idea behind this is dedicating ONE day/evening to doing extra work with no distractions. The best way to pull this off is to go somewhere to work. Unfortunately for most of us, this isn’t an option as we do not have a studio separate from our homes.

I suggest taking a notepad/sketchbook and going somewhere like a library or to a park where you will have limited distractions and be more focused on your work – rather than worrying about your kids throwing things down the stairs or your significant other nagging you for something. Make sure this doesn’t conflict with family time (more important) or appointments. The FREE day should be flexible.

With that free time, you should be able to produce an extra page or strip. You now have that day ahead waiting in the wings. Do not squander it by taking a day off, otherwise you end up right back where you started.

The Takeaway

If you’re looking to build a buffer, but barely have enough time to get your comic out on a daily basis, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the way you manage your time.

Eliminating wasted time from distractions, being more efficient in your production, and committing to a routine to develop good work habits is the best way to get started. From there, find the extra hours you can use to your advantage to squeeze out and extra piece of work. Continue on with the program until you have 10 extra pages. Then continue until you’ve reached 25 extra updates. Before you know it, you’ll have amassed a buffer that will allow you to get through 2-4 weeks or even months in the event of sickness, injury or more importantly – a well deserved holiday.

You could develop a buffer of epic proportions that rivals that of Howard Tayler’s buffer from Schlock Mercenary (he was hovering around 40 at one time).

Good luck!

Andrés ‘ Drezz ‘ Rodriguez is an illustrator, author, and podcast personality. In addition to creating the comic book series ‘El Cuervo – the Latin Assassin,’ he provides WA readers with periodic articles (like this one) to help improve their comic production and their processes.

Feel free to follow him on Twitter, on Facebook or his blog, drezzworks.

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Posted in Featured News, Helpful Hints and tagged , , , .

7 Comments

  1. Love this article! Currently, I try to almost always have a buffer. One thing that helps with mine is that I have a reasonable posting schedule, 2x a week. When I started out, the first year, it was once a week.

    A good way to find extra time to get ideas out is if you take public transit anywhere. Currently I take the train to work and it’s been a great way to unwind from the day (on the ride home) and get almost an hour of focused time with my comics/illustrations.

    • That’s a great idea. Use that downtime wisely. I used to script out comic ideas when I rode the bus. Not so easy to do when you drive to work…

  2. I knew I wanted to have a buffer, so I simply waited until I had 16 pages of my comic done before I launched. As months went on, I got a bit faster at drawing, and my current buffer is 29 pages, I have updates scheduled all the up to July 1st. It feels nice and terrible both at the same time, because I have all these pages I could post at once but have to wait months until my readers see them, but I wouldn’t want to rushing pages to meet my own deadlines either.

    • That’s always the drawback when you have a nice big buffer. But its also a nice drawback to have.

      It also gives you some reprieve if you want to make a change prior to posting. I’ve done that myself.

  3. I use an app called inkpadnotepad I use it on my phone and my tablet. then when the wifi is enabled, it updates to the website.

    I take those two things with me everywhere. So whenever I get an idea, I write it down. After breezing thru a crapload of WA podcasts, I had alot of ideas. Ended up getting a 12 script buffer. Which, posting only on fridays, gives me almost 3 months of buffer. 🙂

  4. thanks Drezz, great article

    I had a buffer when i started but now i have stopped using poser pics for the finished pages i nee more time so my buffer has gone. i tend to do my best work first thing so i get up at 5 work till 12 and slow down to chill speed from that point.

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