10 Questions for Creators to Consider

 

So, maybe you’ve been inspired by a few favorite comics out there, and are thinking about starting your own (web)comic. Naturally, you have some reservations and are asking yourself, “Am I talented enough? Can I keep up with updates? What if no one find my comic funny? How long before I make cute little plushes?” It’s perfectly fine to waver in confidence from time to time, but it takes fuel and motivation to get a vehicle in gear… You’re just not sure when is best to just put the petal to the metal and GO.

Or, maybe you already are a creator and have been toiling away at your own comic for years… But are hitting a wall of insecurity or find yourself in a rut. Questions like, “Do I still love doing this or is it just habit at this point? Does my comic have enough worth or merit to warrant a sizable readership? When is it time to throw in the towel? Can I make the damn plushes now?”  cross your mind. In times like this, it’s best to get back to the basics— the reasons you started the comic in the first place. These reasons can reignite that engine, or you may find they no longer make sense for you NOW. But revisiting them is the first step.

Whether a novice or a pro, at one point or another you should have asked yourself some questions… And hopefully answered them by producing comics you can be proud of. Here, I am rounding up some of the most important questions to fuel or refuel that engine of creation which has been idling for whatever reason. Okay, I promise, no more car metaphors.

1. Why do you want to draw/write/create comics?

This is #1 for a reason. You will revisit this question the most throughout the life of your comic. Especially during those late nights, 5 cups of coffee in, when you REALLY would rather be sleeping. (or, if you’re Antoine, drinking). We all will ask “WHY am I doing this??!” from time to time, as most creative endeavors are thankless and lacking in immediate and consistent profit. Obviously, if you are in this for the money, you are a very, very confused sap. If you in it for marketing/business reasons (ie: “3 comics posted is enough to warrant plushes, right??!”), again, you will probably be sorely disappointed. I think it goes without saying that you should be creating comics because you want to create comics…. WHY you want to create comics leads us to #2…

2. What do you want to write about? Do you want your comic to be a form of personal expression, or a venue for storytelling?

This is key, as it will lay down the foundation for the concept of your comic. Some people are born storytellers, others have a knack for telling jokes or recounting personal experiences in a way that is very compelling to readers. If you are not sure what you may excel at, the old adage “Write What You Know” is a good place to start. Write about things you enjoy, you have a deal of knowledge about, about a subject that will give you plenty of material to keep you interested in writing MORE.

3. Is your vision (#2) more applicable for a quick-hitting comic strip, or a long-form chapter comic?

Depending on your answer for #2, #3 will probably fall into place. These 2 forms of the medium are inherently different… and require different planning, marketing, update schedules, and abilities.  Different concept lend themselves more towards one or the other. For instance, a multi-layered mystery story packed with action probably won’t work too well as a 4-panel strip…. just as a quirky humor-based character study with short plot lines will seem overextended in a long-form traditional comic page.

4. How complex should your characters be? Should they grow old over the lifespan of the comic, or be frozen in a moment of time?

A question that definitely should be considered before you start writing… as making this decision (or changing it) after running the comic for a while can be very confusing to the readers. Probably more relevant to comic strips with an extended future… but if you’re a long-form writer, this questions makes you consider the extent of the story and passage of time.

5. What method/medium of artistic creation excites you? What method do you think you excel at the most?

Ah, the “fun” part for most creators… once the story/gag is written, the enjoyment of being sucked into “the zone” and making artwork appear from thin air. Or your fountain pen, brush, sharpie, pencils, or digitally with a Tablet PC or Cinitq. Obviously, if you are a newbie, you may need to test out some mediums and see which is fitting for your skill set and your vision for your characters. Take the time to do lots of character studies in different styles and with different tools– let the answer come to you, don’t force it. Typically, if you really enjoy a specific medium, your work will show it. And hey, this is supposed to be FUN… if you are stressed or annoyed with the process, you’ll never be able to stick to it.

6. If you feel as though you are significantly lacking in one area (writing, coloring, inking, etc), is your idea for a comic worth it to you, to search out a partner?

This may take some time to realize or accept. You may even be well into running a title before you accept that fact that you cannot both write and draw your comic (either due to skill levels or time). Looking for a partner is a rough up-hill battle: finding the right style and talent in a potential partner, combined with the dedication and ability to work with others. Thankfully, it’s a bit easier nowadays with the handy-dandy internet at our fingertips and websites like elance.com where you can HIRE talent, or communities like DeviantArt where you can discuss a partnership without necessarily paying up front.

7. Is your comic strictly for YOUR enjoyment, or does part of your enjoyment involve sharing with comic readers?

Yes, webcomics in general post online for the enjoyment of others, but there are some people who are hesitant about sharing their work. You can make your comic just for yourself, without needing or wanting the feedback or reactions from others. Part of me believes someone with a true passion for the art form will create anyway, regardless of payment, praise, or fame. But hey, since it’s easy enough now to share it with the world for an added bonus, why the heck not?

8. Specifically for webcomics, are you willing and able to learn how to set up a website to use as your main publishing medium?

A lot of us artists just want to draw and leave the techie stuff to the internet nerds. Building a website for the first time can be a daunting task, but it’s an essential one if you wish to be a successful creator on the web. (Or really, if you want to be on the web at all). Unless you’re perfectly content drawing comics for yourself alone, you’ll have to bite the bullet and see what this WordPress (or other blog services) is all about. Truth be told, provided you have at least a mediocre grasp on internet technology (like using email, facebook, uploading pictures, using typical interfaces), you should be able to handle WordPress. For a quick tutorial on getting a website set up, check out this article I wrote months ago.

9. How involved are you willing to get with social media and other services that will help give your comic exposure?

A comic website is nothing more than a dusty shelf for your comic without exposure. The perk, as well as downfall, to webcomics is that instead of waiting around to be “found”, you are your own PR manager. Any longtime comic creator will tel you, the creation process is only a portion of the time you will spend on your comic. A big portion of your time should also be dedicated to promoting it, getting exposure, emerging yourself in the community and building a readership. It takes more time that you think. If the idea of getting involved with twitter, facebook, google+, or advertising with services like Project Wonderful, is enough to make you curl up in a ball, you may want to stick to making comics for yourself and sending of to publishers should you decide to put it out there.

10. What are some goals you have for your comic’s future?

This is a very subjective question, as there are no right answers. Creative endeavors are subjective in general, as their reception can vary widely. Plus, there’s the added element of “right-time-right-place” which makes any guarantees highly unlikely. A handful of poor comics will somehow find their way to the top for whatever niche reasons, and many many terrific comics will never find the right avenue of exposure to elevate them to their rightful level. I mention this in no way to deter you from trying… but to help you better set your goals for your comic. A strict goal of  “Making a living off my comic by 3 years in” is pretty steep and mostly likely will leave you with feelings of failure. … even if you are indeed creating a seamlessly perfect comic. Try to break down goals for each passing year… with the following year in mind. For instance, “Next year I will start exhibiting at conventions”, or “This year I will experiment with no less than 3 different mediums to see which works for me best”. The main goal to fuel (sorry! car reference!) your yearly decisions probably shouldn’t have a time limit on it due to the open-ended nature of this business. But this main goal can be anything from “Earn a living off my comic”, to “Create enough content to fill 3 volumes” to “Have fun and meet new friends!”.

By the time you #10, your answers for the other 9 probably laid out your goal for you. See how easy that was? I bet if you started with 10, setting a goal would have seemed to broad to grasp. But that is the best way to handle endeavors such as creating.. or continuing… your own comic. One. Step. At. A. Time.

 


Dawn Griffin is a self-described “crazy chick”. She likes steak, Cleveland sports, video games and oh yeah, comics. She spent her high school years either playing street ball, pitching, or drawing comics and submitting them to syndicates. Once she –accidentally– discovered the world of webcomics, the sydication route became a pointless hurdle. After all, “Crazy Chicks” do things their *&%$ selves. Dawn is the mastermind behind Zorphbert and Fred, and the illustrator of the Abby’s Adventures kids book series. She can be easily bribed with ice cream.

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7 Comments

  1. A lot of excellent questions! For folks that want to do it themselves but find WP/CP intimidating, Jason Smith on MakingComics.com recently made a series of posts that is VERY comprehensive set of instructions (complete with pictures) on how to use WordPress & ComicPress.

    Although when it comes to websites, I do think 6 & 8 can be combined. Good to understand the basics of design and WP use, but not 100% necessary to become a CSS/PHP/HTML expert. If you’re willing to shell out the cash, that is.

    For creatives, another great place for finding collaborators is the PWP Community. Maybe also the Illo Pond, although I’m less familiar with them.

  2. Great article, Dawn. A lot of helpful considerations that I wish I’d asked myself before I started doing my first webcomic, Pungirls, back in 2006.

    For the majority of webcartoonists who are just starting to publish their comics online, I’d recommend that you strongly consider a webcomic hosting service like Drunkduck or Smackjeeves. By eliminating hosting and domain name costs, you can start publishing your comics with no overhead right out of the gate–and with the technical stuff already set up for you. Additionally, many webcomic hosts have a community of cartoonists and readers with which you can share your comic: instant audience! For its first three or four months running, I posted my Pungirls strips on Blogger, and I only switched over to my own domain name when my friend Dwight agreed to host my comic on his own server space.

    Free hosting has its disadvantages, to be sure, but there’s a lot to recommend it as well. I’d encourage any new creator to consider their situation and ask whether a webcomics hosting service would be right for them. Bottom line: it’s darn hard work to make a buck off webcomics, so save your dollars wherever you can!

  3. Great info, Dawn! I wish there were articles like this out there written by current webcartoonists when I first started in 2008. There was information, but it was so outdated, and most of the writers were no longer creating that I wasn’t sure the material was still relevant. But, you all at WA are definitely practicing what you preach and we truly appreciate that. 😀

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