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Art by Mehoné Sleshi

I was planning on taking tonight to clean up a bunch of the early concept art from the first ever contributors, Joey Ezra and Nick Lepley. I found my Wacom tablet but can't find the darned stylus. I looked everywhere I can think to look, and the most reasonable thing I can think is that the gods of creativity don't want me to doodle tonight. They want me to write, so they've hidden it from me. Man, I reaaaally want to show you guys some of the more recent stuff... but I think that'd be rolling out too much too soon. You don't want it all now, with little over the next six months but my usual "wrote a page and it was easy" / "wrote a page and it was harrrd" updates, do you?

Hm... let's compromise.

Here's a couple of concepts for Donnie Demonic from a couple of years ago done by Mehoné Sleshi. Enjoy.

And now, back to the drawing-- er... writing board.

- db

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Two steps forward, one step back

If you're wondering, I didn't do a page. I did write, but I ended up taking out an issue's worth of outline, so I only came up half a page longer than I started. Still, I suppose a cut that needs to be made can make a story better as much as a paragraph that needed to be written. I'm starting to feel like there isn't much more to write. Action increases toward the end and it seems I just haven't got as much to say. Could be a bad night. Could be I need to adjust the structure of the last six or seven issues before it will really start flowing from my fingertips.

Still ahead on the deadline, but that page-a-day pace sure felt good. But hey, progress is progress.

- db

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That is not all

I had a huge idea for restructuring Part One to make it work better for the overall story and, wouldn't you know it, better for the first part as a somewhat self-contained narrative. And this was expected to occur in the writing of the second part, of course. I'm excited to work that out - I think it will all fall into place pretty easily [the fool, the fool]. But... I've heard for a long time that you should just get a horrible finished first draft of the whole story out there before you make any revisions. If you realize in chapter seventeen that the mechanic needs to have a sister, you go back to your early chapters and write in the margin "add sister". And you keep moving forward until you're done.

Right now, it's taking a lot of effort to ignore my great new approach to Part One and just keep steamin' ahead, but I've never done it before. I've always succumbed to revising one part a dozen times instead of writing a dozen new parts.

Not this time. I'm getting another page in tonight. Headphones are in. There Will Be Blood soundtrack is starting. I'll be back.

... but not right back.

- db

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Sunlight good

Day writing is much more productive. I put in another page in two and a half hours. A real page of new stuff. I rearranged a little and actually took out a few big paragraphs and still made it. Still on track, still ahead of schedule. Boom. Guess I'm getting off early.

- db

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Does not start with a bang

I'm not doing so great at not working late. I put the two plots back together and I'm still trying to figure out how to reconcile the different paces. Breaking up this paragraph into two, adding details to that one and a few others. Sometimes it's really hard, putting one word in front of another. Feels like I'm just explaining to myself things that I already know.

But I'm up to eight pages now. Still on deadline. And I'll be back at it tomorrow. Daytime. With coffee.

'till then,

- db

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Balance

I've been focusing on the secondary plot a lot lately. It's been getting so much of my attention, it started to feel like the major plot and I began worrying about the page distribution. So tonight, as an exercise, I separated the major plot from the secondary plot, and I distributed the issuing for each one without reference to the other, except to place a few minor ideas that could be planted less specifically throughout the narrative. I think I still may have missed a few... I haven't put them back together yet, but I did scroll through them side by side and got a pretty good idea of how it will flow. I see some areas that will need a little work before they fit together just right, but it's a refreshing, literal change of pace. And that's good. Not only were the page counts becoming comparable, but the story beats - the cliffhangers, and lessons - were too in synch, I think. There is some value to reflecting on the same idea or situation in two radically different ways, but it was too constant, too noticeable, too... annoyingly parallel.

This new take is only subtly different, but gives each story its appropriate gait toward the inevitable crossing of the two and should work out better for the overall story. I've been thinking a lot in terms of subtext for a while... But I'm writing in the world now. Gotta get there. See it. Smell it.

I wrote some new known things, as well as some new new things, getting deeper into it. The early issues have massive outlines, with the later ones less realized. Sentence fragments. But I added another page to the outline tonight. Seven pages.

Oh right - I also figured out what I'm going to do about the sleep and stuff... I made a work schedule. It's only fifteen hours a week, but it will allow me four nights a week of regular sleepin', two days completely off off, and every evening with my family. I got started late tonight, so I'm writing late, but I'll usually be at it when my brain is fresher. I think I'll be more efficient in a clearly defined work schedule. If tonight's work is any indication of the productivity I can expect, I may be finished with this a week ahead of the deadline.

Feelin' good.

Here's a picture I drew on this day six years ago. Started thinking less cute, more mature.

Meet Six-gun Cyanide, a legendary outlaw.

Bonus: Also here is a similarly-timed take on Subject Sinister. I wanted him to match the style of the Six-gun piece, and I'd also stopped thinking of the Corps as a band by this point and wanted a redo on the concept. Hey... His bass guitar is a shotgun now.

Goodnight. Happy 2014.

- db

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Discovery

Good things happened last night. I filled out a couple of paragraphs, not looking to write much new stuff, just added in some known interactions and details. Then one tweak to a minor character created a through-line for several of the floaters - ideas that seemed crucial to the idea of two major characters but had a hard time getting into the outline. That whole arc just got a lot cleaner. Have I mentioned that at times, it seems as if I'm uncovering a story that already exists, fully formed and real? I have to just shake off my preconceptions and it eventually finds me, this doorway of details I'd already taken for granted and forgotten.

I'm excited to get back to it. But not tonight. Alas, I am mortal. Really need to figure out this sleep thing. This balancing work and life shtick. And I do mean life. Or... Can you die from lack of sleep?

I dunno. But I can't stay up until 3:30 every morning. I'll be back at it at a more reasonable hour.

Goodnight, little ghosts.

Bite all the bedbugs back.

- db

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You may say I'm a dreamer

Is 2:30 in the morning too late for a reasonable twenty-nine year-old to put on his dreamcatcher shoes and begin working on his pet project from high school? Maybe that's a question for the future.

I did get in a couple of hours of writing earlier today. The artist I recently mentioned needed an idea of the world and what happens in it to take her first stab at depicting a character who is particularly mysterious - so mysterious, in fact, that I have been mostly unable to adequately describe him to anyone who has offered their artistic services. I sent her an improved version of the current working proposal and wrote a new character summary for the spooky gentleman in question. I think it's the best and most complete description I've written for any character yet, and the proposal is a bit more complete as well. So that's a keeper of an email.

But even when I'm reading and researching and having conversations, I feel a little guilty if I don't contribute directly to the work itself. Right now I just want to to run through the outline and jot down the scenes, images, and dialogue as they occur to me for half an hour or so. Something to turn into additional paragraphs at a later time.

So I'm gonna. But just for a bit.

Maybe 2:30's too late, and tomorrow I'll be tired and wish I'd gone to bed sooner. But maybe a few years from now, I'll look back and say, "Yes. It was entirely reasonable."

-db

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Update

Up to eight pages with all of the page count estimations in. Those will change continuously, but they do help my story pacing - it really makes me take a look at how much is enough for an issue and how much is too much. But I think I've got it structured in a way that pleases me. Now it's all just adding details.

Onward.

- db

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Revisions

Revisions, revisions. Good work was done tonight. It's beginning to fill out nicely. When developing a story, you (I?) start very big, using few words to convey the purpose and meaning of the story. Then you (or I) get medium-sized, giving more detail to the characters and the movements and resolutions of the acts. Then you (me again) get small and break it down to issues, scenes, or chapters. For the first time now, I'm really getting granular by trying to apply a rough estimate of the pages per paragraph in the description of each issue. It may seem a little... is there a better word than anal?... but it's been a very healthy exercise for me, and is really showing me some things about the pacing.

Tonight I rearranged a lot and wrote quite a bit. It's up to six pages now -- and I understand that may not seem like a lot considering I wrote just nine days ago that I had a four page outline, but turning those medium-sized chunks of plot and theme into a compelling, consistent, episodic narrative can be a taxing and puzzling task.

I've seen this quote attributed to Oscar Wilde and Gustave Flaubert:

"I spent the morning putting in a comma and the afternoon removing it."

I like that, because sometimes that's how it goes. But tonight, I really did some good stuff. I'm writing a story that excites me as I discover it, even if I do it by spending two hours rearranging paragraphs and replacing landlocked phrases and only half an hour writing. Every time I sit down to it, it's a joyride.

The poor man's editor is a pair of fresh eyes after couple of weeks away from the work. You're supposed to come back and see everything that's wrong with it. I tend to exhaust myself working and walk away dreading that I've shredded the whole thing to ribbons. But then I come back, and I'm pleased to find what I've left for myself

I aim to have this thing written by January 23rd. Jordan and I are going to PAX South, and that weekend we're going to go over this thing issue by issue like we did with Part 1. We'll make notes, and I'll revise, and we'll make sure it all fits together. Then we'll do the same thing with Part 3.

One thing leads to another, yadda yadda yadda, the Corps takes over the world.

And for you, the faithful, as a reward for being here from the beginning (and for reading this post), here's another drawing I did in the 2006-2007 range.

Guess what this guy's name is?

- db

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Counting pages

Started revisions on the full Part 2 issue breakdown tonight. Considering each issue in terms of page count instead of plot beats is doing interesting things to my perspective on the story's structure. It's turning out to be as dense and layered as I imagined it should be, but didn't see myself writing yet. - db

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Another step taken

Rough issue breakdown for Part 2 - done. To celebrate, here's one of the earliest Spooky Corps drawings that exists - the Daniel Brazell take on Donnie Demonic circa 2006, back when Spooky Corps was going to be a band.

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Rough Edges

No writing tonight. Jordan and I did a little smoothing out of what I've outlined so far. It needs revision, but first I'll have to put down the third act, and I don't have it in me tonight. Or this morning, I suppose I should say. Made a rough production timeline. It's got about thirty steps all on the creative work, but none of the marketing, funding, or community stuff.

I also reached out to one of my concept artists to make a rate inquiry. I'd like to start on hammering out the character designs as early as possible, even if it's going to start rough and stay that way for who knows how long...

Everything is rough right now, but I want to move through this project at all angles so I don't have a comic in my hands and none of the leg work done. The way I'm going about it... well, the plan is to have as many ducks in a row as possible so that when it's go time on the next step, I'm ready for it. So it can't always be about the writing...

But when it is, that's the best part.

Maybe tomorrow.

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Late night

Ahhh. Late night. I usually get to work around this time. The day job is hours behind me, the chores are done, the kid's asleep, and the wife is in bed, scrolling through her blogs and Pinterest boards. I plug in my headphones, play something spooky, crack my knuckles, and start plugging away.

Sure, I do other things throughout the day. Today I checked out an editor who posts in a group I belong to, and I roughly outlined the production budget for the first issue (including paying an editor, an artist, an inker, a colorist, a letterer, the printers, and the USPS) to see what it'll cost me to self-publish if it comes to that. Using some assumed page rates, I worked out the logic in the spreadsheet to see the minimum number of people I'll need to order the issue if I want to pay off the creative team, print the comics, and ship them myself.

Prooobably gonna need more than 18 page likes before we can make that happen. But I have over a year before my self-set deadline is upon me. Almost every day, I'm doing /something/, whether it's brainstorming with Jordan, looking into affordable freelance artists, or reading and listening to interviews and panels focusing on writing comics, breaking in, and self-publishing. I've got a lot to do and a lot to learn to be able to do it, and I'm going to need that year.

But right now, I have the night and something spooky to listen to.

I'm plugging in my headphones... now.

- db

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