Blitzing 24 Hour Comics Day 2012

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24 Hour Comics Day is a challenge to create 24 pages of a new comic in 24 Hours. The challenge was originally conceived by comics whiz Scott McCloud in 1990, and the challenge was organized into a formal day by Nat Gertler in 2004. Now, eight years later, 24HCD is a global event in which thousands of people participate.

My first two tries at 24 Hour Comics Day were miserable failures in 2009 and 2010. My good friend Nathan Vargas also failed, and we started putting our heads together about how to succeed. For me, pulling a Jim Lee and taking a year off to massively cram at being a great artist might merit an angry note from my mortgage service provider, so we needed other options.

We analyzed how we failed, developed strategies and tutorial materials, and ultimately produced the Blitz Comics Survival Kit — not called 24 Hour Comics Survival Kit because we didn’t want to look like we were providing “official” materials; the Survival Kit was just our take on how to succeed, and we didn’t even know whether it would work, because we hadn’t done it yet.

As it turns out, the techniques in the Kit did work in 2011, not just for Nathan and me but also for a wide variety of other people as well. Nathan has worked hard to promote the ideas and concepts in the Kit while I’ve been a slack ass lazy bum writing novels, so since he works hard now Comics PRO distributes our materials as Participant Resources. But was our success a fluke?

Well, to test the theory, we tried it again. A few months before we reviewed our exercises and updated the Survival Kit, though website problems prevented us from updating the materials everywhere in time for the 24HCD event. We re-ran the tutorial we’d done before, and practiced a month or so in advance, cracking the knuckles so to speak, to get ready …

Because yesterday was 24 Hour Comics Day.

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We both succeeded, of course; me around 8:20am and Nathan an hour and a half so later. It was great to participate at the always wonderful Mission Comics, but unlike previous years where we were too zonked to think at all, this year we had an interesting and lively conversation about what we did, why we did it, why we’re doing this, and how to make it better in the future.

And unlike last year, we’re planning to meet next week, rather than a few months in advance. Hopefully there will be some great stuff to show you – such as our comics, which we finally may have a strategy to get online without fixing the server error that’s been a pain in the patootie to fix. Next up: a 24 Hour Comics Day Timeline, like last year’s. Stay tuned.

Now, home to bed, because at this point I’ve been up 32 and a half hours straight!

-the Centaur

Pictured: the last page of my 2012 24 Hour Comic, “Stranded Part 2”, my adaptation of my own story “Stranded,” published in the book STRANDED. Got that? Also pictured is a bunch of writers at Mission Comics and Art. Thanks Leef!

DOORWAYS TO EXTRA TIME

Don’t you wish you could get an extra hour in the day? Well, what if you could?

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With Trisha Wooldridge, I’m co-editing a new short story anthology titled DOORWAYS TO EXTRA TIME forthcoming from Spencer Hill Press. From the call for submissions:

http://www.site.spencerhillpress.com/Doorways_to_Extra_Time.html

In our busy world of meetings and microwaves, car radios and cellphones, people always wish they could get an extra hour in the day. But what if they could? Doorways to Extra Time is an anthology that explores ways to get extra time (be it an hour, a day, or a decade) and the impact it would have (whether upon a single life, a family or an entire world). We’re looking for stories with a touch of the fantastic–whether mystical, magical, mechanical, or just plain mysterious–but they can be set in any time or any genre: contemporary or historical, science fiction or fantasy, horror or magic realism. We could even find a place for a nonfiction essay if it was truly exceptional. In short, show us something showstopping, and we’ll make time for you.

Suggested Length: full stories (from 3,000 to 7,000 words) and flash fiction (preferred under 1,000 words). We will accept good stories up to 10,000 words but longer lengths are a harder sell.

Due Date: October 15th, 2012  

Be sure to click through to the Spencer Hill site for the details on how to submit, and for all the legal boring bits. (And as a side note, this isn’t likely to be the cover; this is just a cover I whipped up for this blog post).

The anthology came out of an offhand conversation at the Write to the End writing group about how the way to get more time is to make time – a tweak of a line from the Merovingian in the Matrix Reloaded, but something I find to be very true. But my thoughts in fiction always turn to the fantastic and the supernatural, so I asked … what if you really could make time?

And it really does seem to be true. Already this idea has sparked two or three short stories among my very busy collaborators, even before the call to submissions was fully complete. Now that Spencer Hill has put it on its schedule, it’s time for all the rest of you to get cracking on your own stories about finding extra time … by October 15th.

On my end … wow. October 15th. It seems so close. Fortunately … I have THE DOORWAY…

-the Centaur

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Visualizing a Punch List

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Me and my buddy Nathan are refreshing BLitz Comics, our online tool to help us (and you!) break through logjams of creativity and just get DONE making comics! (Yes, I know, I’m writing a script, finishing a novel and editing a third, but the Earth continues in its orbit and to get stuff done you’ve got to just go do it).

To get started, we reviewed the site, page by page, and put together a punch list of things we wanted to update. “Punch list” is a housing industry term I picked up from my wife, a decorative painter, but which I find most people in the software industry know as well: a review of things to do to call it DONE, generated by a complete walkthrough of the home or site in question.

What we plan to do with the site, well, you’ll have to see. However, it struck me that our 200 words of punch would make great input for a Wordle, which helps us visualize what we’re doing and see how important we think it is. You see that Wordle above. Clearly, the sidebar and the showcase may be getting an update … 🙂

-the Centaur

(No) More Procrastination

Finally finished my “From Nano to Novel” pep talk for the National Novel Writing Month site … should be coming out later this month to the donors list. (What? You’re not a Nanowrimo donor? You can fix that here: https://store.lettersandlight.org/donations).

But I’ve posted that to Facebook and to Google+. Posting it again here is, I think, a good idea to make sure people know what I’m up to, but in another way it’s just procrastination … I’ve got the gamma comments on “Stranded” to work on and this is not that.

Back to work!

-the Centaur

Quit Procrastinating

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One of the most important things a creative person needs to learn is to recognize when you’re procrastinating. For example, I often have ideas to put on this blog – two or three times per day – but I’m a quiet person, and I think far more strings of speech than I ever put to paper. So it’s important for me to blog whenever I can.

So I’ve had several blog ideas today – “Getting Traction”, “Logic Versus Rationality”, “Rating Your Own Work (and How I Rate)” and the one I just thought of that made me open Ecto, “Advantages of Offline Blogging Clients” and its companion piece “How to Use Photoshop Filters and Photo Booth to Make Watercolor Art Because You Don’t Have Clip Art Handy.”

All of these are procrastination.

I owe my editors feedback on Traci Odom’s reading of the audiobook of FROST MOON. I didn’t get to send it after I finished it because I finished it at 3 in the morning in the hospital and then spent the next day getting my loved one back home safely before hopping on a plane and getting back to all the work delayed by this unexpected trip.

During this whole family quasi-emergency this week, I deliberately focused on taking on tasks like listening to FROST MOON or blogging or cleaning up my hard drive, all of which didn’t require building up a lot of mental state, which made them ideal for tasks for sitting up next to a hospital bed ready to help at a moment’s notice.

But the operation’s over, the result’s a success, the loved ones are back home and my reading’s done. When you’ve got an outstanding task that requires thought, it’s SO EASY to switch gears to something that doesn’t require a lot of mental effort. But no. Not this time. Time to write the notes, record the pronunciations, send the email, and get this audiobook out the door.

Finish blogpost hit Publish.

-the Centaur

It’s Better to Be Done

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I am very interested in promoting creation. I think the world would be a better place if more people wrote, drew, painted, sculpted, danced, programmed, philosophized, or just came up with ideas. Not all ideas are great, and it’s important to throw away the bad and keep the good – but the more ideas we can generate, the more we can test.

One of the biggest problems I see in unprofessional, unpublished or just unhappy creators is not finishing. It’s very easy to start work on an idea – a painting, a novel, a sculpture, a program, a philosophy of life. But no matter how much you love what you do, there’s always a point in creating a work where the act of creating transforms from play to work.

Whether you stall out because the work gets hard or because you get distracted by a new idea, it’s important to realize the value of finishing. An unfinished idea can be scooped, or become stale, or disconnected from your inspiration. If you don’t finish something, the work you did on it is wasted. More half finished ideas pile up. Your studio or notebook becomes a mess.

If you don’t finish, you never learn to finish. You’re learning to fail repeatedly. The act of finishing teaches you how to finish. You learn valuable skills you can apply to new works – or even to a new drafts. I know an author who was perpetually stalled out on a problematic story – until one day she made herself hit the end. Now it’s on it’s fourth draft and is really becoming something.

The tricky thing is you have got to put the cart before the horse: you’ve got to finish before you know whether it was worth finishing. This does not apply to experienced authors in a given genre, but if you’re new to a genre, you have to finish something before you worry about whether you can sell it or even if it is any good.

You don’t need for something to be perfect to finish it. I know too many amateurs who don’t want to put out the effort to finish things because they don’t know whether they can sell it. No. You’ve got a hundred bad programs in you, a thousand bad paintings, a million bad words, before you get to the good stuff. Suck it up, finish it, and move on.

Procrastination is a danger. This is the point in the article that I got distracted and wrote a quick email to a few other creators about ideas this (unfinished) article had inspired. Then I got back to it. Then I got distracted again doing the bullet list below and went back and injected this paragraph. The point is, it’s OK to get distracted – just use that time wisely, then get back to it.

Finally, sometimes you just need help to finish the first time. The biggest thing is to find a tool which can help you over that hump when it stops being fun and starts being work – some challenge or group or idea that helps you get that much closer to done. To help people finish, I’m involved with or follow a variety of challenges and resources to help people finish:

  • Write to the End: It’s not a critique group; it’s a writing group. We meet almost every Tuesday at a local coffee house and write for 20 minutes, read what we wrote, and repeat until they kick us out. We normally hit three sessions, so I usually get an hour of writing in every night – and hear a half dozen to a dozen other writers. Inspirational. Our web site contains articles on writing, including my new column The Centaur’s Pen.
  • National Novel Writing Month: A challenge to write 50,000 words of a new novel in the month of November. This seems daunting, but Nanowrimo has a truly spectacular support group and social system which really helps people succeed at the challenge. Even if you don’t “win” the first time, keep at it, you will succeed eventually!
  • Script Frenzy: Write 100 pages of a script (play, screenplay, or comic script) in the month of April – another event sponsored by the creators of Nanowrimo. This is an event I haven’t yet tried, but am planning to tackle this year to get back into screenwriting (as part of my 20-year plan to get into directing movies).
  • 24 Hour Comics Day: It’s a challenge to produce a 24 page comic in 24 hours, usually held the first weekend of October. I’ve tried this 3 times and succeeded once. It’s taught me immense amounts about comic structure and general story structure and even improved my prose writing.
  • Blitz Comics: Because I failed at 24 Hour Comics Day, me and my buddy Nathan Vargas decided to “fake it until we make it” and to put on a boot camp about how to succeed at 24 Hour Comics Day. We produced a Boot Camp tutorial, a 24 Hour Comics Day Survival Kit – and along the way taught ourselves how to succeed at 24 Hour Comics Day.
  • Other Challenges: There are a couple of events out there to create graphic novels in a month – NaGraNoWriMo and NaCoWriMo – though both of these are 2010 and I don’t know if either one is live. (If they’re not active, maybe I’ll start one). There’s also a 30 Character Challenge for graphic artists to create 30 new characters in a month.

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Finally, I want to finish with what inspired this post: the Cult of Done. I won’t go too deeply into the Done Manifesto, but from my perspective it can be summed up in two ideas: posting an idea on the Internet counts as a ghost of done, and done is the engine of more. Get your stuff done, finish it, and if it’s still half baked, post it to force yourself to move on to newer and better things.

The plane is landing. Time to get it done.

-the Centaur

Credits: The BlitzComics guy is penciled, inked and colored by me and post-processed by Nathan Vargas. Joshua Rothass did the Cult of Done poster and distributed it under a Creative Commons license. This blog post was uploaded by Ecto, which is doing well (other than an upload problem) and is probably going to get my money.

Vibrancy in Social Media

Some social networks vibrate with life: tweets ripple through Twitter, three quarters of a billion people use Facebook, and Google+ grew faster than either of them in their early days. Others, like MySpace or Orkut or LinkedIn, may not exactly be suffering, but they don’t have the same buzz and aren’t growing at the same rate.

I don’t have access to all the numbers when I’m interacting with a social network: I only have its interface to my local network. But there’s a side effect to a network’s rapid growth and activity: some of that activity will flow through MY part of the network. Now, that’s true of even non-social media like newsgroups and RSS feeds, so activity by itself isn’t enough.

What’s interesting is how likely MY inputs are to garner a response or even start an ongoing conversation. Let’s call that the network’s vibrancy. Now, the measured vibrancy will be different for different users, different inputs and different times. But we can hold that constant if the user in question, like me, crossposts similar content to different networks.

I do this because I’m an author, and I don’t require my fans to be members of Facebook or Google+ or Twitter or to have an RSS reader – so I need to post many announcements to every service that my fans might be on. So what follows is my brief, purely unscientific judgments about the vibrancy of several social networks.

General Social Networking: Facebook, followed by Google+, followed by Twitter. Within minutes of me posting to Facebook, I usually get a number of likes or responses. Google+ is also good, but not quite as fast, or quite as deep. Twitter, while being great for hearing announcements from people I’m interested in, isn’t as responsive as the first two. Other services I’ve tried, like MySpace, Orkut and Buzz, were either less active to begin with or not vibrant at all.

Literary Networking: Goodreads. I’ve been on LibraryThing for a while, but I haven’t yet seen much activity. Goodreads, however, after some unfortunate business with spamming some of my contact list, has nonetheless proved both very active and very reactive to what I have posted.

Business Networking: No winner. I’ve used Linkedin, but my primary activity on it has been receiving connection requests and there’s been very little response to my updates on its interface.

Thinking about these services, what makes the vibrant ones vibrant is a combination of features: Enough users, enough activity, ease of posting, ease of sharing, and in particular with Goodreads, enough different activities to make the interface a game. With Goodreads, you can post reviews, book progress, shelving and so on and this activity is exposed. Goodreads is like a game played with your literary friends and the fans of the books you’re a fan of. To a lesser degree, services like Facebook and Google+ which make image and link sharing and commenting fun do the same thing.

I haven’t taken this analysis any deeper. Right now this is just a thought posted to the intarwubs – the ghost of done (from the Cult of Done manifesto) since done is the engine of more. More thoughts after I spend more time researching social media.

-the Centaur