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Posts tagged as “Blitz Comics”

Visualizing a Punch List

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Screen shot 2012-04-20 at 9.41.42 AM.png

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

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One of the biggest problems I see in unprofessional, unpublished or just unhappy creators is not finishing.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.


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.

Nano Rules That Lead to Progress

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Mocha Freeze at Cafe Borrone, With Laptop Reflection This is my sixth year attempting Nanowrimo and my sixth (and seventh) Nano book, and I've learned to adopt a few rules to help make the thing progress.
  • Nanowrimo comes first. All existing writing projects should be scheduled for before or after Nano. One of the worst experiences I had was trying to finish 38000 words of Nano in 10 days after having lost almost half of it to editing FROST MOON.
  • The Internet stays off until 1,667 words are done. There are a dozen reasons to use the Internet - to look something up, to check your email, to blog on Facebook. DON'T. Not even if you're ahead. Get a whole day's writing in before you log on. In particular, NO BLOGGING, Tweeting or Facebooking until you're caught up. Turn your Internet off if you have to - that's what I do, writing on a laptop.
  • Don't read+eat, then write; write+eat, then read. This one may not apply to you. I have a day job at The Search Engine That Starts With A G, so to get writing done, 3-5 days a week as wife, cats and friends permit, I go to dinner by myself, read something to feed my head, and then go out for coffee and write. But sometimes writing gets the short shrift when you do that, if you're reading something interesting or get lost in email. Normally that's OK; you should read more that you put out in writing. In Nano, I have to upend this and write first, come hell or high water.
  • Look things up later - use <angle brackets> if you have to. Even if you don't have the Internet, there are ways to look things up when you're writing. Don't. If you don't know Marcus Tullius Cicero's name, just write <cicero's name> in angle brackets and go back later, searching for angle brackets and looking things up. Your writing will thank you.
  • If you know the plot, write all the beats down, then expand them later. My process involves thinking about stories long before I write them. I think of a dozen, a hundred, a thousand ideas for every one I write down. I've been thinking about HEX CODE, for example, for a few years, and my head's full of ideas. So sometimes, even when your writing juice is gone, you can quickly bang down the beats of the plot - "Cinnamon leaves for the Rogue. She gets paranoid by the park. She thinks she sees somebody. Then Tully surprises her and gives her grief." There's 500 words tomorrow, all planned out today.
  • Use the Nano community. There's a South Bay Nanowrimo community and while I haven't had time to go to their events this year I did have time to learn from their wisdom. In particular, they had a suggestion to get a head start by going to a Denny's on Halloween and starting writing at midnight to get an entire day's writing in before the first day had really started. I was too wiped to do that, but ...
  • Get a head start. ... but I was not too wiped to set my alarm for thirty minutes past midnight and to get up and write at home. I stayed up from about 12:45 to 3AM, alternating between writing and puttering with the cats. I got a lot written - 1129 words. Then I took my laptop to lunch and finished out my day. Then I took my laptop to dinner and started work on the next day. Then I took my laptop to Cafe Borrone's and finished out the SECOND day. The result? I wrote 3500 words today. If I can keep up 1667 words a day, then I'll finish a day early. Woot!
  • Track your progress. I use a spreadsheet which I'm going to detail in a later post, but the long and the short of it is that you need to do 1667 words a day to finish 50,000 words by the end of November. Track your progress and hold your feet to the fire.
  • Write, write, WRITE! Enough said? No. There's a lot of planning you may need to do to finish Nano. WRITE FIRST. Get yourself a day or two ahead. THEN PLAN. Some of your best work will come from winging it.
Finally, one more word of wisdom. Don't start work on your second Nano book until you've finished your daily quota for the first. It's better to finish one book than it is to have two half finished books in the month. Remember, it's better to be done! In fact, I'll go further and say you should take a little break between the two of them, to say, for example, blog your Nano writing rules, just so you'll tackle the second book fresh. This advice only applies to insane people trying to do 2 novels in Nano. So, the result of me following these rules? 3500 words done today on HEX CODE: And seriously, I'm only 96 extra words into STRANDED. Instead of trying to complete two Nano books, I'm going to try to make progress on completing my beta reader draft of STRANDED during my Nano downtime, as long as I'm making ahead-of-schedule progress on HEX CODE. And if I finish that ... THEN I can think of tackling STRANDED as a second Nano. -the Centaur

24 Hour Comics Day, Redux

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24HCD at Sunnyvale No, I'm not doing 24 Hour Comics Day 2 weekends in a row ... but my buddy Nathan Vargas is. He's the other half of Blitz Comics and through an odd set of circumstances involving the Alternative Press Expo we ended up signing up for a 24 Hour Comics event at Mission Comics 1 week before today, the official 24 Hour Comic Day. (And I completed mine!) my 24 hour comic ... in my lap I owe too many people too many things (fixing my wife's computer, finishing edits of "Steampunk Fairy Chick", finishing a draft of STRANDED, doing an interview, scanning last week's comic, etc) to do 24HCD again, but after tonight's Doctor Who finale I did drop by around midnight tonight with donuts and good cheer. Krispy Kreme (and Pizza) We hung out, gave donuts to the security guards, and watched some Batman fan film. Then, while the toiling artists toiled, I spent some time cleaning up the images from last week's 24 Hour Comic Day (which I had scanned while watching Doctor Who). I just finished, it's only been two hours, but it already feels like another 24HCD! However, I'm happy with the results, and will do 24HCD again next year. I particularly like the dual page spread from Stranded, but I'll hold it back until I get the whole comic uploaded to and will instead tease you with the first page of the novella: The first page of the adapted STRANDED novella. Onward! Upward! Homeward, for me! And best of luck to the toiling comickers here in Sunnyvale! -the Centaur

BLitz Comics 24 Hour Comic Boot Camp @ Kaleid

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blitz comics boot camp september 23 2011 at kaleid gallery in san jose Nathan Vargas and myself are facilitating a 24 Hour Comic Boot Camp at Kaleid Gallery in downtown San Jose tomorrow, September 24 from 7pm to 11pm. For those that don't know, 24 Hour Comics Day is a challenge held each year to create a 24 page comic from scratch in 24 Hours. Nathan and I have tried this five times between the two of us, and we've been discussing techniques to succeed over the last year. Then a drunk guy manning a comics booth at the Sub Zero festival overheard us saying that and said we should put on a tutorial. And since we have a policy of always following the advice of random drunk guys when it sounds like they are serving as a hotline for God, we said OK! The Birth of Blitz Comics Our work has produced a pretty nice 24 Hour Comics Day Survival Kit which is now getting distributed to a lot of 24 Hour Comics venues. And it's free under a Creative Commons license! So you can download it and use it on your own. But we're going one step further and providing a "Boot Camp" where we'll help participants create a 2 page comic, involving discussions of comic theory and 2 hours of drawing exercises. So please show up and enjoy ... or at least check out Blitz Comics and our survival kit if you want to survive 24 Hour Comics Day. -the Centaur