The comic book industry isn’t an easy one to break into, nor is it an easy one to stay and make a successful career in. As part of #MakeComics week, Comicosity reached out to creators working in the industry today for wisdom about breaking in and surviving the world of comics. We posed a question to them that we have seen asked a thousand times online, and these “pro tips” are priceless for would-be pros and pros alike. The question we posed:
Do you have any tried and true time saving shortcuts that allow you to cope with deadlines?
Writer/artist of Lady Killer, Helheim, Mockingbird
I keep a daily diary of the work I have accomplished for the day and what I hope to get done the next. It keeps me honest about where I am with each project at any given time.
Writer of The Red Ten, Epic, Tears of the Dragon – publisher of ComixTribe
Batching tasks whenever I can to limit context switching, which is a major time suck.
Outlining in Workflowy first before trying to write. Workflowy is my top new found tool in the last year, and it is literally an extension of my brain.
Do the most important thing you need to do each day first, and if possible, before the rest of the world even wakes up.
Colourist of Bitch Planet, DC Bombshells, Black Hood
My coloring system is fairly efficient. If I have books that take longer to prep (tedious amount of layers due to sfx, textures, etc.), I tend to send them to my assistant, Corrie to prep for me and that saves me loads of time. I use a lot of quick commands in PS as well as action commands I created to prep and save pages in batches. That also saves me loads of time.
Writer of The Invisible Republic, Star Wars Legacy, Once Upon A Time: Out of the Past
I guess the short answer to this is “no” unfortunately. The only way I ever get any work done is to just do the work. It helps that my husband is also a freelancer, so when one of us is under tremendous deadline pressure the other usually steps in to take over some of the life stuff, like laundry and feeding the dog. When we’re both under a lot of pressure, well… Some of that stuff just has to wait.
Writer of Green Lantern, The Flash, X-O Manowar, The Homeland Directive, The Surrogates
Honestly? No. Deadlines are deadlines. Don’t let yourself fall behind, and you’ll always hit them. If you consistently miss your deadlines, then you’re probably overbooked. No amount of shortcuts will help you with that. Only take on the amount of work you know you can handle, and deadlines won’t be a problem.
Artist of The Fix, Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Whiteout
I try not to draw stuff that readers aren’t going to see. I block in the lettering before pencilling a page, and don’t put a lot of time into pencilling or inking stuff that’ll be obscured by dialogue or captions. Also, remember that drawing comics is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not about fast, it’s about steady. Pace yourself. Make a reasonable schedule and stick to it.
Writer/artist of Superman, Booster Gold, Batman Beyond, New 52: Futures End
I wish I did!
In reality, there aren’t many shortcuts that can really be employed because they show up on the page. It’s far better to be as efficient as possible with time management right from the start and avoid getting into trouble in the first place.
Writer of A-Force, Jem And The Holograms, Heart In A Box
Unfortunately I’ve found no shortcut to getting the writing work done. I have ways I help myself keep going – playlists that cue me and keep me motivated, or if I’m blocked then I take a shower (all my best ideas happen in the shower…sounds magical but it’s probably just because there’s no Internet in there to distract me). So I’ve got tricks like that…but there’s nothing to take the place of the just doing the work I’m afraid.
Alex de Campi
Writer of No Mercy, Grindhouse: Doors Open After Midnight, Valentine
Get your motherfucking work done as soon as you can, basically. If you do your work as soon as you have time to do it, then I have always found MORE work magically appears that you can get paid to do in the time you’ve created. Like mama said: chores first, play second. Once you have been a full-time writer for a few years, you’re always thinking about stories, anyhow. Even if you aren’t actually writing that day, you’re turning over plotlines and ideas in the back of your head.
Writer of Phonogram, The Wicked + The Divine, Young Avengers, Darth Vader
I talk scheduling above, but I tend to feel things out a little more loosely than that. How many books am I writing now? How many books do I write a month? Does it all fit together?
I schedule 5 days a week for work. Abstractly I write 5 pages minimum of new work a day, with the rest of the day about polishing, editorial stuff, answering questions about work method for Comicosity, etc. Ideally more, but 5 pages a day means 25 pages (So a script and a quarter a week). Not working weekends, that adds up to 5 issues a month. Not planning to work weekends means there is room for a sprint period when the deadlines go full on, or if something goes terribly wrong. The thing with work is that constant running pace is a lot more successful than sprints. Yeah, sure, many can write a script in a day if you have to… but how many of them do you write before you burn out, and when you burn out, you remain broken for a longer time.
That’s without even mentioning that the more you do that, the more likely you are to produce utter shit.
I would urge a policy of consistency. Do not wait for the muse. Inspiration is for amateurs. Anyone can write when they’re inspired. This is a job because you have to be able to write when you’re not.
(And in practice, finding ways to become inspired is a big part of the job. My soundtracks curated to try and invoke the spirit of the book. And really? I tend to find once you’ve found a way to force yourself to write, inspiration starts coming anyway. You can always edit. The delete key is holy.)
Writer of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Halcyon – producer of Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow
I’m not sure there’s anything I can suggest that saves time. Writing takes as long as it takes. There are no shortcuts that I can divine — and I’m a pretty fast writer, by all accounts. The one thing I try to do when coping with deadlines isn’t so much a shortcut, but a productivity hack: I try to accomplish what I call “micro-tasks.” Sometimes, finishing an entire script in the time I have feels insurmountable. Where am I going to find all that time? But there are pockets of time — 15 minutes, 20 minutes… even 10 minutes would work — where I can get, say, an entire page written. Making good use of these pockets of time is a real boon to my productivity and it lowers my blood pressure about deadlines because I’m getting short, bite-sized discrete tasks done. Now, when it comes to scripting, I wouldn’t recommend doing this without an outline. There’s something to be said for momentum, for building up steam, but if I’m trying to write the script for one comic book page, I can do that in 20 minutes if I’m working off an outline and, therefore, not beginning from a cold start.
Writer/artist of I Hate Fairyland, Rocket Raccoon, countless Marvel variant covers
Just do the work. that’s the best shortcut. You’ll always be tempted to redo things, hesitate to start, wait for inspiration, etc. But I like to just start and get the work done. And the next day I do it again, trying to be better than yesterday. Rinse and repeat.
Writer of Black Science, Tokyo Ghost, Deadly Class, Uncanny X-Force
There’s no such thing. You don’t really sink into the work until you’re nearing the deadline, everything up until that point is half as productive, I find. If you have kids or even if you don’t you’re going to have to become a night owl to write, that’s when the phone stops ringing, the email stops filling up, nobody’s texting you, there’s nothing on twitter, the kids are in bed, and you can focus on actually sinking into getting your work done.
Writer of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Strange Nation, Orc Girl
I work a day job, so… lack of sleep? I write every day, but do the lion’s share of my writing on the weekends, and I have a page count that I hit every day — one for new pages, one for revisions. And my weekday page-count is one-third of what it is for Saturday and Sunday.
I try to work ahead as much as possible, especially since I tend to do multiple revisions on my own before sending anything to an editor. I want the script to be in as good of shape as possible before they see it, to minimize their work burden and maximize my value as a freelancer.
Artist of The Futurists, Captain America
There are no shortcuts. Stay organized. Do the work. Learn your limits and be realistic about what you can accomplish. Do the work.
Artist of Jem And The Holograms covers, Princeless Anthology
I am a compulsive list maker—and that’s really what I’d recommend for keeping track of everything. I put deadlines in my calendar and set up alerts so I don’t miss anything, and I always try to be at least a day early. Seeing projects blocked out on my calendar also helps me to know how much work I’m able to take on that month, if I’ve got 3 projects with similar deadlines, it’s probably time to say no to other requests. If I’ve got giant blank spaces on the calendar, it’s time to get some personal work and housekeeping done.
Artist of Titans, The Flash, Nightwing
It’s a simple one, STAY ON SCHEDULE! Things will always come up but once you hammer down a schedule, ESPECIALLY for the last half of the book, don’t deviate from it! If there’s a new movie, sorry you can wait till you’re done. Want to try a new club, sorry, gonna have to skip it. Your birthday can wait 3 days while you get this book done. The one thing that will get you noticed is doing the job well and on time.
Also know that editors will lie to you about when the books are due at the printers. Solicits aren’t due til the end of the month not matter what they tell you. Don’t take on more cover than you can do along with your regular work, they never factor them into schedules unless you ask them to!
Writer of Vampirella, Sunglasses After Dark
I deal with comic book scripts by first outlining the story, then writing the action. Once the entire book has been “blocked” , I come back and write the dialog, then do a final pass to make sure everything’s blended. I find it helps streamline the scripting process and eliminate writers block.
Writer of The Tomorrows, Mayday, The Fiction
Tight outlines help. It really varies person to person, I wish there was a more general answer.
Writer of Transformers, Toil & Trouble
Outline in detail beforehand, then break things down into chunks. This prevents wasted writing and procrastination/feeling overwhelmed. If you have a 20-page script due in 6 days, you outline your first day, write 5 pages a day after and save the last day for revisions. Easy!
I also find it helpful to have a doc open that just lists proper spellings and important tracking info so you’re not trying to remember what weapons your hitman has and what sound effects they make.
Valentine De Landro
Artist of Bitch Planet, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Adventures of Superman
I have none. I’m awful with deadlines and the last artist under the sun to give any tips on how to approach them. But I do keep track of where I’m allowing time to leak away, and refine my process so I can patch up those parts of my process.
Writer/artist of Wuvable Oaf
My secret weapon is definitely my aforementioned Cintiq (22HD model). I know there are many very vocal, purist “it all goes on the paper” comic artists out there; some are my friends and I respect them tremendously. They’re upholding a grand tradition. But in truth, there’s no “right” or “better” way to make comics and I employ a variety of techniques to get the job done. I always start by sketching on paper, to get the proportions of a drawing down (especially with figures). Then I scan it and digitally ink the rest, employing various textures, layers and Photoshop coloring techniques to complete the image. It affords me a very fluid and forgiving creative experience; I can reposition, adjust scale, try out different compositional elements, have infinite do-overs. I can bang out a full color, word-ballooned page in a day, which is something I was never able to do when I was using watercolor or inking on paper then cleaning up/coloring in PS. A lot of the time, people are surprised I work 100% digitally, so your work doesn’t have to look overly artificial if you keep your approach simple. I know not everyone can afford one, but it’s an incredibly smart long term investment in your productivity.
Writer of Green Lanterns, Star-Lord, Weirdworld
There are no shortcuts, you just start the work as early as possible and give yourself time to revise before you hand it in. As far as coping, I would have burnt out a long time ago without meditation.
Writer of Doctor Who, Captain Britain MI:13, Action Comics, This Damned Band
When I get a deadline, I work out how much work I have to do every day to get there, divide the project up into chunks that fit that, and work every day.
Artist of Jem And The Holograms, Glory, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Forget backgrounds where you really don’t need them. Nothing saves time like a panel with just a character on a white backdrop. Another thing that saves me a lot of time is planning characters’ outfits and hairstyles ahead of time, so I don’t spend all my time figuring that out on the fly while drawing a page.
Writer/artist of The God Machine, Fraggle Rock
Coffee, focus, driving music, and non-stop working without sleep. Sometimes that’s all you have to make it through.
PRO TIP: Drinking the blood of your enemies gives you good stamina for those late nights, or so I hear…
Writer of Harley Quinn, Starfire, The Big Con Job, All-Star Western
Yes, stay off the Internet, plug in the noise cancelling headphones and understand whatever the deadline, you are expected to finish your work before it. Making excuses constantly will get on peoples nerves, so get to work and treat it as seriously as you would anything that is important to you.
Artist of Genesis, Creepy, Shadows (In The Dark)
Nothing new for anyone else, but it helps me to get a decent sleep.
Writer/artist of Rust
Nope. It always comes down to hard work. There’s no shortcuts. Going digital helped speed things up a bit, hiring a flatter helped me a ton, but at the end of the day you still have to create a routine of working hard. You can’t wait for inspiration or motivation, you have to treat it like a job. Set weekly goals or page quotas. Be realistic, make time for family and don’t work on weekends.
Writer of D4VE, Hot Damn, Kennel Block Blues, Curb Stomp
I don’t know if there is such a thing as a shortcut. The work has to get done—but you have to sacrifice things, be it sleep, or social time with friends and family.
Writer of Further Travels of Wyatt Earp, Avengers Assemble, Ultimate Spider-Man Web Warriors – letterer for Marvel
Keep a routine. Also, keyboard shortcuts and actions are your friends. If you can do a multi-step action in just one step, you’re already ahead of the game. And always do the most difficult tasks first while you’re still fresh. Swallow that frog, and the rest of your day can only get easier. It’s not easy to stay motivated when you know the worst is yet to come, so get it out of the way!
Writer of Sons of Anarchy, Cluster, Sheltered, Comeback
Not a shortcut so much as restrictions. I use a program called Cold Turkey, which you can set to block internet access on your computer. If that’s too intense, you can set it to just block particular websites, such as Facebook and Twitter. For me, though, I need ALL internet shut off. Typically what I’ll do is set it to block me for 45 minutes, then I’ll break for 15 and check twitter and all that crap, then block for 45 more, etc etc. You can set up a schedule on it, which will force you to stay honest.
During the time that I’m blocked, I find that my output is much, MUCH higher than if I try to self regulate. The words just spill out.
Another thing that I do, which may sound counter-intuitive, but REALLY helps is I make sure to exercise daily. I never used to do this. Only started in mid/late 2014, but I find that exercising helps me feel more focused, which leads to me being more productive.
Writer of Bandette, Colder, I Am The Cat, Plants vs. Zombies
Here’s the thing: there ARE tried and true methods, but it’s easy to put too much stock in individual ones. You have to look at time-saving devices as a menu. Just like, even if pizza is your favorite food, if you keep eating nothing but pizza, you get sick of it, and need something else to eat for a change. That’s the same way with all aspects of writing: you need to change things up. What works as a shortcut one week might not work the next. Your mind grows accustomed to everything, so… throw it some curves to wake it up.
Sean E. Williams
Co-founder of Comicker Digital, Writer of Fairest, Artful Daggers
I use Scrivener for all my first drafts, which really makes keeping everything organized easy (and distraction-free). I also use my comic script template (which you can download for free here), which saves me a massive amount of time by not having to number every page, panel, and word balloon. Otherwise getting away from all the distractions (in my case: email, dogs, and family) is the quickest way to get through a script – so I go to a coffeehouse or restaurant with a set of headphones and power through a first draft. Getting through the first draft is the hardest part, so completing it as fast as possible (even if it’s placeholder text and/or complete crap that you know you’re going to rewrite later) is key – then you can rewrite as much as you want until the deadline arrives.
Ryan K. Lindsay
Writer of Negative Space, Chum, Deer Editor
Yeah, close the social media.
And plan ahead. Before you hit the office that day/night, have a plan of the first thing you’ll open, and what your goal is once you are in there. If you plan to open the script before anything, before emails, all of it, and grind out 4 pages a night before taking care of other business, well, that’s a script done in a week. If you can actually manage that, and you broke it well in advance.
Writer of Doctor Who, Vikings, Adventure Time
Not so much for saving time, but for productivity. Turn everything else off. Your phone. Twitter. Facebook. Tumblr. The internet, if you don’t need it for fact checking. And then get your head down and do the work. I’m a real believer in just buckling down and racing to the end. Set yourself achievable targets (not unrealistic ones that will demoralise you) and go for it!
Writer of Resident Alien, Durham Red, Terra Obscura
No, I don’t think they exist. But if you don’t eat and sleep properly – and have at least a little bit of downtime – then both you and the work will be a mess. You should be responsible and work hard, but if you’re dead on your feet, have enough sense to lie down for a while. Also, worrying about deadlines is pointless and self-destructive, and will prevent you doing the work properly. Just pretend you’re ploughing a field, and move slowly and steadily forwards till it’s all done.
Artist of Roche Limit, Thumbprint, X-Files: Year Zero
Try to automate things that are repetitive and simple. Examples could be file naming, layout templates, page cleanup, etc…
On the actual art side of that. When working, stop for a second and think about what you’re doing. Are you detailing a tiny panel for no benefit to the reader? Does this object need more rendering? Decide and move forward. Keep an eye on the clock to see how long you’re spending on each panel.
Writer of The Sixth Gun, Sinestro, Uncanny X-Men, Harrow County
Aside from placing your rear in a chair and doing the work? There are no magic bullets. I do use project management software to keep track of when scripts are due. It’s nice to see what is coming up during the week. Something else I’d recommend–when you’re going on vacation or taking a trip to a convention, give your editors a heads-up well in advance. It helps them plan and manage their own schedules, which can only help you in the long run.
Writer of The Skeptics, Power Rangers: Pink, Barbie, Magdalena
I live and die by a planner. I don’t overwork myself if I don’t have to – if it hits evening (which for my husband and I usually starts around 8PM) and I’ve been working all day and the work I’m doing can wait, I unplug then and let myself rest. I always tell people – I work part-time at my local comic shop, am a full time student, and am now writing multiple books. It can be done. But I don’t have time for video games anymore.
Writer of Narcopolis: Continuum
Ask this question to 100 different freelancers and you’re likely to get 100 different answers. Maybe I haven’t been doing this long enough to have a great shortcut because to me there are no shortcuts. It takes the amount of time it’s going to take to produce the best product that you can be proud of while also getting it in on time. Deadlines are important, but equally, so is the quality of the work.
For me, what it comes down to is prioritizing your free time and knowing yourself and how long it takes you to complete a page. If you only average a page per day for example, do what you have to do to ensure you get that page completed that day and stick to that schedule. That dedication to your art will keep you on track so that you’re not rushing it and turning in a subpar product by the end that you’ll later regret. So put down the remote/controller/smart phone/whatever the distraction may be, and make those sacrifices so that you can have something to show for your effort at the end of the day. When I find myself wasting time, I regularly ask myself throughout the week, “is this helping me to achieve my goals?” If the answer is “no,” then consider doing something that will.
Writer of The Tithe, Aphrodite IX, Think Tank, The Test – President/COO Top Cow
I write 4 hours a day even when I don’t have a looming deadline. This helps. I write multiple drafts of scripts and sometimes write the first couple drafts very quickly. Doing this gives you a good feel for pacing, space and tone. Rewriting is more important to me than the first draft.
Writer of Princeless, My Little Pony
I mean, this is a problematic question for me, because my tip is to be ahead all the time. I think of deadlines the way runners should think when they look at a scoreboard. The deadline is the time you need to hit to make it to the next heat, but wouldn’t you rather win? When an editor gives me a deadline, I set a deadline for myself that is half of that time. I have never had an editor upset with me for turning in a script early. If you’re working ahead and a new opportunity arrives, then there’s a good chance you already have time to work on that new project.
Artist of Paper Girls, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow/Black Canary
Try not to waste any effort. I used to do loose thumbnails on the edges of a script, but they were very imprecise and I’d spend more time correcting them to fit. Now I do my thumbnails digitally, with the right proportions, and I can paste them into my pencils to refine further. It’s cut at least 30 min to an hour per page, which really adds up over 22 pages.
Keep checking your schedule. Whatever your drawing speed may be, it’s easier to work late every few days than to wait until the end of the month and have to pull a week or all-nighters.
Writer of Death Head
I am the Scrivener prophet. I think it’s the best writing software on the market because it allows you to keep a digital writers notebook that combines all the material you need. Notecards. Outlines. Character descriptions. Photos. Videos. Web links. And most importantly a robust writing and exporting mode that you can customize to your needs. Scrivener saves me boatloads of time trying to remember where the hell I put that one important thing since it’s all in a single, searchable file! Do yourself a favor and go buy a copy.
Writer/artist of Titan
Learn how to use the Actions panel in Photoshop, Illustrator, etc… Setting up a series of commands (like converting all your files from RGB to CMYK and saving them to a new folder, for instance) will save you a ton of time! Another great resource is smallpdf.com which does all kinds of useful conversions and can really save you some time with fiddly technical things at the end of a project.
Colourist of Semiautomagic, Escape From New York
I also schedule out what work I have to do so I know about how many pages I need to do a day. I work as efficiently as possible, but there are no shortcuts in art. It takes the time it takes to solve visual problems. I keep track of how long pages take to color. A dense page with lots of crowds & buildings or objects takes 2-4 hours. A four panel page with a few figures is 1-2. Less rending means less time, but palettes still need to be well thought out. Keeping my blood moving with exercise helps me stay alert and on task.
Writer of HIT, Managing Editor at BOOM! Studios
The only way I know of to save time when it comes to deadlines is putting the work off until the last minute, and I most certainly don’t recommend that. I was always the kid who wrote all of his school essays the night before and got the “A” so I know that “writing under pressure” is effective but it’s just not a sustainable way to maintain quality and consistency in a professional setting. If you’re like me and feed on that energy but want to keep your deadline (and sanity), I recommend cranking out a draft early, walking away for a couple days or ideally a week, and then reworking everything right before the deadline. Same amount of time — just paced out differently. Also, work toward the specific stage you’re at. For example, if you’re writing a script and you know there is going to be one or two drafts later on that focus on the dialogue, don’t kill yourself over the dialogue in the current draft you’re turning in. Comics is all about collaboration and adaptation so just get done whatever you need to get done at that specific time. Not for everyone, but these tools work for me and I don’t miss deadlines.
Writer/artist of Nightwing, Hack/Slash, Revival, Grayson, Batman Eternal
Set a regular human schedule. Way too many freelancers I know fall into a system where they ‘binge work,’ and that seems to pretty much ruin their social lives, and sleep schedules. I get up at 8. I get to my studio at 9. I work until 6. 5 days a week. Same as my girlfriend. As my brother. As my family. Sure, I’ll work a late night or a weekend if I need to (which lately as been pretty common) but I shutoff the computer at the end of as many days as possible and go have a life.
Writer of Roche Limit, Hoax Hunters, The Burning Fields
Yeah, don’t be lazy. For real–do the work. Skip that movie you want to see, cancel those plans you have. If you want to be serious about being a freelancer, that means you’re at the mercy of your deadlines, which can sometimes be crazy and demanding. I’m pretty strict about deadlines, so you’ll get little mercy from me. Somerset Maugham famously said “I write when inspiration strikes; thankfully it strikes every morning at nine a.m. sharp.” I live by that quote. Do the work–that’s all there is to it.
Adam P. Knave
Writer of Amelia Cole, Artful Daggers, Never Ending
Nope. There’s no such thing. You do the work. The trick, I find, is to not procrastinate if at all possible. Deadlines shift and you think “I have a week to do this bit of work, because the other gig isn’t due for a while” and then that changes and if you slept on the first job the second just got a lot harder. Do the work, when you get it, and create blank spaces to relax in as you go. There is no way to save time, only to work smart and not trip yourself up.
Writer/artist of Multiple Warheads, King City, Prophet, Island
I have a lot of things I tell myself to keep working.
“The more I draw the more I draw”
Listening to a long audio book helps when I’m drawing just to keep me at my table.
I never want to do shortcuts in the work but for my stuff I like to keep a good mix of detailed panels and quicker cartoony drawings.
Not every panel has to be an Akira spread.
Writer of Atomic Robo, 8-Bit Theater
I can’t think of anything that saves time, only things that help to make the most of the time that’s available. You’ve got carve out big blocks of time to devote to work. Three hours minimum. Time enough to build up a momentum and to keep going with it. You’ve got to cut down the number of distractions open to you in those blocks. I’d work completely offline if I could, but the sorts of stories we write with Robo require a lot of ad hoc research. I could probably only connect to the internet when I need it, but what is this, ’90s dial-up? The hell with that.
I’ve got a browser app or plugin or whatever Chrome calls ’em that blocks a handful of sites that I visit as a matter of reflex. So those are effectively out of order during work hours and that’s helped me quite a bit.
Writer of Aquaman, Titans, Guardians Of The Galaxy
Yes, I work out when they’re going to be and meet them.
I find I do my best work when I’m slightly over-busy, and moving between jobs (comics in the morning, chapter of a novel in the afternoon, game writing the next day etc), because then you don’t get stuck in a rut and everything stays fresh. If I have the luxury of a choice, I write the thing I am most excited and inspired by at that moment, but delivery obligations take precedent over ‘mood’, because that’s how you take a job seriously.
Also, everyone just has some days when it just won’t happen. Learn to recognise what those days feel like and respond accordingly. Give your current job a shot (if you’re a writer, just try writing the next paragraph, or the next thousand words). It may start moving. If it’s still stuck, blow the rest of the day off and do something fun to clear your head. Then you can come back refreshed the next day, healthily decompressed. Having a ‘stuck’ day and just sitting at your desk trying gets no work done, and you don’t get the headspace either. Learn what those days feel like and take remedial action. They happen to me once every three or four weeks. If they happen every other day, that’s not called healthy decompression, it’s called taking the piss.
Writer/artist of Neat Stuff, Hate, Reset
Yeah, and it’s called “don’t put it off.” You agreed to it? Then DO IT, and as soon as possible. If the deadline is a month from now, then do it now. Netflix will still be there waiting for you.
Writer of Cryptocracy, The Flash, The Leg
I have templates for everything, which helps. Scripts. Overviews. Pitches. I have a very clean, organized file architecture on my computer, which is the foundation of my working life. And I’m a big believer in process. I outline extensively, then I have a five-step method I use for writing comics pages. Same five steps, every page I write. Then I zero out my email inbox every day. Most importantly: The no internet thing.
Writer/artist of Baggywrinkles, Grand Adventure
Work to your client’s satisfaction—not your own. If you’re a perfectionist like me (or are perpetually looking to “do your best work”) chances are you’ll work on a project long after it’s “good enough” because you want to make something impressive that will really push you. Don’t fall for that with client work. Hell, don’t fall for it in your own comics. Bring craft to your practice. Bring skill. But remember that most people aren’t going to look at your art (especially when reading comics) for more than a few seconds. Focus on faces. Focus on hands. These are the places our eyes go first. Be willing to make things that don’t maximize the use of every skill set you own. Discipline yourself to only work on a piece for as much time as the client is paying you to work on it. Finish. Move on to the next thing. Repeat.
Writer of Thunderbolts, Skullkickers, Wayward, Figment
When I’m deep in a work groove I shut off all social media and email so I can concentrate on writing. Constant mini-updates and interruptions are brutal for maintaining a creative headspace.
I make task-based To-Do lists on days when I know I need to be extra productive. On that list I’ll include menial tasks like ‘load the dishwasher’ or ‘get groceries’ alongside tough stuff like ‘script 10 comic pages’ or whatever so that as I cross off easy things and see those completed, even though I know it’s a bit of a mental self trickery, I tend to get a bit of extra momentum that carries me through.
Another bit of self motivation I use is scheduling social time and a nice meal at the end of a rough production schedule. My internal guilt about letting people down if I have to cancel runs below the surface and I tend to get more done on time.
Writer/artist of Guarding The Globe, Green Hornet, Wonder Woman
Not really. Real life does get in the way of work sometimes, and it’s important to be be truthful with editors. Never disappear. If it’s going to be tight, warn them. If you’re going to blow it, tell them. They can adjust. But being in the dark really hurts them. Don’t be a liability.
Fred Van Lente
Writer of Archer & Armstrong, Conan, Incredible Hercules
I have to write four pages every day. I must write four pages every day, but I am not allowed to do more than four pages a day. This gives me time to think about the script when I’m not actually writing, which really does make for a better product.
Writer of The Spider, Black Panther: Man Without Fear, Sherlock Holmes
My major philosophy when it comes to deadlines is don’t ever miss them. Not even once. Deadlines are often arbitrary and meaningless, but you have to adopt the mindset that they are written in stone and life-or-death matters. I always feel that if I miss one deadline and nothing bad happens, then what’s to keep me from falling into the abyss of procrastination? Also, reliability is a great way to get ahead in the industry.
Writer/artist of Mind MGMT, Dept. H, Ninjak, Revolver
Yeah. But it’s really specific things that I think are particular to my process. I don’t really think of stories in a linear way – so what works for me won’t necessarily work for anyone else. As a rule, writing and art are very similar. You start out very general and then gradually get more and more specific either with outline to script or sketch to tight pencils and inks. Broad strokes first and then hone in and polish and fill in the details.
Writer of The Fuse, The Coldest City, Umbral
There are no shortcuts… but there are methods and processes to help you deal with juggling projects and staying on target.
I cover many of them in my essay Getting Things Written http://antonyjohnston.com/resources/gtw.php), so that’s a good place to start.
Artist of Lazarus, Gotham Central, Daredevil
I wish I had time-saving shortcuts! Honestly, the best way to work quickly is to get yourself into your creative zone. However it is you need to do that. When you’re in your zone, the most complicated pages can be done quickly. When you’re not, even the easy pages take forever.
Mark Alan Miller
Writer of Hellraiser, Next Testament, The Steam Man
Absolutely. As an editor myself, I know that all I really need is a complete first draft. Because no matter how good it is, when turn that in, you’ll get notes anyway. Rather than drive yourself crazy making the first draft perfect, sometimes it’s just best to free associate and hits your page requirements, especially if you’re against the wall time wise. If you’re panicking, just tell yourself, it’s in the rewrite that the real magic happens.
Writer of Copperhead, Secret Identities, Near Death, Generation X
I don’t think any of my work habits could be called “shortcuts.” I think the ability to hit deadlines is to know your abilities, be realistic, and be dedicated. That means, don’t agree you can hit a deadline when you know you can’t. That’s just unprofessional. And if making your deadline means cancelling your Friday night plans, well… you cancel your plans. I’ve cancelled many social engagements over the years because I had to write. If writing is a job, you need to treat it like one. I also think having an outline will save you time in the long run. Sure, it takes time up-front to write the outline, but it’ll save you time when you’re scripting, because you’ve got a road map. You’re not breaking story and scripting at the same time.
Writer of Pawn Shop, Footprints, Captain Ultimate
There are no shortcuts. Just do the work and be responsible. Also, don’t play video games and turn off the internet.
Writer/artist of Pop Gun War, The Wrenchies, It Will All Hurt
I don’t know jack about time saving methods but I do a lot of deep breathing to cope with the anxiety of missing deadlines.
Writer of Southern Dog, Art Monster, After Houdini
Develop a script format that works for you and more importantly is easy to edit. Early on, I didn’t put much thought into this, so when it came time to edit, I’d basically have to re-type entire sections because of the lack of formatting. I eventually created a template based on an amalgamation of Joshua Dysart and Jason Aaron’s script formats. Now, whenever I receive notes from editors, I don’t skip a beat during revisions and can turn them around same day. If you can learn to embrace rewrites–which there will be plenty of–deadlines won’t seem so intimidating.