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View Full Version : Kill your darlings, or could your labor of love be holding you back?


James L Sarandis
03-13-2015, 04:16 PM
Hey folks,

My 30th birthday passed just a few days ago and I spent it studying Steven Forbes Bolts and Nuts ( that sounds inappropriate.) In doing so I've come to the realization I have been stunting myself. You see, since 2009 I've been working on a webcomic for love and for hopes of making it my career. I was young and naive and I received lovely feedback so I thought I was doing well and despite investing far too much money I thought it would balance out in the end. Thankfully I put a script in the Proving Grounds and learned just how little I knew. So this year I bought 6 books to help with my writing and I'm going to learn how to master the 4 page story, and if my webcomic must go on indefinite hiatus I will learn to be OK with that.

Have any of you had a similar experience of biting off more than you can chew?

Duane Korslund
03-13-2015, 04:48 PM
I think at one point we all have stars in our eyes, and don't realize how much work and failure it takes to be successful. We think our comic will be an over night sensation and we will be swimming in chicks and money in 3 months.
10 years later you haven't even made a splash in the kiddie pool.
After my novel was a failure in my late 20's, I decided to write comics because I thought it would be a surefire way to quick employment in the comics industry....mistake the first!
It took me 3 years and tons of failure just to realize that It was going to take me a long, long....loooong....looooooong time...if ever...to break into the industry..and if I never did, I would have to come to terms with the things I create are a labor of love, and I'll only reach a small audience.
Which is where I am today.
In fact, I love being a part of the comic book world so much (if even a small infinitesimal part) that I decided I wanted to draw the damned things myself and have spent the last 3 years teaching myself to draw them as well as write them.
Its all about the journey here...as a teenager in the 90's I grew up thinking everyone was able to snap their fingers and become a rock star (Nirvana, Pearl Jam...Seattle), a movie star, a comic book artist millionaire (thanks Leifeld and McFarlane).
Imagine my absolute horror when I came to realize (in my mid 30's) that...chances are I'd never be a star, adored by millions. That I was Mediocre at my craft (at best). and that 99.9999999999999% of artist stay exactly as I do, but if I wanted any minute semblance of success at my beloved craft I would have to bust my ass harder than I have ever before.
Over night success,even gradual fame,is a rare creature hardly seen but by a select few.
I'm reminded of a comic strip I once saw about the zombie apocalypse. The gist of it was: in our imaginations, we think that we would be one of the few survivors, fighting off hordes of zombies bravely and surviving until society is rebuilt.
In actuality, Its a lot more likely that most of us would be one of the billions of zombies, feverishly trying to eat the brains and/or flesh of those precious few survivors.

Way of the world...
Do what you do because you love it, success is a happy coincidence :)

johnjohn
03-13-2015, 04:53 PM
^ That.

Oh yeah, the learning curve can be quite the eye opener.
But it can help refocus on what you need to do to improve.

Stewart Vernon
03-13-2015, 07:22 PM
I encountered a smaller-scale version of this recently.

I decided to start a blog last year to introduce myself to the larger world. I liked the comic strip I was doing, but I also needed to do something with a larger scope. So while I was working on my daily strip, I was developing other ideas.

One of those ideas became a regular weekend strip, so I was doing something new every day of the week. Along the way, I came up with what I thought was a good idea for a comic strip that suited my sense of humor... and I realized there was no way I could do three strips at the same time with any sense of quality.

So, my first strip went on hiatus when I launched the new one. I continued doing the weekend strip... but all along I planned on expanding my new comic strip to a larger Sunday edition as well. Once I did that, I realized I was straining my creativity and the other weekend strip was not always as good as it could be.

I ultimately came to the conclusion that there was no point half-assing that one just to do it... so I put that on hiatus as well. The only pressure was me on myself and I controlled all the deadlines!

It's not that I can't multitask... it's that in addition to the work people see, I'm playing with things that may never see the light of day OR might be the next big thing! That includes participating here in a couple of script contests, with one submitted to the Proving Grounds.

So, since my blog is meant to be part fun for me, part entertaining for others, and part portfolio to show my skills... I want to put stuff there that I'm proud of doing.

I hope I never have to give up the strip I'm doing now... but given how things evolve, I could see a day where I develop something even better or have other work to do... and I would rather stop than let the work suffer.

Fortunately, I haven't sank a lot of money into anything I'm doing thus far... so I'm not making a choice based on that... but there will come a day, perhaps the next time I'm asked to be a guest at a comic convention, where I'll have to decide what and how to promote and that's when the money will become part of the decision-making process too.

Robert_S
03-14-2015, 03:05 AM
Well, I'm not published yet, but I originally intended my story for a screenplay, but after doing some research, I learned that Hollywood would own the rights to any story I wrote. I didn't like that for this story because I have hopes of it becoming a long term thing. Something I can do to make some extra money even in retirement, if I ever get to retire.

So, yeah, I've had dream crushed, but not by being burned, but by doing learning from others that have been burned.

DaveyDouble
03-14-2015, 07:07 AM
My only advice is to stop worrying about 'success'.

The comics industry is, in reality, incredibly small in terms of 'real' employment. I mean the kind of jobs that mean people can pay their mortgage every month. Most of the people actually working in a long term stable career in comics will be in the publishing side, not the creative side.

As an illustrator or writer the most prevalent jobs are working on short term projects, for profit share.
Dark Horse and Image, the two biggest indies, both work on creator-owned basis, meaning you have to create the entire thing under your own steam and after that the money gets split up.

Now, maybe I'm wrong, but that's not a sustainable economic model. Creators who work full time still need to pay all the same full time bills as everyone else, but none of the publishers seems to be working with advances.
That means your going to be working some other job to pay those bills, you're going to be creative in your spare time, and it's going to take a lot longer to finish.

Publishers are Gate Keepers to a place they've established as the measure of success. In order to get past the Gate Keepers, you're going to have something they recognise as successful because they aren't prepared to take risks.
Basically, it's a bullshit rigged game, same as the music industry and Hollywood.

The best thing you can do is forget about being successful and just do the very best you can do.
Everybody wants to be famous and special. Well, the chances are that it's not going to happen, ever.
That's not a reason to stop doing what you're doing.

I've had this conversation with other artists outside of comics (I work for an art gallery in the UK). They thought it was a tricky situation for artists to be in, where many of the galleries are funded by the Government in a roundabout way, making the artist beholden to whatever political forces are in power at the time, and limiting their creativity in order to get paid be someone to create artwork to be displayed.

I pointed out that I am an artist, but I work as an AV Technician, setting up computers and projectors and screens and speakers and cables and all sorts of other shit in order to pay the bills. I do not measure my success as an artist by the number of people telling me they saw a review of my show in the Guardian, or by the number of likes I get on Facebook or the number of re-pins I get on Pinterest.
I want to be able to create the art that I want to see, that I enjoy, because what I enjoy is not what the industry is putting out. This means I will probably never be published unless I do it myself.
Well, guess what? Unless I did most of the work myself, publishers aren't willing to take the risk. I'm going to be doing most of the work myself anyway, the only thing the publishers are going to be able to do for me is put a recognisable logo in the top corner.

Well, if that's the deal, I'm out. If that means I'm not successful, then so be it. I'll still be drawing comics when the publishing house goes bankrupt.

Now, if you want to be a successful comic writer, you're going to have to put all those things you want to do aside, and write something that the publishers want. You can try and add details that make your writing closer to the thing you've always wanted to create, but in the end, it's business. They want product that will shift units.

This is the real realisation. This is when the naivety of youth and excitement at all the creative possibilities falls away and you realise that the fantastical things you grew up with, and all the magical things you read about, they don't exist.

The comics industry is a factory like any other. If you want to be part of it, you will end up telling the same soulless stories as everyone else, because it isn't setup to enable you to be able to flex creative muscles AND get paid.

The long and short of this is: You don't need the industry. They do not value you in any way. Success is just another word they use when they don't want to say Approval.
Getting your stories into the hands of people no longer requires you to take your cap in your hand to a press baron.
Write it, put it on the internet. Your success will then be defined by whether those people read and understand your work. If they get the point of your work. then you have achieved what you aimed for. The very definition of success.

On the other hand, if you want to pay the bills writing comics, just turn out any old hackneyed, sloppily dialogued, capes and tits garbage with the requisite features and keep shopping it and refining it until someone pays you. Don't be too clever, don't be too cutting and don't be too wise.

But, like anyone else who ever followed a dream, you'll end up doing something you despise for the rest of your life just for the money.

Steven Forbes
03-14-2015, 07:25 AM
Someone woke up crabby...

DaveyDouble
03-14-2015, 07:50 AM
Yeah...

B-McKinley
03-14-2015, 10:10 AM
I agree with the advice to stop worrying about success. Also don't focus on "breaking in" or how soon you can call yourself a "professional." Those things can be distraction that obscures what your goal really is.

Your darling is probably "tell a great story." The industry and the world at large comes along and tries to replace that with a changeling called "making a living." Don't let them. Even if you aren't getting closer to making a living or breaking in you can still be getting closer to telling a great story.

Bulletboy-Redux
03-14-2015, 09:13 PM
It's definitely a bad idea to marry yourself to one project. You never know what's going to connect with an audience. So if one thing doesn't seem to be making any kind of impact, put it on a shelf and try something else. Repeat that process as many times as you need to until something gets a reaction. Then, once you've built an audience, you can brink back all those old projects that failed and see if the public will be more responsive to them this time.

johnjohn
03-14-2015, 11:06 PM
Off topic, but

Someone woke up crabby...

Yeah...

We need a 'Like' button for stuff like this.

Stewart Vernon
03-15-2015, 12:10 AM
It's definitely a bad idea to marry yourself to one project. You never know what's going to connect with an audience. So if one thing doesn't seem to be making any kind of impact, put it on a shelf and try something else. Repeat that process as many times as you need to until something gets a reaction. Then, once you've built an audience, you can brink back all those old projects that failed and see if the public will be more responsive to them this time.

This is really good advice. Sometimes stuff you're doing just isn't finding the audience, even though the audience exists... but when you find something that connects and you get the bigger word-of-mouth going, you might find that other stuff will find its audience now.

Also, sometimes once people realize they like one thing you do, they are more open to consider other things you do... but when they don't know you from Adam, they might be hesitant to give a new thing a try at first.

whitewolf
03-15-2015, 02:35 AM
This is really good advice. Sometimes stuff you're doing just isn't finding the audience, even though the audience exists... but when you find something that connects and you get the bigger word-of-mouth going, you might find that other stuff will find its audience now.

Also, sometimes once people realize they like one thing you do, they are more open to consider other things you do... but when they don't know you from Adam, they might be hesitant to give a new thing a try at first.

The last paragraph is really important. I've often bought completely obscure books that aren't even my type just on the writer's name.

dmh_3000
03-16-2015, 03:33 AM
Last year I had to cut back on a lot of comic work due to unemployment an a (now ex) girlfriend with little idea about holding back on spending. When I got my current job and dropped her, I took a look at how much I was actually spending on comics vs how much I was making back. The results were not good, but I really wanted to be a pro writer and loved making comics, so I reevaluated my approach.

I'm currently wrapping up my most critically acclaimed, but least financially successful, project Domain Tnemrot and while I'm still writing comics, my main focus has gone back to my childhood ambition of writing novels. I've submitted one manuscript and am editing another while outlining a third, each in different genres. The best case here is that though I will have to do some promotion, I don't need to spend money to create the novels.

I'm hoping that if I can get at least a few hundred books sold I can use them to fund the comics.

James L Sarandis
03-16-2015, 01:20 PM
Wonderful advice and viewpoints.

REDemption2017
12-27-2016, 09:52 AM
I dove head-first into writing my post-apocalyptics comic REDemption because, at the time, I thought I had an artist already lined up. Turned out he was just blowing smoke up my rear; his work on it was sporadic to the point of being almost non-existent.

Still, I decided to push forward and write the story to completion anyway. I had a story that will take years to tell, but with no artist. I started thinking, "Well, maybe this is too overwhelming to bring someone into. Maybe I shouldn't say that I have the whole thing done...just send them one section of the story at a time?" I didn't know what to do.

Fortunately I came across an artist who had as much love for the story as I do (or ALMOST as much). However, he and I both share the concern as to whether or not the acceptance will be there.

Therefore, we have decided to work on other projects together, while he also works on this title in the background. There are other ideas we have that will have wider appeal, and we can publish REDemption as a labor of love...that will hopefully one day ALSO build an audience.

The jury is out.

Lee Nordling
12-28-2016, 07:08 PM
I came to this post with an entirely different impression of what it would be about.

To clarify, the term "kill your darlings" originally referred to scenes or aspects of the story that you absolutely love, which, for some reason, don't fit in the finished piece. And yep, it's REALLY hard to arrive at a determination that they don't fit. (I've done this many times, so I know that deep sigh of hitting the delete button on something I loved.)

But this is a different question.

THIS question, or determination, is about whether you go ahead FIRST with the project you love, which might not be commercial, or do you work on the ones that will help establish your brand so the project(s) you love can follow.

In film, it's mostly the latter, and Lawrence Kasdan's career arc is a model for how to do at well...at least for when he began. He wrote some extremely commercial stuff, which led to Raiders of the Lost Arc, and that gave him the indulgence by a studio to write and direct (his first directed film) "Body Heat," a low-budget film starring a bunch of upcoming actors who had yet to become full-blown stars. After the enormous success of that, followed by a couple other successes, he could (for a few years) do anything he wanted to. Look at his directoral efforts on IMDB and you'll see what happened.

In comics, I don't know that there's a right or wrong way to do it, unless you're goal is to set up properties at existing publishers, where your "darling" just doesn't make sense for any of the ones you're considering.

It's a crap shoot, filled with too many editorial-dependent variables to make any kind of outside assessment.

That said, you weren't asking for what we thought, so good fortune for however you do it.

JRXTIN
12-29-2016, 02:48 AM
I've more or less walked the same path, but IMO the problem is wanting to start off with too big a production, and not having first identified a receptive community.

It would be wiser to establish oneself within an online community and write a small production for it, then build on that. Writers have succeeded with stick figure webcomics. Anyone can do them, but also everyone wants to start at the top.

REDemption2017
01-03-2017, 12:00 PM
I've more or less walked the same path, but IMO the problem is wanting to start off with too big a production, and not having first identified a receptive community.

It would be wiser to establish oneself within an online community and write a small production for it, then build on that. Writers have succeeded with stick figure webcomics. Anyone can do them, but also everyone wants to start at the top.

This is what I have come to realize with my comic. We are asking people to commit long-term to a story that we don't know if anyone will care about. Then again, since we are just paying for hosting and a domain name, the risk isn't as big as when you pay thousands for a print run.

However, we have decided to convert several of my short stories into comics at the same time. Also, we took a property that is in the public domain and created a short spin-off comic from that. Built-in audience, baby!

JRXTIN
01-03-2017, 01:37 PM
I'm not sure how much of a built in audience anything has. I've posted Pokemon and Star Wars fan art on Deviant Art, submitted it to dozens of groups, and it did better than my original work but it still wasn't significant in any way. I posted this a few days ago and it's only got 89 views so far -

http://orig09.deviantart.net/f34d/f/2016/361/b/f/three_hot_guys_by_jrxtin-dat0hvn.png

The best results I ever got came from posting bad manga on Megatokyo A&D, many many years ago when it was a thing. This was before Facebook happened. Forums haven't been the same since. I haven't found any way to generate interest in comics. It might be because I changed from character driven manga to story driven American comic art style, but I have a feeling that if I switched back that wouldn't work either.

paul brian deberry
01-03-2017, 05:33 PM
Off topic, but





We need a 'Like' button for stuff like this.

There is... there is a little rep button that looks like a scale. it's old school, before Fakebook ruined shit like that.

dmh_3000
01-03-2017, 08:47 PM
The best results I ever got came from posting bad manga on Megatokyo A&D, many many years ago when it was a thing. This was before Facebook happened. Forums haven't been the same since. I haven't found any way to generate interest in comics. It might be because I changed from character driven manga to story driven American comic art style, but I have a feeling that if I switched back that wouldn't work either.

It's always bothered me when the old guard of webcomics insist that the current people have no idea how good we have it because of twitter and facebook. The problem is this ignores that social media isn't that great at getting your work out because in order for it to make any impact, it has to go viral for long enough to stay in the consciousness of the people because there is so much out there you can get discarded easily. It doesn't guarantee that people will go check out your page, they will most likely just think "Huh, that's cool" and move on.

Also, that there is a MAJOR glut of comics from people who have seen other famous people online and thought "I can make millions by doing that." I remember back when I first signed up here about 70% of posts looking for artists talked more about making money from the movie deals than actually explaining what the comic was about.

The only thing that really works is if you jump on the hot new trend at the moment and post some good looking fan art on tumblr. You get reblogged, which increases your own stats and makes you more likely to show up in search results. But you have to time things exactly right because if you're late, no one will care.

Stewart Vernon
01-03-2017, 08:57 PM
My Wordpress blog seems to find more random viewers than my Facebook page does, even for identical content.

Largely the only people finding me on Facebook are friends I make who also like my page... whereas on my Wordpress blog, I'm constantly getting new visitors, some of whom subscribe, and many will like multiple posts.

I would have thought it would work the other way around... that Facebook would attract more viewers... but what do I know! :)

JRXTIN
01-04-2017, 12:20 PM
It's always bothered me when the old guard of webcomics insist that the current people have no idea how good we have it because of twitter and facebook.


You won't here it from me. IMO it's much harder to have a successful webcomic now than it was before. I may be biased because my current comic isn't cutesy, and I'm sure that hurts it, but still - I believe it's much harder now. You've got to compete with people pimping themselves on social media, and even free online games are pretty awesome and have art way better than any beginning webcomic creator can produce.

dmh_3000
01-04-2017, 07:51 PM
You won't here it from me. IMO it's much harder to have a successful webcomic now than it was before. I may be biased because my current comic isn't cutesy, and I'm sure that hurts it, but still - I believe it's much harder now. You've got to compete with people pimping themselves on social media, and even free online games are pretty awesome and have art way better than any beginning webcomic creator can produce.

You also have the problem that the webcomic boom is done and dusted. They rely heavily on ad revenue to get started and then book/merchandise sales to stay afloat. But thanks to ad block, most creators have to move to patreon, which only works if you have an established fan base. In fact, many of the bigger creators have had to stop publishing books or relying on kickstarter because they make so little they have nothing left over for printing costs.

Even if you did go with a cutesy style, it probably wouldn't work because you'd have to compete with all the other cutesy webcomics out there that tell 'relatable' jokes that have been on tumblr for years and have their own established audience.

JRXTIN
01-05-2017, 01:00 PM
Ad revenue never did anything for me. Well, it paid back most of what I was spending on Project Wonderful, while I was advertising on Project Wonderful and getting temporary traffic. Most of what I've made has come from donations and Patreon.

I'm working on a cutesy illustration. It likely won't turn into a comic because I have no idea how to promote or monetize a comic in a meaningful way, but I'll throw it out there for the few people who follow me.

Colby
01-05-2017, 07:55 PM
My dude, my bible in regards to comics is Writing for Comics by Dirk Manning and the thing that always struck me about it was to not make an ongoing. Make smaller, finite, easier to fund things in the beginning. Why throw your money away with a ongoing if you don't have to?

JRXTIN
01-06-2017, 01:01 PM
Creative reasons aside, it's normal to spend ten years building a following for a webcomic, and your fanbase is typically not going to follow you from project to project, even if they are similar.

There's also the need to reinvent the wheel (world building, characters, character designs, etc etc etc) for each new short story, and value in continuously developing the mythology of one world.

If you want to do one shots I'd say at least do them as a shared universe where they connect together.

Stewart Vernon
01-06-2017, 01:22 PM
Another thing... if possible, if your darling is a thing that almost nobody else is doing. That helps, once you gain traction.

My Web comic is about insects. They are anthropomorphic in their identities and actions and conversation BUT I still draw them to look mostly like real insects... so, no faces and exaggerated smiles and stuff BUT I put them in real-world situations much of the time.

Then I threw in time-travel and lots of puns... and I mix some simplistic style art for the characters with more detailed style for some of the backgrounds and props for contrast.

I also named my strip 'Sects... abbreviated for "insects" but brings up other connotations too. IT makes it catchy and easy to remember once you've seen them.

Now, I have a small but loyal following. It grows slowly over time... but most people who do find my blog express that they like what I'm doing. So that helps keep me motivated to keep creating.

Will this ever be big time? Who knows... but I'm happy doing it, and a slow growing number of people seem to enjoy my silliness. In that sense, it helps to be a "darling" because I enjoy doing it. IF I hated it, or was just doing it to do it... it would be harder to take the slow growth pattern.