chrisgumprich.com

LESSONS LEARNED #8

By Chris Gumprich. (Originally posted June 13, 2005)

Because this column is a tale about my career as a self-publisher, there's no need to talk about what I was doing while waiting to receive pages five through sixteen from the artist - I busied myself with other projects. Made a couple of deals with artists - one for my second minicomic, another for a one-page biography I had scripted. There was also a rejection from a noted publisher and more middling reviews for the first mini, Recriminations, taking a toll on my fragile ego. Finally, there was the fact that Midnight Coder was the name of an online ASCII comic strip - necessitating a change in title for my full-sized debut. After some brainstorming, I came up with a satisfactory replacement. Midnight Coder was retitled Evening Shift.

As a writer, it is extremely important to keep yourself busy at all times - you should never be without a project that needs work. Why? Because unless you stay occupied, you risk suffering an attack of the killer doubts. That is precisely what I was trying to avoid during those two months.

The single best way to get over the killer doubts is to receive new pages. As I said last time, there was some doubt as to whether or not the artist would be able to deliver on deadline because he was a month behind schedule. He swore to me that he would make up the time, and true to his word, I received a CD with sixteen scanned-in pages, right to spec, the day after the deadline.

Whew.

By this time, my convention budget had been slashed (again). San Diego was out, although I still planned to have the book finished by then. My lone convention appearance was going to be the Alternative Press Expo (2004) in San Francisco, thanks to a close friend promising to give me a place to stay over the weekend. The convention was set for the third week of February. three weeks after the final deadline for the art.

It was clear that there was no way that I would have the books finished in time for APE. If I was lucky, I would have a photocopied version to show around, but that would only happen if there were no corrections required. a singularly unlikely occurrence. Be that as it may, I had a schedule and I was determined to stick to it. the book would be ready for the printers by the end of February.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, I had to look at the pages I had. They had to be in tip-top shape - I already knew that I had let some things slide that really should have been changed, but it was too late now.

(Important Point: as long as you are still in the art stage, it is not too late. Even afterwards, it is still not too late. Art can be fixed or touched-up at any point up until (and maybe even after) the printer receives the pages. Don't be a wuss - if something doesn't look right, point it out!)

For those of you that haven't read Evening Shift (and judging by my sales figures that would be almost everyone here), the story involves a suicidal girl, a nosey guy, and the gun in her purse. The bulk of the story takes place at a booth in a bar, with the guy trying to talk the girl - a total stranger -- out of killing herself.

Conversations can be challenging to pull off in a comic book. I wrote the script aware of this, and made a point of describing facial expressions and emotions in virtually every panel. I wanted to be certain that the art expressed the girl's personality - very cold and stoic, using the alcohol to help work up the nerve to shoot herself in the head. She had to appear unapproachable in order to give some insight to Jack Douglas, our hero, who invites himself over, sits down, and starts talking to her.

Looking at the art, I saw that the stoic, unapproachable girl had tears streaming down her face in every single panel.

All right, that was not going to work. but it was something that I could touch up. I had hired a friend of mine (and former collaborator) to do the lettering. He looked at the pages and told me that the tears could be taken out with a minimum of fuss. This would free up the artist to work on the larger fix-ups - like the one panel where the bartender suddenly became twenty years younger.

Despite my best efforts, I couldn't shake this feeling of impending trouble. Was I being too harsh on the artwork? Maybe I was. maybe it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. I convinced myself that as soon as everything was lettered and printed, it would all fit together. I am a unique snowflake, and everything will turn out great if I indulge in the Power of Positive Thinking!

More importantly, I had two-thirds of the finished book in my hands. Things were finally back under my control. My full focus could return to the project.