It’s no easy thing creating a graphic novel. Writing, drawing, lettering, and publishing are all difficult skills to master. And yet it’s so simple in another ways: mere marks on a piece of paper. It’s this latter thought I’ll be holding on to as I battle through the next year, by the end of which I hope to have a finished book.
I have a firm idea of what I want to achieve, though whether it’s all possible…we’ll see. Happily, I’ll be leaving a firm trail documenting by process, reflections, and research as I create the pages. Succeed, or fail, you can read it all here.
A few notes on what I’m planning, and why:
I want to break new ground, if I can. It’s frustrating, as a writer, to always be asked to describe your new proposal in terms of other successful projects. (It’s ‘Sandman meets Game of Thrones’, and so on). I can understand why, but when it’s ALL there is it becomes restrictive and demotivating. So, it’s time for some virgin snow in terms of language, themes and technique. It’s time to make something very personal.
Original work, it seems to me, requires some originality of process. Obviously creating comic art is a well-trodden path, and there are many practices it would be unwise to jettison completely. But there’s also a narrow school of thinking on how to create sequential art, and I want to deviate from that a little. I’ll be documenting what I discover as I go.
Similarly, originality of thought requires living an original life. Not difficult, we’re all so very odd when it comes down to it. So bringing that out is important: experiencing, thinking and living in ways that inspire original ideas, writing down those that can be expressed in words, sketching those that are visual, distilling them all into the work. Easier said than done.
In the same spirit, I don’t want to be overly influenced by other creators. While I have the utmost respect for their work it’s important to find my own way, and express my own voice, however underwhelming it may prove to be.
That’s not to say I won’t be examining how creators achieve certain effects, emotionally and technically. It’s one thing to understand what they’re doing, quite another to copy it. So I’ll be exploring and researching how comics work, with reference to wiser scholars and practitioners, reiterating established points for my own edification and drawing on my own experience and experimentation to suggest new possibilities.
My motivation is simply a profound love for the medium. Who hasn’t been inspired by the magic of sequential art, the deceptive simplicity of a few lines and marks expressing so much of the human experience? I know I have, and I feel hopeful that if I grit my teeth and graft hard I can maybe contribute something interesting. Reading comics is a joyous experience, but creating them is tortuously difficult at times. Creatively, there are lots of hats to wear: designer; writer; ‘director’; ‘cinematographer’ etc. Psychologically there’s the whole “but I’m crap, this is pointless, that drawing isn’t good enough” battle every artist goes through. And practically, well, it’s disastrous, isn’t it. I may as well burn £10,000, kiss my wife and child goodbye and bury myself in the garden, for all the use I’ll be to them as I work on this. And yet I’m still dying to do it because…art. It makes you feel alive. It nurtures your soul. When you’ve got something essential to express, you have to express it. Whether anyone wants to listen is, in some ways, irrelevant. The act of creation is reward enough.
That might sound artistically inspiring, but it’s also a little selfish. Let’s be real.
Length – I want to do this in a year so I’m aiming for 90 pages. Perhaps that makes it a novella. No matter. It’s important to keep the scale of the project achievable. Better to create something briefly wonderful than overly ambitious.
Goals – I’d like to get this published, and for people to read and review it. I’d like to create a book I can pull from my shelf and take pride in. And if it goes well, I’d like to create another one, building on what I’ve learnt.
Is this even possible?
I guess I’ll find out.