Oh Dreameater. I love writing for you. If you remember the series of Zhiro drawings I scrapped, this is the scene that was originally from. That version was a little too over-the-top. What you’re seeing in this page is the toned-down version.
I got a great question from a reader today, and I thought I’d share it and my response here, as I’m sure lots of LeyLians have their own tips to add!
Questions: Do you ever get stuck? And if you get stuck, is it pretty universally a darling’s fault, or do you have other ways of getting around it? What should you do when you can’t pin down a good source of tension to keep the story interesting? Do you always need one to justify a scene?
My response: Do I ever get stuck? YES! It happens to me CONSTANTLY. It usually happens because:
1) I’ve gone in a direction that doesn’t work
3) I haven’t yet decided exactly what I want to say or how to say it.
My advice on dealing with being stuck is:
1) Have a biiiiiiig buffer, so there’s less time constraints and you can go back if need-be to tweak.
2) Choose an update schedule where you can consistently produce one more page than the schedule needs a week. Test your ability to do this when building your buffer. Set aside 3-6 months to work on pages, and the total you want at the end. Then see if you can meet it. If not, adjust your schedule accordingly.
3) Always onward and upward! Making a webcomic means being on a deadline all the time. Even with a large buffer, there’s a limit to how much re-work you can afford. There is no perfect script. Sometimes you have to accept that there might be a better way to do something, but you’re not at the level yet to know. Do your best work, but don’t get stuck aiming for perfect work. It will wrap you up in circles forever.
…You probably noticed that none of those are on writing tips to actually fix the stuck thing. The reason is that I don’t have a set way of resolving it. It depends very much on the unique problem, and my personal strengths and weaknesses as a writer. You’ll have your own demons to discover, but the more you write, the more familiar you’ll become with your common pitfalls. Consider: rewriting from another character’s perspective, evaluating if the scene serves your theme, if there’s a more dramatic way to show rather than tell, etc. (I usually refer to Brian McDonald’s book “Invisible Ink” to guide me when I can’t figure out how to move forward)
As for “justifying” a scene, tension is a good tool to keep things interesting and engaging, but it’s never my goal for a scene. It IS a goal for each page, because I believe you can always have it present in every moment. That doesn’t mean it has to be action. There’s more than one way to create tension, and having multiple types is actually key to give the reader a break, but still engaged. I’ve written an article about this for WA but haven’t had a chance to post it yet. You can find the draft version here!
My goal for scenes is about conveying:
A. Character development
C. Plot advancement
Ideal scenes achieve all three. Acceptable scenes achieve two. If a scene only achieves one, I try to cut it, or rework it until it’s at least got two in it.
So, storytellers in the audience, do you have anything to add to help out your fellow LeyLian? What are your tricks for getting un-stuck when you’re writing? How do you create tension? What’s needed to justify a scene?