7th - October
Sometimes I'm looking at what is left to do on my graphic novel, and the icy fingers of a PANIC PHANTOM creep down my neck, tickle my spine, and shoot out to my finger tips, causing my eyes to widen while freezing everything. After the shock of it all, I breathe. It doesn't matter where I start, this novel is woven throughout every fiber of my body. So I dig in like a tick.
Five odd years ago, I was a new mother living in a new place and I was experiencing health issues. The symptoms suggested an autoimmune disorder called lupus. At the same time I had been diving into the world of illustration and comics and decided that if a certain health test came back positive, I was going to write about it through a graphic novel. Then I started telling people what I was going to do, pre-committing myself.
Ok, hmmm… next I casually asked my amazingly talented MFA-in-writing-husband, ”So uh, how do you write an epic tale?” That resulted in a long conversation, a theme, a rising action and conclusion mapped out on a wall on a big circle.
Then, I wrote it, words flowing like an outside entity took over my body. But what would happen next? What do I do with my manuscript? I needed help and needed it bad. If I could name one book that grounded me through the process, it was “How Comics Work” by Dave Gibbons and Tim Pilcher. I had naively gotten out a sketch book, and started drawing out cells. “OK, here I go, I just start making it, right?” No…no, oh no, that is not right.
Next, I needed to visually build the world I had in my head…this was the part I was excited to dive into. Did I do this methodically? Of course not! I certainly hadn’t done anything right up to this point so why start? I have to credit online schools like SVSLearn, Schoolism, and every talented artist I follow on Instagram. I learned at a very rapid pace how to create some of the things I had floating in my head. It was only very recently that I learned that at this point, most people begin pitching to editors, publishers, and agents. You take all that work and boil it down into a paragraph with some art to follow and you hope someone somehow gets what you are wanting to achieve and then together you make magic happen!
Or it doesn’t.
Well, I did not know that, so my story doesn’t go that way but that’s OK! Most days, in-between freelance work and taking care of a 7 year old, I find myself jumping into a production line of work to get my graphic novel done. I draw, redraw, redraw again until the page feels right. I might not know exactly what I’m doing but I’m loving every minute of it. It is my home when I don’t feel well. It is a place where I can visit and relate to what the characters are going through. It is what I set out to make and I’m making it happen. So I consider myself extremely lucky to be in the trenches of something so big.
And now I’m at a point where I can reflect about this process because I don’t want to forget what I have done. Sometimes I think one of the greatest things I can do for myself is to hold close the accomplishments of each day. The recent writers conference I went to remind me of this fact. I’m here writing letters to a future me, this is my process reflection journal entry number one. I've learned a lot. I hope I can look back on these entries the day I kickstart my graphic novel and appreciate that I created something from nothing. That means the world to me.
Sometimes, when I look back on this whole project, I wish I could have done things in better order. But really, if I were to start again, I'm not sure I would tell myself to stop and follow the "right way" to go about making a graphic novel. I would say, Just start! Start writing, start drawing, start note taking on world building. Do whatever it takes to get your story going. Everything takes time and there are no short cuts.
Next up: finding my North Star.