Monday, January 12, 2015

Writer In Progress 5: Tales of the Red Pen

By Derek Adnams

And thus we arrive at the last, and what has become my favorite, part of my personal writing process–the Re-Write.  Or, as I call it:

The Red Pen Edit

When I began this series in November, I opened with a great quote from Kurt Vonnegut about the two kinds of writers: “Swoopers” and “Bashers”...

This seems to be an appropriate place to begin discussing the re-write process. I’m a “Swooper,” even when writing the script, based on a carefully planned outline and detailed story. Sitting at the computer with my notebook (see above) in front of me, the script just sort of pours out. I know it’s a first draft, so any inconsistencies and mediocrities will be ironed out with the Red Pen Edit.

Once the draft is done and I break the ramblings into pages, I print the whole thing out. Some pages will be fully realized script, and those I will look over for grammatical and formatting mistakes, ways to improve dialogue, and to ensure that the scene accomplishes what it is intended to do in the best and most efficient way possible.

Then there are the pages that only include some vague panel descriptions or a snippet of “cool” dialogue. Those get almost totally rewritten, or, in some most cases, written for the first time, with the aforementioned red pen. I like the tactile experience of using a pen, and it gets me into a different mind space than the one I’m in while typing. 

And red brings back all sorts of wonderful memories of High School English papers!

Once the Red Pen Edit is complete, I give it a day to percolate a little bit, then read through my notes and scribbling, making sure everything makes some sort of sense. Then it’s back to the computer to type everything out, another form or a re-write as panel descriptions and dialogue can often change and be enhanced at this stage as well.

Once it’s all said and done, or written and done, the script will have gone through five stages:

1. Story – A brainstorm of all the ideas you want to include in the comic book, realized in some sort of narrative framework

2. Structure – Taking that story and working it into The Three Act Structure and The Hero’s Journey

3. Break-Down – Taking your structured story and molding it into the format of a comic book, paying close attention to page turns and reveals, as well as giving your artistic collaborator room to create

4. Script – Where you turn pictures in your head into words on a page, which will then turn into pictures in an artist’s head and then assemble themselves on a different page

5. Re-Write – Throwing away about 80% of what you just did and making it better!

Now you’re ready to submit your masterpiece to the good people at Charlton Neo!

The End

Further Reading (or, Books That Make Me Seem Kinda’ Smart)

Words for Pictures: The Art and Business of Writing Comics and Graphic Novels by Brian Michael Bendis

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