Roughing It Out
Updated: Mar 4, 2022
My work-in-progress report #2
After 20 weeks of consistent work, I have completed a rough draft of my graphic novel. Don’t get too excited, it’s nothing that I’m prepared to share publicly. But as a milestone, it seems worthy of note, and I’d like to record how I got here.
The germ of this project began almost 20 years ago, when I started doodling ideas for a mini-comic. It was just a lark, and I didn’t really have time to draw a short story, much less a novel. I only pencilled one page. But the topic came to mind again more recently, when I was searching for personal stories that might be worthy of turning into a screenplay.
When I decided to walk away from filmmaking, and put my efforts into comics, this idea* returned with a vengeance. I started doing research in June 2021, and by the end of September, I had completed a 30-page treatment. The next step was to storyboard the entire graphic novel, which clocks in at 260 pages.
You’ll notice that I’m using a lot of film terms here. That’s no accident. I am visualizing the whole project like a movie, thinking about character arcs and model sheets and production design. While a comic is obviously a very different animal than a movie, I have a lot of creative equity in the latter art form. So I’m adapting my skills.
I differentiate a ROUGH draft (also known in some circles as a “vomit draft”) from a FIRST draft this way: the rough is simply an attempt to record all of my ideas on paper. Story points may not be clear, or fleshed out, or even in the proper order. But the tale has made the transition from ethereal thought to tangible form, and now lives as words and pictures that can be pushed around.
Now for the fun part: rewriting. I like to compare this stage with cooking. You have a recipe (the treatment or outline) and then you arrange the mise en place (the rough draft), to start cooking. Take a pinch of ingredients here, a handful there, chop, stir, sauté and voila!
Ok, it’s not that easy. But today I get to start the rewriting process by reading this messy concoction for the very first time—and see what I think of my 400 hours of labor to date. I can barely remember what I wrote in October and November, and I expect some disappointments.
But all that lousy writing represents an opportunity to make it better. When I read the mess for a second time, I will make a very long list of things that I want to change, incorporate, rearrange or eliminate. And this rough draft will become a legitimate first draft.
See you in six weeks when I get to the next milestone.
*You may be wondering what this book is all about. For now, let’s just say it’s autofiction,—or maybe “fictionalized memoir”— and there are certainly clues in the storyboards here.