Monday, June 22, 2009

Webcomic Buffers as Editing Opportunities

I'm accustomed to tight deadlines, so the idea of a buffer, to me, has long seemed a bit obsesssive. I've written columns encouraging people not to stress out over them, and offering alternatives to those scrawled apology posts you sometimes see when someone falls behind.

My relaxed attitude finds me in company with many webcartoonists. It seems that most strips cut it close.

My opinion has evolved. In the three months since I posted this, I am now ahead by 2-3 months on all three titles I write and/or draw. (One of them does not appear online yet.)

Because Pug and I started drawing Scratchin Post long before putting it online, we have a huge buffer, measurable in years. I noticed this allows us to cull our archives and select what we feel is the best work, and to improve it. Pug has re-written several stories, folded a few together, and I have done some major rewrites.

I realized the best way to make Lil Nyet funnier and more coherent is to draw more episodes ahead and ditch the ones that are not satisfying. Some of them get reworked, others are abandoned.

The by-product still provides a buffer. True, it's only a buffer of ink-on-paper stories, and they still need to be redrawn and colored, but the extra weeks of editing time allow us to sharpen them. The qualitative improvement is a surprise component of the quantitative.

It's funny it took me so long to notice, because this is how I edit prose, letting stories cool for weeks or months before I edit them. On Lil Nyet, I was working for the punch line, even though it's a complex story that is unfolding like a novel.

Escaping the frantic pace of writing every installment like a 24-hour-comic, it will emerge as a better story. Yes, I know where the big arc is and isn't going. But now I have better control of the daily experience.