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B&N Week 81: Advice

| July 10, 2012

It’s Tuesday yet again! The sun is high, although there are some clouds on the horizon. Hopefully, some rain will cool it off a little. I don’t ask for much. A decent 80 degrees would be just fine. Especially for where I work. Eighty degrees would make it feel downright cool in there.

Anyway, this week, I wanted to talk about advice. We all either seek it, or we want to give it. There really isn’t that much of a middle ground. So, let’s get into the Bolts & Nuts of it, shall we?

Advice is that secret sauce that can either make or break a project. And we all seek advice during every step of a project, if we’re being both smart and honest about it. That editor you hired? That’s advice you’ve sought out. Or what about the art or script pages you’ve put up on a message board somewhere for critique? That’s seeking out advice.

You can seek out advice in a lot of places. There are avenues everywhere, and some of that advice is even of quality. (Huh? I don’t get it.)

Generally, creators are going to seek out free information whenever they can. Creating comics is an expensive proposition, and the more that can be gotten for free, the better off you are, right?

Well, not all advice is of the same quality. Some creators are willing to give away all their knowledge for free, but then they can be spread thin when that advice is given on something like a message board. Others creators don’t have much knowledge, but still feel they must weigh in and give their opinion on something.

This is not to say that those with a little bit of knowledge shouldn’t say anything. By making comments on posted scripts and art, new creators can learn and grow. However, you should be aware that the quality of the responses of new creators will generally be low. They may bring something up that others are also noticing, but their advice will generally be of limited value.

The thing about seeking advice is that you have to go all the way with it. You can’t just be giving the seeking lip service. You have to actually want it. I’ve seen too many times when creators are posting images or scripts wanting advice, and when they get it, they lash out, trying to defend the work and their choices, sometimes vehemently.

Here’s the thing about advice: it’s being given because there are problems. The whole goal of giving/seeking advice is to fix the problems. You can’t post something wanting advice on how to fix the problems, and then turn around and say that there are no problems when they’re pointed out to you.

If you can’t handle the advice given, receiving criticism or being asked for changes, then you aren’t ready to work with someone else.

Then there’s the other side of advice: giving it. Giving it can sometimes be harder than receiving it.

If you look at the two most prominent comics boards, Digital Webbing and Penciljack, you’ll see a lot of comments left on both art and scripts that are almost practically useless.

Everyone loves a good ego-stroke, but if all you’re doing is saying things like “kewl pics” and “fun script, post more,” then the posters aren’t learning. Worse, they think that since their “peers” aren’t finding anything wrong with their art or scripts, that they’re okay. This leads them down the road of not wanting to change when someone actually points out problems, and worse, thinking they’re being attacked when they’re actually trying to be helped.

Whenever you comment on art or a script that someone has posted, your comments should consist of more than just a few words. The comments should be of quality. This means that your comments should have weight. How do you add weight? By being specific.

If you liked something, say what you liked and why you liked it. If you didn’t like it, say what you didn’t like, why you didn’t like, and give a solution on how to fix it. Being specific is the only way a creator can get better. Being specific helps them to know exactly what they’re doing right, or exactly where they’re going wrong.

The there’s a twofold problem to giving advice, though. The first is a lack of experience—you just don’t see everything that could be wrong [or right] about a given piece. The second problem is that people don’t often want to hear the bad parts of what they’re presenting, or if they do, it can be taken the wrong way.

Face it: certain word combinations can be seen as personal attacks. Today’s American youth are used to showing up and being rewarded for it. Today’s political climate also makes it easier to be absolved of blame. To all of that, I say, “Bollocks.”

My point of view is simple: if you’ve created something that doesn’t have quality to it, I’m going to tell you. If it’s bad, I’m going to tell you. I will say, “Kletus, I tried to understand what you did here, but I can’t. What you’ve created here is bad, as in the opposite of good.” Kletus might then take that to heart, and come back with a hateful, bile-filled rant about how my mother entertains sailors as she washes socks in the sink, and more. Because not only did I say something bad about the work, I was direct and said that he produced bad work. That’s enough to be seen as an attack.

Doesn’t take much, does it?

And that’s all I have for this week. Homework: go somewhere and give some feedback. If you’re going to the ComixTribe forums, you’ll have to follow the rules, but it’ll be good for you: you’ll be posting feedback on some scripts, giving advice, and then you’ll be able to post your own to receive advice on. Pretty simple. Just keep a cool head if you receive advice you didn’t expect.

See you in seven.

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Category: Bolts & Nuts, Columns

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at for rate inquiries.

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