B&N Week 39: Scheduling

| September 20, 2011 | 1 Comment


Huh? Tuesday already? Weren’t we here just a few days ago? A week already? No, I’m not complaining. It just seems like things are going faster. But it’s Tuesday, and you’re here, I’m here, so let’s get to some Bolts & Nuts!

Anyway, this week, we’re going to talk about being lucky enough to be almost overburdened with work, and the things you can do to keep that under control.

Time to talk about me. Sorry, but it’s the best way I can make my point.

Currently, I have this column, which runs weekly, as well as The Proving Grounds, which is also weekly. I’ll be adding a column or two before the end of the year, and I’m the main person that runs the forum. I also privately edit projects. Believe me, all of that keeps me hopping. But wait, there’s more! There are also my own projects that I’m writing, such as Runners, with other projects on the way. And then waiting in the wings are another couple of editing jobs, writing a couple of graphic novels, and lettering the pages for Bullet Time. Then, two of my writing friends have books they’d like for me to edit.

All of that is on top of holding down a regular job, family time, some reading for pleasure, some entertainment for pleasure, and sleep. Busy doesn’t even really begin to describe me.

And yet, the work is needed. No, worse. The amount of work I have is a necessary thing in order to stay relevant in comic books as a writer/editor. So, what it really amounts to is having discipline to do the work, and working out a schedule so that the work can actually get done.

So, how do you schedule? How do I make it work? How can YOU make it work?

First, there’s the discipline I’ve spoken about. Back in the early days of this column, I told you that writers write, and that you should be writing every day. Learning, honing your craft, getting down to the nitty gritty of things so that you can be prepared for this. The advice of writing every day is crucial, because it gets you into the habit of sitting down, ordering your thoughts, and delving into your creative worlds in order to produce your scripts. There’s nothing else that can be done about it. You have to build up your stamina, both mentally and physically, in order to sit down and do the work. Taking breaks is fine, but you still need to sit there and do it.

This will also get you thinking creatively. Your brain will be making connections, and the stronger the connections, the more ideas you’ll be able to generate. [And just write those ideas down and set them aside for now. I know they’re nice and shiny and pretty captivating while you think of them, but you have a job to do right now, and that job isn’t getting done while you go off and start writing another story. However, I just want you to know one of the consequences of doing the discipline. You’ll be fine.]

Once you’re able to sit down and start cranking out scripts and such, you have to come up with a schedule. This can be the hardest, most frustrating aspect of writing. You have to do something that works for you and your lifestyle, while at the same time not interrupting your lifestyle too much. However, creating also calls for sacrifice, so keep that in mind, too.

For myself, I try to get ALL of my writing done while at work. I try to get a good amount of my editing done there, and whatever lettering I need to do. The more I can get done at work, the less I have to do at home, and the disruptions there are less.

While at home, I do all of my internet stuff, which is basically writing and responding to e-mails, and staying up on the current events in comics. I also make my phone calls, and keep everybody on their task—or see why I haven’t heard from them in a while. It gets even MORE hectic when people start to fall down on the job.

But, I said all of the work was necessary, right? I can’t possibly do it all, not at once. And neither will you be able to. The key is to stagger the work. Look for work, ask for due dates, and then stagger it. (Duh!) I know, I know. But it’s been a while, and I didn’t want you to get out of practice. Anyway, you want to avoid having all of the work due at the same time. You don’t want to have to pull too many all-nighters in order to meet a deadline if you can help it. Believe me, once you get behind, it’s easy to stay behind.

Staggering the paying work also means that you’ve got a more or less steady stream of income. As writers, I know this may seem like a new concept, because we’re used to paying instead of being paid, but being paid is the goal, isn’t it? That’s what we’ve been working towards all this time. You’re going to have to get used to it, just like you’re going to have to get used to looking for paying work.

For my own schedule, I carefully considered what I wanted to do, and how I wanted things to be presented. For this column, I knew that I wanted it to be before new comics day, and for TPG, I didn’t want it to be too close to this column, but also be during the work week. When I had little to no paying work, I would fit them easily around the columns. Now, though,   I’m having to fit the columns around the work. It’s nice, but frustrating. I’m working a LOT. I go to work and am doing two jobs, and then I come home to more of it.

This is the life you’re trying to live. You’re trying to get to a place where you can sit around in your underwear [or less], do the work, make some phone calls, and then go back to bed. That’s the goal. Making sure things are due on different dates and keeping up with your schedule is how you get there.

(Seems pretty simple and straightforward, Steven. What’s the catch?)

Besides getting there and staying there, the catch is having to actually do the work. (Huh?) Let me tell you something. A harsh reality that few of you want to take on and realize.

You’re all lazy. You all want to do the bare minimum of what you have to do in order to get by. You’re lazy, you’re unwilling to put in the hard work, and you expect someone to come down from on high to give you a gig—a gig you did nothing to earn. Your family and friends tell you you’re talented, they tell you that you’re going to go far, and they tell you that you will have the world at your feet. They’ve never seen anything like the ideas and such you have, and when you show them extremely mediocre artwork from Pen-Man that you had commissioned, they tell you they want the first copy off the press. You drink the lemonade, swallow everything they tell you hook, line, and sinker, and then when it doesn’t happen because you’ve been generally sitting on your duff, you think it’s because the editor that you submitted to is stupid. That they don’t get you.

You’re damned lazy, and scared of the hard work and sacrifice needed to actually make it in this industry.

(Kinda harsh, don’t you think? I mean, we’re not YOU, are we? We’ve got lives, we’ve got responsibilities.) No, it’s not harsh, and what you’ve got are excuses. Go back and take a look at my workload. Go take a look at this column. Take a look at the Proving Grounds. Neither column has been late once. Not once. Even when I was moving, I made arrangements for things to be done. That’s sacrifice, that’s scheduling, that’s looking ahead to make sure my self-imposed deadlines are met.

That’s what you have to learn. Being lazy isn’t going to get you there. When’s the last time you sat down and wrote a script, or the outline of one? Plotted it out, had some snippets of dialogue, and then went about doing the work to making it coherent?

When was the last time you pushed yourself when creating?

Here’s an exercise I want you to try. (Sounds like homework!) [Isn’t it ALL homework?]

I want you to write a version of a B&N column. Any topic you choose will be fine, but the trick is to be at a minimum of two thousand words. It’s harder than you think. Then I want you to write two six page scripts that have a beginning, middle, and end, complete with pitch and outline. Then I want you to think up a new pitch for a graphic novel that you want to write, and you need to sell it in two pages. Then, I want you to think up a company-wide crossover for Marble Comics. [Yes, you read that right.] I’m talking main characters, motivations, complications, and how it rolls the Marble Universe into a different place.

As for the schedule, B&N is due on Tuesday, the scripts are due on Wednesday, the pitch on Thursday, and the crossover stuff on Friday.

This is where discipline and scheduling the work comes into play, because that’s a lot of work. You do that exercise to the best of your abilities, and you’ll then get an inkling of what it will be like to be a working writer.

However, hopefully, there will come a time when you’ll just be unable to take on more new work. You’ll have an ongoing series or two to write, a few mini’s, and hopefully, some of that is creator owned. You’ll be looking to get your creator owned stuff into different media, and don’t forget the convention circuit. The meet and greet is important. Almost as important as the web presence you have to cultivate and maintain. You have to juggle all of that in order to keep your visibility up, and in keeping up your visibility, you’re keeping yourself in work.

So, when you know the mini’s going to end, or that you can bang out the scripts to them within a month, and you have four of them scheduled, start looking for more work when you’re halfway done. Or, if you’re able to get a popular ongoing started, make sure those storylines get collected in order to bring you another revenue stream, which would then possibly fuel another series.

But you’re not going to get anywhere without the discipline and the schedule. And once you get the schedule, STICK WITH IT. If you know that you do the most writing on Wednesday afternoons, then that’s when you do your writing. Answer the e-mails in the morning. Reward yourself with internet porn only AFTER you’ve accomplished your goals for the day. (Steven!) [Hey, don’t look at me. Truth hurts. Deal with it.] Make your phone calls in spurts. Clump them up in order to make the most of your writing time.

If you do all of this, making and sticking to a schedule, letting it evolve as your jobs evolve and grow, then you should be in a good place, and able to stay on top of things. I suggest getting a day planner or calendar or something to keep you on task, so that things don’t get forgotten. It becomes easy to forget when you start piling the things on your plate both high and deep.

And that’s it from me for now. You already have your homework.

See you in a week.


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Category: Bolts & Nuts

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 stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

Comments (1)

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  1. Tyler James says:

    If you take Steven up on his Homework and do write a column, send it my way. I’ll consider it for inclusion in our TRENCHES series of articles.

    Now get to work you lazy bastards! 🙂

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