Home > Blog, Graphic Novel Writing > First Drafts = Go go go!

First Drafts = Go go go!

24-hour comics, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), How to Write a Movie in 21 Days by Viki King, they are all based on the same idea: cram a big project into the shortest amount of time possible so you can stop second-guessing yourself and just go go go!

For all of us who are hesitant to start (including me, I often have to remind myself that…): first drafts are supposed to be crappy. They are inherently terrible. They can have golden moments, but there is no way to not have an overall bad first draft. And that’s okay!

First drafts are like a sketch or a thumbnail drawing; it’s just something to have on the page, like a placeholder, as you find your way. You have a general idea of what the story looks like, so you make a sketch that will need to be honed and defined and redrawn — most likely many times — before it goes to print, but you have to start with a loose, crappy-looking sketch, otherwise, it’ll just stay an idea. Everyone has ideas, but how many of us have a script or a novel or a comic to show off our awesome creativity?

That’s why I recommend projects like 24 hour-comics, NaNoWriMo and How to Write a Movie in 21 Days. By committing to them, you get your first draft on the page as fast as possible so you have something to work with (the sooner you have a crappy first draft, the closer you are to a satisfying final draft). In fact, I recommend committing to these projects as many times as you can. The more first drafts you create, the more practiced you are at trusting yourself, the better you are at discerning good drama from bad drama and the more options you have at picking which projects you want to spend the time rewriting.

If you are looking for a graphic novel version of this approach, a friend of mine from the Center for Cartoon Studies, Colleen Frakes, has taken the NaNoWriMo goal (50,000 words in 30 days) and adapted it to graphic novels: NaGraNoWriMo!

She altered the 50,000 word count to 100 pages with 1-4 panels on each page. By keeping the drawing simple (basic printer paper and markers) and the drama direct (kill the dragon) she completed a 103-page story in 29 days! Go Colleen!

Whether she wants to rewrite or move on to another project, that’s up to her, but she has that option because she committed herself to getting it done as fast as possible.

Go go go!

  1. 09/25/2013 at 9:16 AM

    Wow, thank you so much for this!! Presently doing the Comics course with Prof William Kuskin through Coursera & am super inspired. I was wondering about NaNoWriMo and how it would work for graphic novels, considering the wordcount. Is there any limit on wordcount for a graphic novel, also curious to know what the average wordcount is? Off to check out NaGroNoWriMo now. Thanks again! 🙂

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