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Building Momentum in Your Writing

Have you ever put something you have already done on your To Do list just so you can cross it off? Why do we do this? Maybe you have different reasons, but I do it because when I have a full list of daunting things to do, it’s satisfying to know I’ve at least accomplished something.

It’s about building momentum. When the ball is rolling, you feel good and thus feel like working more.

So, how do we build momentum as writers? One trick: Constraints.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s true. Constraints (limitations in page count, panel count, cast of characters, tools and production, deadlines, etc.) encourage creative problem solving and force you to utilize what you have to its greatest use – not what you want, if only you had it.

This is why 24-hour comics are so popular. With limitations in time (24 hours) and production (only the tools that aid you in speed – the bare minimum), you can produce a 24-page comic in a single day! In fact, I’d even up the number of constraints and force yourself to do a self-contained story about a particular character (or cast); after a number of 24-hour comics, you’d have a series!

Speaking of series, working within the constraints of page count, a set cast of characters and monthly deadlines this is how the work of Carl Barks, Stan Sakai, Alan Moore, Frank Miller and many others were completed.

Weekly television show scripts are constrained by a set cast of characters, short deadlines and the number of pages (pages = “minutes of screen time”) permitted between commercial breaks.

Daily comic strips are constrained to just 1-4 panels and can eventually be collected to hundreds if not thousands of pages.

Lester Dent made a career in writing pulps utilizing the Lester Dent Master Plot template, which places constraints on word count and plot development.

And many blogs, limited in word count, subject matter and weekly/daily deadlines are being repackaged and published as books (some of which are National Bestsellers).

So why not you?

Completing tiny goals within short deadlines leads to a feeling of success and the desire to repeat such a satisfying process. Positive experiences lead to more output and eventually the sum of all your minimal efforts will result in a huge pile of work. By producing at a high volume (“practicing”), you can eventually find your unique voice (how you like to write), what you like to write about (genre and thematic content), and more people will have the opportunity to read your work or at least hear of you – the prolific comics writer. The more readers you earn, the more fans, followers and hopefully pay will come your way.

So, feel free to constrain your work as much as you possibly can. Keep it short and satisfying. Write as much as you can, as well as you can and as fast as you can within your limitations, and keep moving.

Build momentum.

I hope that helps!

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