Although I’ve spent a fair amount of my life (so far) writing prose fiction, I’ve found that, within the past year or so, almost all of my stories have been told as comics and/or webcomics. I just kind of feel drawn in that direction at the moment. It’s something which I’m less experienced with and am still learning at the moment (since it’s a very different thing to writing prose fiction in many ways – you have to be a lot more concise for starters) but I personally find it to be one of the more fun and emotionally rewarding forms of creativity.
Anyway, since I haven’t written that many articles about comics, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the whole
fallacy subject of “quantity vs. quality” in regular webcomics.
So, what do I do?
The fact is that, if you’re writing/drawing a webcomic, then it usually helps if it’s updated on a regular basis. This is a good thing for your readers, since they’re probably eager to read the next instalment. It’s also a good thing for you too – for reasons I’ll explain later in this article.
However, the subject of how often to update your webcomic is kind of a difficult one and it can vary from person to person. Some people update their webcomics once a week, some people update them once a day and some people update them a lot more than that.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these approaches, but I’ve found that the best approach is to set yourself a minimum requirement and then try to exceed it as often as possible. However, you should make your minimum requirement something you can realistically achieve, even when you’re busy or feeling unenthusiastic/uncreative.
In other words, set it fairly low (eg: one thing every day/week/month). Then exceed it as much as you can, but don’t beat yourself up if you only meet your minimum requirement or even miss it once in a while (although you can avoid missing your minimum requirement via the strategic use of filler content ).
As long as you’re meeting your realistic minimum requirement most of the time, you’re doing well. However, when you exceed it – be sure to congratulate yourself and feel proud of producing so much stuff.
After all, the only person who can motivate you when it comes to creating a webcomic is… well.. you. And, because you’ve set your minimum requirement fairly low, then you probably won’t find it too difficult to exceed.
In fact, you might even set yourself a second (“unofficial” and slightly higher) minimum requirement after a while too.
But, hold on, this is all about quantity. What about quality?
There is a school of thought which says that you should spend a lot of time planning and perfecting every panel of your comics and only upload them when they’re absolutely, totally, perfect in every way.
Whilst this approach has it’s merits, it’s more suited to conventional comics/graphic novels than webcomics. The fact is that webcomics work best when they’re uploaded regularly and this means that you have to focus a lot more on writing and quantity. Not to mention that webcomic audiences can often be a lot more…forgiving about the art if the writing is good and the art clearly conveys what is happening.
It’s a “faster” format (eg: created daily or weekly), so the art is usually (but by no means always) simpler than in a more conventional comic. To use an old fashioned example: it’s kind of like the difference between a graphic novel and a daily cartoon in a newspaper.
If you don’t believe me, then take a look at XKCD . This is a rather famous, funny and successful webcomic where the emphasis is firmly on the writing, ideas and humour. As for the art…. well, it is mostly illustrated just using stick figures. When it comes to webcomics, the art is less important than some people think.
But I want to practice my art – not draw stick figures! Maybe I should just stick to quality rather than quantity with my webcomic?
Ha! Big mistake! It may go against conventional wisdom, but I’d argue that (when it comes to your art) quantity is more important than quality when it comes to making webcomics. Why? In one word – practice. In two words – regular practice.
The fact is that, even if your art starts out looking absolutely terrible, if you keep producing a webcomic page every day or every few days, then it’ll gradually get better. In fact, you probably won’t even notice this until you look back on your old comics and realise just how (for want of a better word) rough they look in comparison to your more recent comics. Trust me, producing lots of art is worth it just for moments like this.
In short, if you’re producing a lot of work then you’re getting a lot of practice. With practice it becomes easier to produce better work in less time.
If you still don’t believe me, then go to your favourite long-running webcomic. One which has been around for quite a few years (for example: Questionable Content, CTRL+ALT+DEL or Penny Arcade – I should probably point out that some of the humour in these comics is probably NSFW) and take a look at the most recent comic.
It looks pretty good, doesn’t it? Obviously the work of a talented and professional artist.
Now, look at the very first comic on the website – you’ll probably notice a huge difference in quality. Yes, even professional webcomic artists have to start somewhere. In fact, TV Tropes has a whole page about this subject, since you’ll find it in quite a lot of long-running webcomics.
Ok, so I’m drawing regularly – what about backgrounds?
Plus, since you’re producing a lot of art more regularly, then it’ll help you to make your art a lot more focused and concise too. Since, if you don’t have as much time to draw a page of your comic – then you’re going to focus a lot more on drawing the characters and items which are essential to the plot. Your backgrounds will probably be relatively simple by comparison. With most comics, this is a good thing and something which is worth learning.
It doesn’t mean that your backgrounds should necessarily be nothing but blank space (although this can work in some comics), but it should mean that – in most pages/episodes/panels of your comics – your characters and plot-relavent items should be more detailed than the backgrounds are. There are exceptions to this (eg: if you want to draw attention to the setting), but it’s generally a good rule to follow and it’ll save you time too.
Ok, again, I’m probably stating the obvious with some of this stuff (I mean “practice a lot” is hardly new advice), but I hope that it’s useful nonetheless.