First of all, I should probably point out that it’s always a good idea to plan your webcomics properly before you make them. Proper planning allows you to refine your ideas, to test out parts of the comic that you aren’t sure about, to work out how long your comics will be and to avoid experiencing writer’s block halfway through making your comic.
However, despite the basic wisdom of all of this, I actually ended up making a webcomic series that I didn’t plan fully (I probably only planned 50-60% of it). And, despite some problems, it turned out surprisingly well. Even though it won’t appear here until mid-May, it ended up being fairly different from my usual webcomics as a result of this decision.
One of the most significant differences was that I started using more creative panel layouts and slightly more inventive artwork that I usually do. Whilst most of my webcomic updates have precisely four panels, some of the updates in this mini series ended up having between five and seven panels. Here’s a reduced size preview:
The delays caused by having to make things up as I went along meant that there was more incentive for me to cram as much into as small a number of comics as possible, before my enthusiasm for the comic ran out. This resulted in all sorts of interesting new panel arrangements, as I tried to squash what is basically a 10-12 comic mini series into just eight comics.
Likewise, since I was having to find ways to tell one and a half times the story in the same amount of space, this also often resulted in me including more detail and/or action in the artwork – since I had less space for dialogue in each panel of most of the comics.
Although this meant that the average time it took me to make and edit each individual comic update was somewhat longer (close to three hours!), it gives many of the comics more of a “cinematic”/”traditional comic” kind of look to them.
Of course, there were a lot of downsides to not fully planning the mini series – I was racked by indecision about how to end the mini series (and only came up with a way to finish the series an hour or two before I started making the final three comics), I often had to do more post-production dialogue editing than usual, I wasn’t able to include literally everything I wanted to in the time I’d set aside to make the mini series etc….
But, I think that the thing that allowed me to actually finish this mini series was the fact that I’d had so much experience with planning and making other comics. This was one of those mini series that I finished despite a relative lack of planning, not because of it. I’d learnt how to get around writer’s block, I’d learnt how to arrange comic panels, I knew my limits for how long I could work on a mini series for (and was able to adjust the length accordingly) etc… and I had to put that knowledge to full use.
When I made a lot more comics back in 2012/2013, I virtually never planned these comics and this would often result in similar problems to the ones I’ve mentioned – but the overall result would often be a lot worse, for the simple reason that I had less experience. I’d spend longer frozen by writer’s block, I’d make parts of the comics needlessly convoluted, I even had to leave comics unfinished on one or two occasions etc…
So, if you’re experienced, then only partially planning your comics can help you to think on your feet and to try things that you don’t usually do in your comic. But, it’s kind of like increasing the difficulty settings on a computer game – it’s a fun challenge if you know what you’re doing, but it’s likely to end in failure if you don’t.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂