Four Important Things To Remember Before You Start Your First Webcomic

2017-artwork-before-you-start-your-first-webcomic

Webcomics! If you’ve read a few of them, then you might possibly want to start your own one. In fact, you might actually even try making one. This is, of course, how many people who make webcomics get into making webcomics. It’s how I got into making webcomics, even if I only make occasional mini series of 6-17 daily comic updates these days.

Still, there are a few things that are worth bearing in mind before you start your first webcomic. If you’ve read this blog before, then you’ve probably heard all of this advice already, but I thought that it might be useful to put the most important parts of it into one long-winded article.

1) Your first webcomic won’t be great (and that’s alright!): There’s a very good reason why the page I linked to earlier in this article only showcases the webcomics I made from 2015 onwards. The very first time I posted a webcomic online was in 2010 and I won’t even link to that one – even thinking about it makes me cringe at how badly-written and badly-drawn it was.

But, do I regret making that abysmal first webcomic? No! If I hadn’t made that terrible first webcomic to prove to myself that I could make webcomics, I wouldn’t have made the mildly less crappy ones that I made in 2011-2013. I wouldn’t have got back into making webcomics in 2015, after a year-long hiatus where I just made daily paintings instead (caused by making too many webcomics in 2012-13). I wouldn’t be making occasional mini series to this day.

That one terrible early webcomic is responsible for all of the webcomics I’ve made ever since. Without it, the better ones I’ve made would never exist!

When you make your first webcomic, you will probably be inexperienced at both comic writing and/or making art. This is ok! Everyone is inexperienced when they start out.

Even the very first update of the very best webcomic ever made will look awful when compared to the most recent one. The true test of a webcomic creator is if they’re willing to keep practicing even though they know that their earlier comic updates aren’t as good as the ones they’ve seen online.

If you truly love the medium of webcomics, then the fact that your first few hundred comic updates won’t be great will not bother you! The fact that your comic updates might only get a few views on a good day won’t bother you!

After all, not only are you having fun making your comic, but you’re also gaining the practice, experience and skills that you need in order to make better webcomics. Also, you’re actually making webcomics! How cool is that?

2) Make ten or more updates before you post anything online!: This is the most useful thing that you can do if you’re starting your first webcomic. Make at least ten comic updates before you post any of them online. This is useful for two reasons.

Firstly, it allows you to test out your webcomic. It allows you to see if the characters are interesting enough, if the humour is good enough and if you can think of enough good comic ideas for the premise you’re using.

It also allows you to judge how much time it takes you to make a webcomic update, so that you can come up with a realistic update schedule (that you’ll actually stick to).

Secondly, it means that you’ll already have a comic buffer before you post anything online.

If you don’t know what a comic buffer is, it’s the most useful thing any webcomic creator can have. Basically, it’s where you stay several comics ahead of the ones you post online because you’ve already made the next 1-1000 updates in advance. If you’re using a blog to post your webcomic online, then you can often automatically schedule your updates to be posted at any time or date you want.

Having a comic buffer takes a lot of the stress out of making webcomics since, although you still need to make comics regularly to maintain your buffer, if you aren’t able to make a comic update one time then it means that your audience won’t miss out. It means that you won’t constantly be rushing to meet deadlines in the way that you would be if you posted your webcomics immediately after you made them.

3) Let it change!: If you keep making a single webcomic (even occasionally) for a long time, then it’s going to change. This is ok! For example, my current occasional “Damania” webcomic series was originally supposed to be a dramatic “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”-style urban fantasy comic when I started planning it in 2011-12.

Then, it was mostly supposed to be a slightly surreal “newspaper comic” style webcomic in 2012-16. These days, it’s a silly comic about a gang of miscreants (and a detective) who go on all sorts of stupid adventures. It couldn’t be further from the serious “magic, ghosts and vampires” comic that I’d originally set out to make in 2011-12!

Your webcomic will change from the thing that you’re just about to start making, and this is good! Often, a webcomic will change because you find that it’s easier to stay inspired if you do something different (eg: switching from self-contained updates to short story-based comics). It’ll change because you get to know the characters better. It’ll change because the things that inspire you will change. I could go on all day, but it’ll change.

Let this change happen! Not only will this mean that you’ll end up ditching the parts of your comic that don’t work, but it also means that you’ll be able to stay motivated and inspired.

4) A crappy update is better than no update!: It’s probably worth writing that down. When you make webcomics, there will be days when you will be uninspired. There will be days when you don’t feel as motivated as usual. You still need to make webcomics on those days! Even if the things you make are badly-written or badly-drawn, you still need to make them and post them (or add them to your buffer)! But, why?

If you are following any kind of update schedule, then your audience will expect to see something at the appointed times. Give them something! Even if it’s just a quick sketch of one of your characters with a sarcastic caption about writer’s block underneath it, it’s something! It’s something that shows the audience that you’re still making your comic and that they should keep reading it.

No matter how awful, unfunny, clichéd, uninspired or crappy your next webcomic update is, it’s still better than an empty page! Even if people online moan loudly about how terrible your comic update is, that is still better than the ominous silence of people leaving your comic because they don’t think that it’s still being updated.

Likewise, although forcing yourself to make comics when you don’t feel up to it might seem difficult, it gets easier with practice. Plus, it will give you practice too! It’ll also allow you to stay in the “rhythm” of making comics regularly.

If you’re worried that this might give you webcomic burnout (which was something that happened to me in 2014), then make changes to your webcomic. Release it in occasional mini series (like I do now). Reduce your update schedule if you have to. But, whatever you do, if you tell your audience that you’re going to post a webcomic at a particular time, then do all you can to keep that promise – even if it means posting a sub-standard update.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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