At the time of writing, I’m still making a webcomic mini series that will be posted here at the start of next year. So far, it’s been going ok but two of the comics that I made on the day that I wrote this article didn’t turn out quite as well as I’d hoped.
Yes, they weren’t as bad as some of the comics in my “Damania Returns” mini series. And, yes, I was able to salvage one of them with lots of image editing and I was able to improve the dialogue in the other one with digital editing too. So, hopefully, the problems aren’t too noticeable. Even so, this made me think about some of the common reasons why webcomic updates can sometimes end up being slightly sub-par.
1) Lack of planning/ fine-tuning: One of the most important rules to follow when making a “newspaper comic” style webcomic is to plan your webcomic updates before you make them. If possible, try to plan them well in advance – so, you’ll have chance to fine-tune the dialogue etc.. in the time between your initial plan and the final comic.
This, I think, was the main cause of some of the problems with the two comic updates I made. I’d planned one of them the evening beforehand, but (due to writer’s block), I didn’t get round to planning the other comic until shortly before I made it. As such, it didn’t really have the necessary amount of fine-tuning time for the dialogue.
So, you can lessen the risk of making a crappy webcomic update by not only planning it in advance, but planning it far enough in advance to give you time to fine-tune and revise the dialogue before you make the finished comic.
2) Rushing the comic: Due to a number of reasons, I was in something of a slight rush when I made these two comics. Making daily webcomics (even in short mini series, quite far in advance of publication) can involve a certain amount of time pressure. If you aren’t careful, this can lead to lower-quality comics. Both in terms of writing and art.
Rushed dialogue can usually sound somewhat clunky and/or random (one of the two comics had this problem, even after some editing). Depending on your own writing style, rushed dialogue can also run the risk of being too wordy or too abrupt. I suppose it is usually best to err on the side of brevity if you’re in a rush.
It’s completely counter-intuitive but, rushing the art can also sometimes be something of a false economy since, if you edit your comics digitally, then this usually just means that you’ll spend even longer editing the artwork than you would have done if you’d put the time into making higher quality artwork.
If you’re in a mild rush, then it’s usually a good idea to come up with comic ideas that require a smaller amount of higher-quality art and/or a smaller amount of dialogue than to try to make a “normal” comic in half or two-thirds of the time.
For example, the second of my two “sub-par” comics doesn’t actually look that bad for the simple reason that I only included 21 words of dialogue, one almost entirely art-based panel (showing a scene from a distance, which meant that I only had to draw basic, distant scribbles) and very few close-ups of the characters. Yes, the art in this comic still required more editing after I’d scanned it, but I eventually ended up with a vaguely decent-looking, if slightly basic, comic.
If this isn’t practical or possible, then just make and post a small filler illustration (possibly even a sketch) of one of your characters and briefly explain to your audience that you didn’t have time to make a comic, but that you wanted to give them something to tide them over until you do have time.
3) An off day: Every comic writer and/or artist will have their “off days”. These are days when inspiration is hard to come by and any idea, however crappy, will have to do.
One way to moderate the impact of these days is to limit the number of webcomic updates/ webcomic panels you make per day when you’re preparing your webcomic before publication. This means that any dips in quality hopefully won’t affect too many of your comic updates. If you leave it long enough before publication, this also gives you a chance to go back and edit your lower-quality updates before they appear online.
Another way to mitigate this problem is to use running jokes. For example, the second of my two “sub-par” comics revolves around an occasional running joke that has appeared in earlier instalments of the series. To me, it doesn’t seem that original – but, to fans of the series and to new readers, it’ll probably seem pleasingly eccentric.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂