Two Basic Tips For Finishing Longer Writing Projects (If You Prefer Shorter Ones)

Well, since I was experimenting with a longer writing project at the time of writing, I thought that I’d quickly offer two ultra-basic tips for how to stand a good chance of actually finishing it.

After all, even though novels are the most popular type of fiction out there, not every writer naturally gravitates towards longer projects. Even so, there are ways to write longer stories if you’re one of these writers. Here are two of them:

1) The idea: This is the most difficult, and the most important, part of writing a longer project. You need to find a story idea that will still seem cool or interesting several weeks or months later when you’re still writing the same story. Once you’ve found one of these ideas, then spending lots of time focusing on just one project will seem worthwhile.

The easiest way to find these types of story ideas is through lots of trial and error. Basically, just start lots of stories and if one seems interesting enough to make you want to write lots more of it, then you’ve found your novel idea. But, of course, it can take quite a bit of time and failure to find one of these ideas. Even so, it can work.

A more sophisticated technique is to look at the things that you think are really cool and try to find a way to combine them. For example, if you really love TV shows about spaceships (eg: Star Trek, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica etc..) and you really love heavy metal bands that sing about pirates (eg: Alestorm, Lagerstein, Storm Seeker etc..), then try to write a story about space pirates.

By finding a way to combine as many cool things as possible, you’ll end up with a story idea that you’ll want to keep writing for weeks or months because it is made out of things that you already love. In other words, you can use your pre-existing interests as a way to stay motivated.

2) Small chunks: This is a pretty basic one, but if you divide the events of your story up into 500-1500 word chapters or segments, then it is a lot easier to keep up a writing schedule. After all, it feels like you’re writing a short story every day (and you’ll get the feeling of completing something after each writing session) and, over time, it starts to add up to something longer than you might expect.

Not only that, the relatively short chapter/segment length means that your story will be a lot more fast-paced and gripping – especially if you focus on a different story thread in each chapter. Not only does this mean more variety (and more reason to keep writing) for you, but it also means more variety for your reader too.

Plus, adding mini-cliffhangers to the end of some of these mini-chapters not only gives your reader a reason to keep reading, but it also helps you to work out what to do 2-3 chapters later when you return to that particular story thread. This also gives you a deadline to work out how to resolve the cliffhanger, which keeps you invested in the story and eager to write more of it.

Even if your story is meant to be more slow-paced, or you like the idea of longer chapters, then it is still worth doing this during your first rough draft. After all, you can always merge or re-arrange your shorter mini-chapters when you are editing the finished draft of your story.

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Sorry about the short article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂

One Quick Way To Rekindle Enthusiasm For Your Story

One of the annoying things about any writing project that is longer than a short story is the inevitable drop-off of enthusiasm that can happen after you’ve been writing it for a while.

This is when the story goes from being something new and exciting to being something that you’re a little too familiar with. Something mundane which you really have to push yourself to write more of (when you aren’t procrastinating from writing it, of course). Basically, it is when writing your novella or novel or whatever goes from being fun to being a chore.

It’s when you read stories by other people and think “I wish I was writing that instead of this boring old thing”. If you’re writing something “low-brow”, then it’s when you think “This is silly! I should write something with some intellectual depth“. Then, when you try to write something with the intellectual depth that you envied, you secretly wish that you were writing something a bit more fun.

And, for whatever reason, the excitement and enthusiasm goes out of your story. You think about abandoning it, before begrudgingly finishing the next chapter and telling yourself that you’ve come this far and that it would be pointless to abandon it, regardless of how fresh and exciting the idea of just throwing it aside and writing something else seems.

So, how do you deal with this?

Whilst there are lots of different techniques (and, of course, different things work for different people), I thought that I’d talk briefly about one that helped me to finish a chapter of a novella-length project that I was trying to write at the time of writing this article.

In short, just remember the core idea of your story. The point that you were trying to make when you started writing it. The thing that inspired you in the first place. The reason you started telling the story. The thing that made you feel enthusiastic in the first place.

So, try to sum up the core idea of your story in a couple of sentences. Think about things like the point that your story is trying to make, how you want your audience to feel whilst reading it etc…

In short, remember why you started writing the story in the first place. When you’re in the middle of a story, it can be easy just to see it as an ordinary, never-ending thing that is familiar and boring compared to the novels that have inspired you. But, if you’ve come this far with your story, then there’s usually a good reason for it. And it can be easy to forget this reason.

So, remind yourself of why you started writing your story and you might start to feel more enthusiastic about it again.

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Sorry for the short article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂

Three Quick Thoughts About What To Do When Making Stuff In Your Favourite Genre Feels Less Exciting

The night before I wrote this article, I was making a painting that will be posted here in a few days’ time. Since I was feeling mildly more inspired than I had been over the past few days, I decided to make a slightly more detailed painting in one of my favourite genres – the cyberpunk genre. Here’s a preview of it:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full-size painting will be posted here on the 14th July.

Although the painting turned out ok, it felt a bit like I was just going through the motions. I thought back to how the times when I’d started making cyberpunk art more regularly (in 2016/early-mid 2017) felt a lot more interesting and exciting.

So, what do you do when making stuff in your favourite genre starts to lose it’s “spark”?

1) Move to one of your other favourite genres: This is the obvious one, but if you find that making stuff in one of your favourite genres isn’t evoking the feelings of excitement, fascination and “this is awesome!” that it used to, then move to a genre that does evoke these feelings in you.

Whether it’s just a passing fascination with some random topic, or another genre you really love, you probably have more than one thing that really fascinates you at any one time. So, focus on one of the other ones.

After a while, when you start to feel temporarily bored with that thing – you’ll have probably had enough of a break from the genre that you were getting bored with for it to start to seem interesting again.

2) Change how you think about it: One of the interesting shifts that I’ve noticed in my attitude towards making cyberpunk art is that it has gone from being “let’s make something really cool-looking” to “let’s making something easy, that also looks cool“. Because I’ve had a fair amount of practice with this genre of art, I can pretty much make cyberpunk paintings in my sleep these days.

Still, this isn’t a bad thing. At the very least, it now means that I can still make good-looking art on less inspired or moderately inspired days. In other words, it is a sign of artistic progress. It is a sign that I’m progressing as an artist. It’s another backup for uninspired days. In other words, it isn’t a bad thing.

If you can find some kind of silver lining to your current lack of enthusiasm for your favourite genre, then this can help a lot. Because, even if it just means that it’s time to find a new favourite genre (and experience all of those feelings of excitement again), then this is certainly better than just feeling miserable about the fact that your favourite genre doesn’t excite you as much as it used to.

3) Find more inspirations: Simply put, the times when I’ve felt really thrilled about making cyberpunk art have been when I’ve discovered something “new” in this genre that I haven’t seen or played before and have been absolutely entranced by it.

So, one way to rekindle your enthusiasm for making stuff in one of your favourite genres is simply to find more stuff in this genre. The only problem with this is, of course, that finding “new” stuff becomes progressively more difficult over time since not only will you have already seen or played even more stuff in this genre but you’ll have already learnt a lot about that genre (and the thrill of learning new stuff is an important part of those feelings of fascination).

So, this approach isn’t perfect. But, if you’re experiencing this jaded feeling for the very first time – then, time and budget permitting, it can be a good temporary solution.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

What To Do When Unenthusiasm Strikes In The Middle Of A Painting

Well, for today, I thought that I’d take yet another look at the topic of artistic uninspiration. In particular, I’ll be looking at when you suddenly feel a total and utter lack of artistic enthusiasm during the middle of a drawing or a painting. Mostly because this happened to me the evening before I prepared this article.

At the time, the drawing/ painting I’d started making was going well. I’d planned to make a digitally-edited painting of a 1990s-style video rental shop and, at first, the line art was going well. But, parts of the picture started to be a bit less well-drawn than I’d hoped, my planned background just seemed far too complex (and there seemed to be no way to remove, reduce or simplify it).

Thanks to the hot weather, the fact that I was tired and the fact that the painting looked like it would guzzle up a lot of time, I suddenly realised that I had no enthusiasm for it whatsoever. Or, more accurately, I realised that there was no possible way that I was actually going to finish this painting. Sure, I made a few vague attempts at adding more detail, but the painting just felt like a total waste of time – even though it would have looked really cool.

This painting could have turned out well, but it was failing quickly and my levels of enthusiasm were running low.

So, I abandoned the painting and decided to do something that I felt that I could finish. In fact, I realised that the quickest and easiest type of art I could make would be a piece of digital art (since I could make it less detailed and because there was no additional drying time or editing time).

The interesting thing was, as soon as I switched to making something that I thought I could actually finish, I suddenly felt a lot more creative and enthusiastic again. In fact, I even tried out a few techniques I hadn’t really used before – here’s a preview of the finished piece:

This is a reduced-size preview. The full picture will be posted here on the 7th July.

So, the lesson here is that if you feel completely and utterly unenthusiastic when you are in the middle of making a painting, try to work out what is causing you to feel unenthusiastic.

Sometimes, this can be external factors (like the weather, your mood etc..) but, more often, it has to do with the painting that you are trying to make. Often, it is because the piece of art you are making isn’t filling you with enthusiasm. Sometimes, this can be because the idea behind it doesn’t interest you as much as you thought, but sometimes it can be because your planned idea is too complex, over-ambitious etc.. when compared to your current levels of enthusiasm.

Abandoning failing paintings halfway through making them is something that gets easier with practice, but it can still be a little difficult if you’ve already invested time and effort into said failed painting. But, if you’re genuinely filled with the heavy, miserable, futile feeling of “I’m not going to finish this!“, then it’s the only thing to do. But, make sure that you immediately start a much easier piece of art (that you feel you can finish) as soon as you do this.

Not only does starting an “easy” piece of art mean that you’ll stop those feelings of failure from festering and becoming worse (because you’re still making art. Not only that, but art that is easy to make look good), but it also means that you’ll feel more motivated because your new piece of art feels a lot easier and more successful in comparison to the painting that you just tried to make.

So, dropping what you’re doing and switching to something easier as soon as you realise that your current painting isn’t going to get finished is one of the best ways to deal with sudden moments of artistic unenthusiasm.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Things To Do When You See A Better Webcomic (Than Yours)

Well, for today, I thought that I’d talk about something that happens to everyone who makes webcomics (even occasionally) – what to do when you see a better webcomic than your own webcomics.

This is mostly because I noticed that in both of the previous two articles, I’ve referenced my favourite webcomic (“Subnormality” By Winston Rowntree). And re-reading this amazing, mind-blowingly brilliant webcomic made me think about what you should do if you see a webcomic that is better than your own webcomics.

1) See it as encouragement: If you see a webcomic that is considerably better than the ones you make at the moment, don’t get jealous and – whatever you do – don’t feel discouraged! Yes, this is much easier said than done, but it’s something that is worth doing.

Why? Because when you don’t feel those emotions, you tend to feel much better ones. You tend to feel a sense of amazement at the comic you’re reading and a sense that, one day, you might make something just as good as it. Instead of feeling defeated, you’ll feel motivated to make better webcomics.

But, how do you do this? Simple. Just remember that no-one started out making good webcomics. Even the best webcomics in the world started out as badly-drawn and badly-written things that embarrassed the people who made them. Even the best webcomic creators started out feeling like they weren’t good at it. And they weren’t. They just got better with practice.

The important word here is “practice”. Not “inspiration”, not “talent”, but boring old practice. For example, although I only make webcomics occasionally these days, I still keep up regular art practice when I’m not making comics. Although I’m neither the best nor the worst at making webcomics, here’s a chart that can show you how 5-6 years of regular art practice can improve a webcomic:

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] Fun fact: If I keep practicing, then the second panel in this example will eventually end up being a “before” example in one of these “before and after” charts.

So, when you see a webcomic that is better than yours, see it as something to aim towards. Something that you will achieve IF YOU KEEP PRACTICING. I cannot emphasise that part enough!

2) Remember that everyone thinks this: I’ve mentioned this a few times before, but it’s something of a rule that no matter how good or bad you are, there will always be someone better than you and someone worse than you. In the grand scheme of things, everyone is somewhere in the middle.

Yes, even your favourite webcomic makers probably feel like they “aren’t as good as [insert other artist here]“. And they probably aren’t. But, this doesn’t stop them from making webcomics. So, why should something similar stop you?

We’re all somewhere in the middle and this is cool. It means that you already have something in common with your favourite webcomic makers and it also means that even your “crappy” comic update is someone else’s idea of a “great” comic update.

3) Take inspiration, but don’t try to be someone else: If you see a really cool webcomic, it can be tempting to try to make a webcomic that is exactly like that one. Don’t.

It’s perfectly good to take inspiration, but you need to add your own stuff to it too. I mean, if you try to copy one webcomic too much then you’re just going to end up making a second-rate imitation of that comic. To use a musical metaphor – you’ll be a tribute act, rather than an “actual” band.

So, see exactly what makes your favourite webcomics so good and then try to put your own spin on it. For example, the webcomic mini series I’ll be posting here in January was probably partially inspired by Winston Rowntree’s “Subnormality”. But, instead of trying to make a “subnormality” comic, I just took the theme of ‘introspective comics’ and put my own spin on it.

And I ended up with better comics as a result! By borrowing a general idea or premise and then doing your own thing with it, you’ll come up with comics that stand out as uniquely yours. After all, the comics that inspired you probably weren’t just derivative knock-offs of other comics. So, why should yours be?

And, for heaven’s sake, find other influences too! If you’re only inspired by other webcomics, then your webcomics will just look like generic webcomics. If you really want to make your webcomic into something distinctive, then take inspiration from things that aren’t other webcomics too! Originality comes from having a suitably unique mixture of influences.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Tips For Dealing With Moments Of Low Enthusiasm When Making Webcomics

2017 Artwork Webcomic unenthusiasm article sketch

Even if you’ve meticulously planned out several future webcomic updates and are feeling inspired by your webcomic, you can sometimes still occasionally suffer from moments of low enthusiasm/low motivation whilst making your webcomic.

This can be caused by all sorts of things – from your mood at the time, to the weather (eg: hot weather often does this to me). But, there are ways to deal with it and still produce webcomic updates – albeit at a slightly lower level of quality.

So, how do you deal with it? Here are a few tips:

1) Take a short break if you need to, but don’t fall behind schedule: As counter-intuitive as it sounds, you still need to keep up with your webcomic update schedule when you’re feeling unenthusiastic. This is because webcomics often have a certain level of momentum to them, which can be ruined if you start skipping updates.

Even if making a webcomic update feels like a difficult chore, you need to do it so that future webcomic updates will be easier to make when you’re feeling more enthusiastic. Even if the update you make looks absolutely terrible, the fact that you’ve actually made and posted it will mean more to both you and your audience than if you hadn’t.

If you need to take a short break to build up your enthusiasm again, then this is great. Just make sure that you don’t fall behind schedule though, since it might make your webcomic more difficult to get back into.

2) Work out what you can jettison: Since you’ll still have to make a webcomic update, you may as well make it as easy as possible. So, try to work out what you can temporarily get rid of in your next comic update, without seriously damaging the webcomic as a whole.

There are plenty of sneaky ways to do this – such as subtly reducing the level of background detail in your next comic update or even making a “talking head” comic (where the whole comic update consists of nothing more than two characters standing next to each other and talking).

Yes, it won’t look as good as anything you’ve made when you were more enthusiastic, but at least you’ll actually be able to finish the comic.

The thing to remember here is that the most important part of a webcomic is the dialogue. You can skimp on everything else if you have to, but you can’t skimp on the dialogue too much.

3) Build in some safeguards: If you’ve had some experience with making webcomics, then you’ll probably know what is likely to make you feel unenthusiastic. Once you’ve found this out, you should be able to build in some safeguards to reduce the number of times that you feel unenthusiastic.

For example, one of the many things I learnt from my very first webcomic [made in 2010] was that having to repeatedly draw the same detailed background over and over again quickly sapped my motivation. So, in all of my current comics, frequently repeated backgrounds either contain relatively little to no detail, or they’re the kind of dynamic background (eg: the streets of a city) where I can draw something different in the background of each panel.

Likewise, I’ve learnt that there’s a time limit to how long I can make a particular comic before my motivation runs out. As such, I often tend to make shorter narrative comics and/or groups of four-panel webcomic updates that have a limited length (usually between 6-17 comic updates).

This sort of thing differs from comic maker to comic maker, but if you know what will make you feel unenthusiastic, then you can design your comic in a way that reduces the chance of this happening.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Practical Reasons Why Creativity-Based New Year’s Resolutions Are A Very Bad Idea (And What To Do Instead)

2017 Artwork Why New Year Isn't The Time To Make Resolutions

First of all, happy New Year everyone 🙂 Now that I’ve said that, it’s time to get a little bit more cynical. Don’t worry, there are several good reasons for this that I hope will become obvious later and – with any luck – will actually help you to make better creativity-based resolutions. Even though they (hopefully) won’t be “New Year’s resolutions”.

But, yeah, the new year can be a time when people feel driven to make creativity-related resolutions like “I’m going to learn how to draw”, “I’m going to write a novel”, “I’m going to start a webcomic” etc…

There’s nothing wrong with these resolutions. I mean, this blog (and everything on it) wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t made several creative resolutions (eg: making art every day, starting a blog, returning to making webcomics occasionally etc…) over the course of the past few years. However, I didn’t make any of these resolutions on the 31st December or the 1st January!

Here are a few practical reasons why New Year’s Day is a terrible time to make or start any creative resolutions:

1) You’ll have the wrong type of motivation: Many of the best creative decisions that I’ve made have been ones where I’ve either just felt like I had to start a project, or when I’ve been so overcome with curiosity that I’ve thrown myself into a project at the earliest possible opportunity (with at least some planning, of course).

When you feel a really strong drive to do something creative, the idea of waiting until the beginning of a new year just seems unnatural. It feels like you’re wasting time you could be spending working on your cool new creative project.

The reason that I mention this is because it illustrates the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is the kind of motivation that can make you spend hours every day making things, without it ever really feeling like it’s a type of “work” or a “chore” . It’s the kind of motivation where you don’t need anyone to remind you to write, draw etc.. because you’re eager to do this anyway, because you feel a sense of purpose and passion for the things you create. This type of motivation doesn’t wait until New Year’s Day.

Extrinsic motivation on the other hand is where you have to be pushed, poked, praised and prodded into creating things. It’s where you tell everyone that “It’s my new year’s resolution to start a novel, to draw every day etc..” and you rely on them to keep nagging, pestering and occasionally praising you about it. It’s where you find ways to punish yourself for not creating things in accordance with your resolution. It’s where you have to bribe yourself into following through with your creative promises.

As you can probably tell, one of these two types of motivation sounds a lot better than the other. One of them sounds a lot more powerful than the other.

So, make sure that you have intrinsic motivation before you make a creative resolution. But, if you have intrinsic motivation, then you probably aren’t going to want to wait until New Year’s Day to get started on your project.

2) You’ll be unprepared: Because the beginning of a New Year is the start of something new and because it’s a time of celebration, it can be very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that all of your project will be as exhilarating, hyper-productive and jubilant as beginning it on New Year’s day was.

Creative projects are often long-term things. They’re a marathon, rather than a short sprint. If you have intrinsic motivation, then this can make them easier – but they’re still a marathon. And, although I’m not an expert on the sport of running, I know that not only do marathon runners spend quite a while training before a marathon but they also don’t start the marathon by running as fast as they can. They pace themselves, because they know that they have to keep their strength up for the long run ahead.

What I’m trying to say here is that, during the exciting early days of a project, it can be very easy to think that the project will be easier than it actually will be. It can be very easy to “bite off more than you can chew”. It can be easy to ignore possible problems and pitfalls (eg: if you’re making something every day, you ARE going to have uninspired days sometimes -so, knowing how to deal with them before you begin can be very useful!)

If you wait until you feel ready (and have had a chance to prepare, think and practice), then you’ll have a much better chance at succeeding at your resolution than you would if you started it today just because “it’s New Year’s Day”.

3) You’ll get dazzled by high expectations: When you’re starting a new creative project, high expectations aren’t a bad thing – as long as they are tempered by realistic understanding. This is something that is best illustrated with two examples and, just for the sake of it, I’m going to use writing-based examples.

If you tell yourself “It is my New Year’s resolution to write a bestseller! I will write a masterpiece!“, then I can almost guarantee that you will spend the next 1-4 hours staring at a blank screen and feeling absolutely terrible.

Even if you do eventually manage to squeeze out a few words, they’ll probably only linger on the screen for mere seconds before you furiously delete them in frustration because they can never measure up to the unreachable standards that you’ve set yourself. As any writer will tell you, this is the most effective way to give yourself writer’s block!

However, if you tell yourself something like “This isn’t a new year’s resolution but I’m going to write my first novel, just to see if I can. I hope it will be good, or at least fun“, then you’ll probably end up with a novel.

It may not be a good novel, but it will have taught you a lot about writing. Even if you don’t finish the novel, then you’ll still “win” because it will show you that perhaps you are better suited to writing shorter works of fiction or that you might want to try writing in a different genre, or something like that.

Because you entered into it with lower expectations, there was a lot less pressure and you’ll probably feel like you have more freedom to mess up and to focus on just creating. You’re more likely to see failures as learning experiences – which, ironically, is exactly what you need if you’re ever going to make a masterpiece or a bestseller.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂