Four Basic Ways To Recycle A Webcomic Story Arc

2017 Artwork Recycling story arcs article sketch

Well, although it won’t appear here until early June, I started making another webcomic mini series shortly after finishing the first draft of this article.

This mini series will be slightly similar to an older webcomic story arc of mine from 2013(which can be seen here, here and here). Here’s a preview of the new mini series:

The mini series should start appearing here in very early June.

The mini series should start appearing here in very early June.

Since this could potentially be one of the closest things I’ve done to remaking my old comics in quite a while, I thought that I’d talk about several of the ways that you can recycle your old comics into new ones.

1) Keep the premise, ditch everything else: One of the best ways to keep a remake of one of your older comic updates or story arcs fresh is to keep the basic premise of it but change everything else. If your story arc revolved around your characters visiting somewhere then keep the location the same but change what happens there.

If your previous story arc was from a few years ago, then set your current story arc in the present day. If you’ve introduced new characters since you finished the old story arc, then add them to the new version of it (if it works in context, of course).

Basically, keep the basic theme or premise, but change almost everything else.

2) Add a full story, or don’t: The simplest way to make a webcomic story arc is just to place your characters in an unusual situation and see what happens. Sometimes, this can lead to a detailed and continuous story, sometimes this can lead to a collection of stand-alone comics that only have a few things in common with each other.

If you’re remaking something like this, then just do the opposite of what you did the first time round. Or don’t, if the original structure went really well. But, try to change the pacing or the panel layouts or something like that.

3) Time gaps and clean reboots: First of all, don’t assume that your readers have read the old story arc that you’re recycling.

If your webcomic has been going for long enough to merit recycling a story arc, then it’s likely that you’ll have picked up new readers who won’t have the time to read every old update. In other words, either make every update of your new story arc totally self contained, or make sure that all of the updates in your new arc tell a totally new self-contained story.

Yes, this might have an effect on the continuity of your webcomic (eg: a character seemingly encountering the same situation for the first time twice etc…) but this can often be covered over by either distracting members of the audience with a few subtle references to the old story arc, or by making the moments in question especially funny and/or dramatic.

4) The obvious way: If you need to take a break from planning comics and you want a quick webcomic project, then you could always just do a “traditional” remake where you do literally nothing more than update the art and streamline the writing slightly.

This obviously works best when it happens in webcomics that don’t tell one continuous story, when your remake is openly declared to be a remake and where the old story arc is old enough that there’s an immediately noticeable difference in art quality.

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

Three Ways To Recycle Something You’ve Already Posted Online

2014 Artwork Recycling old stuff sketch

Although I’ve already written about how you can recycle your unpublished creative work, I thought that I’d take a look at how you can recycle your published work. Obviously, this should only be done as a last resort if you’ve got an extremely tight deadline and/or a terrible case of writer’s block or artist’s block.

Not only that, you should also check whether the site you are posting your stuff on allows repeated content. However, some of the methods I am going to describe may or may not give your “recycled” work enough originality to be classified as a new work. But, even so, you should probably play it safe and check nonetheless.

So, how can you re-post the same thing twice without alienating your audience? Here are a few basic tips.

1) Make it a feature: Back in July, when I thought that I’d have to set up another blog (and before I realised that the other site I’d started to use didn’t allow previously-published content) I needed to come up with some filler content to schedule for the first few days- and fast.

So? What did I do? Simple, I planned to start a feature called “From The Vault” where I’d show off themed collections of my old “How To Draw” guides every few days. Hell, I even made a title graphic for these posts (and I’ve already used it twice here over the past week or two):

2014 Artwork Pekoeblaze exile vault graphic

If you’ve got a large “back catalogue” of work, then collecting it together in a new way (eg: showing a couple of poems about the same subject, or a couple of paintings in the same genre) and re-posting it as a regular and/or semi-regular feature can be a good way of generating content quickly. Your regular readers will like the nostalgia trip and it allows new readers to catch up on the history of your work fairly quickly too.

2) Remake it: I’ve already written about this before and I’ve even used this old trick myself on here fairly recently. But, if you’ve got a fairly old drawing or painting that you’ve already posted online, then try re-making it from scratch.

Since a lot of time has passed since you’ve made the original picture and since you’ve hopefully learnt a lot in the meantime, then your new version of your old picture will look a lot better. Kind of like a “HD remake” of an old computer game.

Yes, this technique only works if you have enough time to do it but it can be very useful if you have artist’s block. Not only that, you can post both the new version and the old version of your picture side-by-side to both show your audience and yourself how much you’ve improved as an artist. Like this:

"Overpass (II)" By C. A. Brown

“Overpass (II)” By C. A. Brown

"Overpass" by C.A.Brown  [19th November 2012]

“Overpass” by C.A.Brown [19th November 2012]

If you’re a writer rather than an artist, then you can still use this technique – just take an old short story that you wrote at least a year ago and try to rewrite it using all of the knowledge and skills that you’ve picked up since then.

3) Add something: I’ve sure you’ve probably seen DVDs or Blu-Ray discs which claim to be an “extended version” or a “director’s cut” of a well-known film.

Sometimes, these are genuine director’s cuts – with major changes to the film in line with the director’s original vision – but they’re just as likely to be nothing more than a copy of the original film with only a few minutes of additional footage.

Well, if this trick works for Hollywood, then it can work for you too! Just take one of your old stories and try reworking it a bit – take out a few scenes that you don’t like (as long as it doesn’t affect the story) or even write a few more new scenes for it. I mean, even if it’s 90% old content and 10% new content, then your fans will probably still be interested in reading it.

But, if you haven’t changed too much, then don’t try to sell the new version of your story – it may be technically legal to call it an “expanded version”, but your fans will feel cheated. So, only make minimal changes if you’re posting something online that people can read for free.

Using this tactic with comics and art is a bit more difficult, but not impossible. You can add an additional page or chapter to your comic if you have the time to do this or you can re-edit your existing artwork digitally (if you’ve learnt a few new editing tricks or got some new image editing software).

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂