161: squeeze in the Ents

Hullo.

D12E
Mirka
Gone Til
Longform
Links
Otto&Gratty
Byyyyeeee!!!

****

DIE 12 is out, picking up from DIE 11 and setting the stage for DIE 13. We are such iconoclasts.

There’s a short preview here, which includes links to digital purchasing places. Lovely alternate cover by Justine Franny, who we adore.

Next month is a skip month, before DIE 13 hits in October, which is one of those fancy over-researched ones.

****

The wonderful Mirka Andolfo is doing the alternate cover for the fourth (count it!) issue of Ludocrats. If you want a copy, speak to your retailer. Its code is JUN208312 and it’s out on August 19th.

****

I did a quick write up of a throwaway monster from the DIE Campaign, as they worked really well. First draft. Worth stressing, that in DIE you play a real world person dragged into a fantasy world, so we’re talking character’s memories, not players’ memories. That would be weird.

Also, yes, clearly a Luggage-meets-mimic gag.

****

I had an acquaintance mail me and ask for some advice on long form plotting in ongoings, specifically what you need to know to pitch it, what you need to know, and all that. The question was the writer considered themselves a gardener, the sort of writer who likes to explore and find out what they can along the way, which made them worry they were going to write themselves into a hole given the larger canvas of an ongoing. I figure it could be of interest to some of you.

Firstly, if you're pitching an ongoing in the market, be aware that you may be pitching a mini. Books get cancelled quick, and while some people will just plan for everything working fine, I tend to think that the best route is also working out an eject button. If it IS only the first arc, it comes with a hard ending which can either work as the end or (if you realise it'll be the last arc) be tweaked a little to work as an end. I tend to have an eject button on most of my series - Uber, for example, always had a "If you give me one issue, I can end all the plots, as I'll just turn it into a documentary."

(There’s the obvious caveat there. You have to know that you only have one issue left.)

Secondly, there's basically two kinds of ongoings. One is the classical American comic industry ongoing - as in, it goes on forever, in perpetual second-act. Two is the sort of vertigo model ongoing - which, in reality, just a really long graphic novel, published in segments. The difference is the latter has a planned end and the former likely doesn't - at least, not an ending you know at the start.

Most of my real ongoings have been the Vertigo model - Uber, WicDiv, DIE, Journey into Mystery, Young Avengers. Here, at the start, I almost certainly know the following...

1) The conceptual engineering of the series. This will almost certainly warp grotesquely as I continue, but I've got whatever makes the series the series. Warping to fit new ideas Is entirely normal, I stress, for everyone. Tolkien reworked the Silmarillion to squeeze in the Ents.
2) The first arc, in its entirety. If it's not written, it's tightly plotted in a synopsis form.
3) The major movements of the series. As in, the second arc will be kind of like this, and end here. The third arc will be like this, and end here. And so on and so on until the end of the series.
4) A good chunk of the characters' emotional arcs. This character is about this, this is their secrets, these are the things I want to do with them.

What 2 and 3 are basically how you orientate in an ongoing. You head towards a point, hit that point, and then see the next waypoint, and write towards there. That I conceive arcs in terms of their purpose to a larger story means that as long as the stories complete the goals I need them to, it doesn't matter HOW you do it. It also means they're flexible enough to change according to your changing interest, incorporate new ideas, etc.

4 is about material you can drop into the story wherever it's required. As in, it can be tied to the larger arc structure, but it isn't always tied to a structure. I considered revealing Baal's secret in WicDiv in the chaos of Imperial Phase. I decided against it, saving it for Mothering Invention. Why? Lots of reasons, but that's not the point - the point being that I was able to sequence it into the story as I felt when writing it. I get to experiment and play when writing, because otherwise, I'd just be typing for 5 years. All plans break apart the second you enter combat.

I tend to tightly plot the next arc before writing it, and then write it, and when that’s done, plot the arc AFTER it.

There's also basic structural stuff for writing - have a look at the DIE arcana which has a lot about catching balls in the Story Structure For Beginners lesson. As long as you don't foreshadow something too heavily, you can prepare your reader for the possibility of it happening by foreshadowing it softly. You can keep your option open, while still being structurally sound.

For the other sort of book, the more traditional ongoing? It's the same, but without the long term plan. You know the first arc, and know it'll stand together as a unit. You likely have a bunch of things you want to explore, and just trust yourself to sequence them as you proceed. This essentially means you move everything that is in point 3 ("Major movements in the series") into 4 ("Stuff to use whenever as you have the chance.") In a real way, I tend to work the same way – tight synopsis for the next arc, then write it.

(Well, tightish. Occasionally you have episodes mid-arc which you have a sentence for the sort of thing which is happening. “In this issue it’s a huge fight against Beowulf” or something.)

In my experience, soon after I start one of the less structured ongoing, it'll morph into one of the hard-ending ongoings anyway. I started Once & Future with the idea it'd be a modular story I'd come back to, each trade like a movie instalments, but when we turned it into a true ongoing, I turned from "No firm idea where this is going long term, bar a list of all the cool shit I want to use "into "Yeah, I'm pretty sure this all builds towards this thing at the end of the third trade, and then the next big thing at the end of the fourth or fifth." But interestingly, it still doesn't have the WicDivian hard ending I can't continue past. That’s a big climax, but there’s still space for more.

In short, you're still writing modular. If you're a gardener, you can help yourself by writing the whole of each arc before the artist draws any of it. This is hard to do with schedules, but not impossible, and definitely can work it, in terms of being able to treat each arc as a graphic novel.

Oh - when pitching this, it's unlikely any of your publishers will want to know the detailed long term plan. It'll be a conceptual description of the series, the break down of the first arc, and a vague talk of its long term direction. As in, you could get by with just what you need for the pitch.

Hopefully some of this is useful.

****

****

Ted and Ro are selling the original of their Ludocrats cover, if anyone wants an excellent piece of highly romantic original art.

****

I haven’t updated for a couple of weeks. In short – Warhammer issue 4 draft last week, Once & Future 14 this week. I’ve scripted the majority of the latter, and am taking today off to do other jobs and do a little extra research in a few areas. There’s one Arthurian Character I likely need to bring in, and need to finally come down on some decisions. The “other jobs” are basically polishing up the back matter for DIE 13 (the interview is in a draft state, or rather, a hurricane state – basically the size of several drafts. Some editing is in order) and various phone meetings. One’s an interview for the last interview in this arc of DIE, with a figure I’m an enormous fan of, so I’m hoping I don’t make a fool of myself. I also need to decide if I’m going to do more interviews for the next arc of DIE, but I do have a bit of space to play with.

Also, PROJECT COWBOY has a firm release, which is exciting, but does put things in a different pile. I now have five books in active play, which is a different kind of juggling act.

I’ve also been making some decisions I hope are smart. I’ve had a few smaller jobs approach me, and they’re appealing, and small enough to figure “Why not?” but I’m still going to say no. This one will take a week, but if I have a week spare, I’d be better off just writing the DIE RPG for a week. I’m considering making 2021’s creative goal to be “Say no to everything” and just force enough space that I have to write a novel out of embarrassment.

Back to it. Speak soon.

Kieron Gillen
London.
22.7.2020