Friday, June 20, 2014

Dream Dabbling

Hurrah! I just finished a 75k YA fantasy I've been working on since 2012. To celebrate, I played with PowerPoint clipart and made a pseudo book poster for my epic tale. It's not too hard to guess which fairy tale I am retelling! (It also helps that I'd already designed an earlier poster).

Monday, June 9, 2014

Interview with an Artist: Jackie Musto

This June, I have the pleasure of interviewing Jackie Musto, illustrator and web comic creator of The Adventures of Lady Skylark and Kay and P!

What is your process of inspiration for creating art? 

Pretty much everything around me. The first piece of advice I give to any artist of any medium is to carry a sketchbook with you wherever you go. You are going to see places, observe people and get ideas from all over the place, and you want to be prepared to write those down - as quick as they come into your brain, you should be sure that they will go right out again. So I take my book with me wherever I go, and jot notes, sketch bits and pieces and craft ideas all the time. I kind of suffer from almost having too many ideas - there are a lot of them I am sure will never see the light of day because I just don't have time to dedicate to them all!

Who is an artist/writer that inspires you and why? 

I watch a lot of fellow artists on tumblr, and I find it inspiring to see what comics and other things there are up to. I feel like following your contemporaries (especially in this age of modern media) is really important to get a handle on what's going on in your field; as well as networking and idea-sharing. It's great to be able to show your work to a group of people - some of who are on another continent - and get some really excellent feedback.
Some of my favorite folks are: Paige Haisley WarrenTarabbaJessfinkBen BishopAmy FalconeitscarororoKathryn HudsonClaire Hummel... and way too many more to list!

How do you overcome fallow spells in creativity and regain the courage to create?

I tend to just push through and keep working. I have the benefit/problem of working on a schedule of three comic pages a week - so people expect something of me regardless of if I'm having a bad day or crazy life stuff. I do my best to keep on my schedule and that helps me plan my time accordingly. There have certainly been days where I've been tired and didn't feel like working, or didn't really feel inspired - and then I'll take a break, play some video games or go somewhere to shake up the old head-space. I think one of the best pieces of advice I can give people who want to work creatively is to pick bite sized projects at first - they'll be done quickly so you won't tire of them, and then they'll give you some practice to tackle larger projects later. It's great to develop a sense of self-discipline to keep yourself in check. Besides, if you love what you are doing, you'll find yourself coming back to it no matter how much you try to take a break!

You can discover more of Jackie’s marvelous work at:
“Life when your best friend is a skeleton.”

The Adventures of the Lady Skylark
“A steampunk story about pirates, treasure, gentlemen and of course the Lady Skylark herself.”

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Writing it Wrong to Ink it Right

I must confess that I'm a bit of an outline freak when it comes to preparing to write new stories. I design copious character charts (sociology, psychology, physiology). I create massive history files on the political, geographical, and economic makeup of different kingdoms. I make scene outlines for every single chapter. And don't even get me started on the infernal nature of magic systems! As a result of my pre-ink obsession, I usually have around 20 pages of story material before I even write the first chapter.

But I've relearned an important lesson with the current YA draft I'm working on:

Sometimes, you just have to write the story WRONG first in order to ink it right later. No matter how much I outline in advance, when I actually begin to write the story, it becomes, for lack of a better verb, wriggly. That's right, the syllables coil and lose adverbs right and left, scenes twitch and shed reams of bad dialogue, characters convulse in the throes of acute stereotypitis, and as for me? I despair as my precious outline disintegrates into incoherent ramblings.

And . . . this is good.

While I do need an outline to provide the framework of my draft, at the same time I can't let myself become strictly bound to my initial ideas, either. Some of them stink. Some of them just don't work anymore as the draft progresses, and require me to rewrite entire chapters. Some of the ideas need to evolve further before they are anything more than basic building blocks to character or plot. As author Shannon Hale notes on the process of inking stories, "I'm writing a first draft and reminding myself that I'm simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles."

So don't wallow in misery if you recognize innumerable flaws in your first draft, and DON'T STOP WRITING. Instead, (this works for me), jot the flaws you find down in a separate file with page numbers included. That way you can easily go back to them in your manuscript when you've sufficiently mulled over the problem. Repeat this process with every draft. The flaw list gets a little smaller each time, until, finally . . .

I will finish this sentence in 2 weeks!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Noble Neighbor

I have the sweet serendipity to live near a river canal filled with ravens, cranes, herons, ducks, and a hundred other tiny feather puffs! What I love about this particular heron is the way he owns the river. Even his shadow is sublimely nonchalant. Nothing perturbs him, not even a gawky human with a camera.