Reflecting on NaNoWriMo 2016

I wrote on 28 of the 30 days, missing only two days while traveling for Thanksgiving. I will make up for them by continuing to write for at least the first 2 days of December. It’s still my most consistent showing yet in the four years I have attempted NaNoWriMo. My final word count was roughly 13,016 words, covering just over 80 handwritten pages. My goal was never 50k words; it was to write first drafts for final 6 chapters of Dream Crasher.  I completed 2 chapters and did a detailed outline of a third.

It was refreshing to be fully immersed in story again, and not distracted by raising money, digital edits, selling books, shipping books, and social media. I learned a lot of unexpected things about my characters. I was really worried about parts of these chapters coming out contrived. I spent as much time meditating on the story as I did putting words to the page. I always do some form of this, but consistently writing helped me focus on the problem points. As I figured out the characters and what motivates them, I found ways through my plot without it feeling contrived.

It takes me roughly 2 weeks to complete a first draft of a chapter. This will make it easier to budget time in the coming year to continue writing the final 4 chapters. This metric might also help me dedicate some more time to short stories and other scripts I have wanted to work on. Typically I read during my subway commute to and from work. During NaNoWriMo, I read on the morning commute in and wrote on the way home. The advantage is I write a lot more; the disadvantage is I read a lot less. Writing on the subway can be tricky and it will only work for writing first drafts, so I don’t think it will or should become my new normal. However, if I dedicate myself to doing this in 2 week spurts for first drafts, this method works really well.

This was good for me creatively. I feel reinvigorated. I feel less like a salesman and more like a writer again. I still have to be both but I can’t have one without the other. We’re releasing Chapter 3 this month (it’s been pretty much done but the release was delayed). I’m tabling at Winter Con in Queens this weekend. Chapter 4 is underway for a Spring 2017 release.  Chapter 6 is undergoing its first script edits. Reed and I just spoke for an hour last night plotting out conventions in the coming year and how Stealing Fire Comics can be our vehicle for resistance in Drumpf’s America. I’m feeling really good about where I’m at even though I’m scared for society as whole.

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Dream Crasher: The First Milestone

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If you’re don’t regularly back up your hard drive, let me tell you a story about an inconvenience that could have been a nightmare. My laptop hard drive was approaching 5 years old. I knew it had been getting funky and making strange sounds every now and again. It decided to completely shit the bed exactly one month before our June 2nd deadline for releasing Dream Crasher. Fortunately, I religiously backup everything with Time Machine, and that goes double for the comic book. Every page is additionally backed up in two different places. One can never back the important things up in too many places.

What you see in the picture above is my sisters old macbook that she set up for me with Adobe CS3 (for doing the final page edits) and my PC from work (for uploading/downloading the files for lettering). It took me twice as long to do everything as it would have on my own computer, but it didn’t stop me from doing what I needed to. What would have been a fun long weekend trip home turned into a lot of time spent at my makeshift desk on the dining room table.

Reed and I made the decision to hire a letterer rather than attempt it ourselves. This was excellent advice that came to me via the Comixology Submit panel at NYCC. We posted an add on Digital Webbing, filtered through several responses before we found Frank Cvetkovic. Here’s one thing Reed and I learned about ourselves through the process of selecting fonts: neither of us ever really notices lettering unless it’s abstract or poorly done. Much of the best comic book lettering doesn’t call attention to itself. It finds it’s own place in the narrative. It directs the readers eye around the page and works in cohesion with the artwork. Frank did a beautiful job and I could not be happier with our decision.

Through the process of finding a letterer we also found Greg Sorkin to do our logo. He was incredibly patient with our initial indecisiveness, but I’m ultimately very happy with the end result. My sister also came through for us in the eleventh hour, doing the cover graphics, internal credit and thank you pages, and the post cards we’ve been handing out for the last four months.

The last weekend of May brought us some gorgeous weather. It was the first true weekend of summer. I spent the entire time indoors working on the website. Minus some initial trouble with the download links, it all went off without a hitch on game day. It took us five years from the first sketches to the release of Chapter 1. There were many times along the way where it felt like it might never happen. Reed and I have trudged forward in the face of some major setbacks. We still have a long ways to go, but I couldn’t have asked for a better partner to take this journey with.

We will be launching our Kickstarter in late October. That’s less than one month away. We will be using it to print Chapter 1 as well as fund the lettering through Chapter 3. It will also be the first place you can order Chapter 2: The Land Vomits Ghosts. I’ve been exceptionally lazy in the last two months, making up for going all out on this. It’s time to come out of hibernation, though. I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of Reed. I’m proud of how the first chapter of Dream Crasher turned out. I’m excited and mildly terrified for what comes next, but I know I am fully capable of making it happen.

Dream Crasher: A Five Year Journey

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The roots of Dream Crasher can be traced all the way back to my sophomore year of college, when I first drafted an idea for a short film. It’s first working title was Post Human. It never made it beyond pre-production. I picked it up again in my senior year, when I wrote up a prose treatment for a Creative Writing class. I liked how it came out, but I was too distracted by my involvement with slam poetry at the time, and it slipped to the back burner.

The project wouldn’t truly come to life until Sean Gallagher convinced me to join him for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2009. Under the cringe-worthy but thankfully short-lived working title of Anno Diablo, I began the first draft of what is now Dream Crasher. I merged my original short story with a broader concept I had been kicking around, and dove in with no idea where I was really going. I made it to 14,542 words – well short of the 50,000 word goal. Yet for the first time in years I was excited about a creative undertaking. Over the next few months I began to flesh out the world and it’s characters. Through this process, I realized that my story needed to be expressed visually.

A few months later, I was hanging out and catching up with my friend Reed Olsen. Over the course of our conversation Reed mentioned that he had been wanting to make a comic book. It just so happened that I did, too. I pitched the story to Reed, and he came back with a few character sketches. Before long I was writing scripts, and Reed was experimenting with styles. I completed the first chapter. Reed settled on black and white water color.

Thanks to tagging on Tumblr, we can view some of the progress of Dream Crasher as it evolved over the last five years from NaNoWriMo to it’s current form. It has lived under many names. I was calling it Vanishing Point when Reed and I started working on it. It changed to Year Zero and then Stealing Fire before we eventually landed on Dream Crasher just one month ago.

We had our share of setbacks along the way. I stopped writing for almost a year after Blair died. When I started back up, my original plans for the third chapter had tripled in length and needed to be split in two. Reed also made the difficult decision to redo the first chapter – as it paled when compared to the completed second and third. Even though it slowed our progress down, Dream Crasher is ultimately going to be better because of it.

This month marks five years since I took the first real steps towards getting this story out of my head and onto the page. Today we have 130 pages fully painted and ready to be scanned, enhanced, and lettered. Within the next few months, the first chapter will see it’s Internet debut. “The Creature’s Keeper” still shares many similarities to that plot I dreamed up for my doomed short film, but the world and it’s characters have grown far beyond anything I was capable of at that time.

While I won’t be partaking in NaNoWriMo this year, I have it to thank for kickstarting the process and allowing me to take the first deep dive into this world I had created. It has grown and changed shape along with me these last five years. Reed and I have a long ways yet to go, but today I’m more excited than intimidated by what lies ahead.