Sunday, January 14, 2018

Starting Over, Not Giving Up! +Sharing What I've Learned

Hello! I promised a more optimistic blog post, didn't I?

As I've mentioned before, I'm taking a fresh start at Arbitrary Travels as a series as well as striving to improve the quality of stories, writing, and art (I kindly received a critique of the series through tumblr, which opened my eyes to many of the flaws in the art). My plan is...well, first of all, to plan. I am putting a lot more effort into organizing the stories, making sure they are not only truly self contained but flow logically in terms of character development and chronological timing. I have also been researching a ton about writing and storytelling, and putting much higher expectations on Arbitrary Travels stories (especially when it comes to each story's purpose and ability to entertain and help each reader).

Part of being more organized is not rushing to create something random for a weekly update. Which brings up another point: Arbitrary Travels isn't going to be a "webcomic". This website is just that - a website with information and samples of the series. So, I will be redoing this website to reflect these goals in a professional way. There will still be some stories, and if I'm lucky I can figure out a blog somehow (though if not there is now an Arbitrary Travels tumblr : more on that further down).

That being said, all of the old content currently on the website will be deleted. I'm no longer doing comic strips for Arbitrary Travels, and though I may revisit certain stories the versions up here will still be deleted. The website will be redone, though pages such as the Character Guide will remain and be updated to keep up with the current art and stories.

As I've said before, I'm pretty much never going to "give up" on Arbitrary Travels. I love the characters waaay too much, and the concept is flexible enough so I can adapt certain aspects of the series until it works for others as well. So, while this is the first new start of the series, I'll do as many new starts as I have to until Arbitrary Travels succeeds (at least as much as I need it too, though I do have high ambitions)

Now, as promised, here are some of the things I've learned in this first iteration of Arbitrary Travels:

  • Focus: Know what you're trying to do. Lots of people say not to plan too much, since you do want to start eventually. You'll learn as you go, and perfection isn't possible: these things are true, but it's still worth having an idea of how far you want to go with your work (in terms of success and effort), what you want to get out of it, and how you will achieve whatever goals you set. Also, make sure you know what the work is going to be: format, length, and tone, etc.
  • Don't make your first project your most beloved one: It's too late for me. Whenever I try to take a break from Arbitrary Travels, I get legitimately depressed. This is good advice - your first work will not be your best, and especially with comics you will improve drastically during your first several projects. I only heard this advice after I've already started Arbitrary Travels, but hopefully you haven't become addicted to the work you love yet. If so, just work hard to do your absolute best (and, maybe we can go through this together!)
  • Be critical: Do not become complacent with any aspect of your work. Every so often look critically at each aspect of your work: story, art, writing, or whatever you're doing. During these inspections be as objective as possible: no need to be needlessly cruel to yourself, but do everything you can to find any flaws in your work. Hold images to a mirror, read your story in reverse, look for plot holes and everything else, and get other people to help you! I personally can't see certain flaws in my artwork without another person pointing them out. Art is about how you see things, so if the way you see is off, then your art will be off too - but you won't be able to tell. Get some help. Have these other people be as critical as possible as well. Most likely it will hurt or feel super uncomfortable, but this should pass. Remember, this will help you tremendously if you listen to critique. (Side note: If there's a flaw in your work that you don't want to eliminate, whether it was intentional or a good thing in your eyes, think through your reasons for keeping and using this "flaw"to your advantage. Using this information, hone in on making this flaw work and congratulations! It's now either a technique or a stylistic element in your work.)
  • Reassess: Related to the previous point, but on a larger scale. Every month or year, take a look at your goals and strategies and see how you and your work are progressing. Are things not taking off? Has something exploded in popularity when you only had modest goals for it? Is there any progress at all, even if very little, or have things stagnated? (Don't underestimate even a small audience! It's still something, and trust me, something is better than nothing.) It's good to look at things on both a small, detail-oriented and a large, broad scale. This point is doing the latter. Once you see the overall path your going down, you can make changes to ensure you start or keep heading in the direction you want to be going.
  • Do what you need to do: Depending on your goals for your work, you may need to go against what everyone else is doing. If you have modest or unconventional goals, then a lot of common advice may not apply to you and your plan. Likewise, you may be more ambitious or have big dreams about what you want to do. If this is the case, you should a) be brutally honest with yourself and your work b) make ways to actually make these ambitions real. Do you need to market to a different audience than the norm? For example, you may not be a good fit for the webcomics community, or even the comics community: you may want a different business model, or need people who have a different mindset when it comes to your work (e.g. comics overall are terribly underpriced for the amount of work they require, but try telling that to comics readers...). If your work connects to a niche or topic wildly different from your medium, then that's a wonderful opportunity to not only stand out but to have more than one community or audience to communicate with. Do what you feel and reason is right for you and your particular work. Flexibility may be necessary, but that is true whether you're following the mainstream path or going your own unique way.
And, of course, make sure you enjoy what you're doing. Passion will keep you going no matter what, and you'll need it to reach your goals no matter how high they are. If you don't like what you're doing, either change the work so you begin to enjoy it or change course and do a different project, or even a completely different type of work. No point in being miserable, right? And I'll let you know (much) later on whether stubborn persistance pays off.

Thank you for reading! As I've mentioned, you can stay updated with progress, information, and new content through the Arbitrary Travels' tumblr . Check there often, or follow if you have a tumblr, until the new website is up. Thank you all for your support so far - every one of you mean a lot to me, and I hope you'll continue to follow Arbitrary Travels as it evolves and grows.