Script to Pencils
Since the script is the skeleton upon which the meat and muscle of the story hangs, it is at this stage that the writer and penciler, if they are not one and the same person, should get to know each other's strengths and weaknesses. The scripter and artist, and any other team members, should meet in person if possible; if not, phone or Internet communication will have to suffice. These days it is easy to collaborate over the Internet. With the help of instant message programs files can be quickly exchanged, and with voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) technology you can even chat free.
The writer's plot should already be in a basic conceptual form. The pacing and high points of the story should be ready to be kicked around with the penciler. Be sure everyone at the planning meeting has a written copy of the plot to make notes on. The penciler should have a pen and pad handy in case a visual image comes to mind that needs to be conveyed to the scripter.
If your inker, letterer, and colorist are around, invite them to participate, too. This collaboration at such an early stage can yield amazing results. The story can be custom crafted to the artist's particular expertise.
An example of a script from Death Hawk, with a panel-by-panel breakdown, dialogue, and references to existing art. Scripts are often taped to the back of the actual art.
As mentioned in Chapter 6, a story that features imagery that the penciler is expert at depicting will be much more believable and interesting than one that does not play to his strengths.
You can make your own chart to keep track of production stages.
The artist may also have some input as to interesting scenes to place in the story, including the planning of sound effects. The penciler can also do a reality check if the scripter is asking too much as far as depicting a scene goes. This is a good time for the penciler to speak up and tell the writer his honest reaction to the feasibility of completing the project satisfactorily.
DIGITAL PRINTING AND PRINT ON DEMAND WILL CHANGE THE FACE OF PUBLISHING IN THE NEAR FUTURE, AND THEY HOLD THE MOST PROMISE FOR SELF-PUBLISHING AND SMALL PRESS PROJECTS. SHORT-RUN PRINTINGS OF BLACK-AND-WHITE BOOKS HAVE REACHED AN AFFORDABLE PRICE, AND THERE IS UNDOUBTEDLY GOING TO BE A RAPID DROP IN THE COST OF COLOR PRINTING IN THE NEAR FUTURE AS TECHNOLOGY KEEPS IMPROVING.
At this stage of the book, the writer has presumably familiarized himself with the penciler's previous work, if not in printed form then at least in a portfolio.
If a script has been finalized, the penciler and writer should go over it at this point so that the artist clearly understands what the story is about, what the high points of it are, and what the writer wants to emphasize most. They should also discuss some ideas for splash pages and scenes of high drama and importance, as well as character design and overall mood and atmosphere. Exploring these issues at the very beginning ensures that the creators of the project are pulling together toward the same goal, not pulling against each other's vision of the book, which can stall or kill a project.
At this stage, all the nuts-and-bolts issues must be ironed out and agreed upon: scheduling, page rate, the shared responsibilities. Don't leave anything up in the air; this is the time to nail down and specify all details, preferably in writing. If you are handling both the script and penciling, most of these issues aren't pertinent with the exception of scheduling and writing down key issues.
Next, get out a calendar and set a deadline for completion of the project. Be realistic when considering how many pages you will have to finish per week to meet your goal. A commitment to a schedule will keep you on track and also can be an invaluable aid in helping to plan the later stages of the project when other members of the team are brought into play. This is also the stage at which you should start getting quotes from any service providers you plan on using, such as printers, color separators, or shippers.
Here's a checklist for the planning meeting:
Expectations—Be clear as to what is expected from each team member and what the overarching goals are. What do they want individually as far as compensation? What level of sales are you aiming for?
Schedules and timelines—Get a realistic assessment and step-by-step breakdown of how long it will take to complete each stage of the project.
Duties—Determine who will scan the art; do the cover; design the logos; proofread the script and lettering; contact printers for quotes; issue press releases; handle shipping the books; do the ads, promotions, and flyers, apply for grants; examine proofs; mail out orders; and, last but not least, manage the launch party.