autobiography Blog

shop talk

I read a lot of cartoonist’s blogs and interviews, so I think I have my hand on the pulse of modern American cartooning. One thing that I always wonder about is the writing process.

Many comic strippers say they write up a whole slew of jokes, then cherry-pick the best of the batch. The revising of the joke comes only after the cartoonist chooses to use the joke for a strip.

I write a lot. I’ll get an idea during the day and take it home to work into dialog. When I have a deadline approaching, I’ll go back through my notebook and revise everything. Sometimes I can rewrite an okay joke into something that’s much better. Sometimes I can take a few lines from one idea, a few from another, and combine them into a single strip. Sometimes (actually, most times) I just need to brutally edit. It’s all about getting the most said with the least amount of words. One example was a handwritten page of dialog that I edited down to about 6 sentences – perfect for 4 panels. I can be verbose in my writing.

What intrigues me is: why would you throw away an entire conversation just because the punchline is no good? I can usually find something worth salvaging in any idea I’ve written, if I need to. Keep in mind, I had to like something about the idea to write it down in the first place; I just need to get back to that core spark of inspiration and make it funny.

Anyone else have stories to share about their writing process?

One reply on “shop talk”

I don’t have the time to write that I used to. Most of my official work is professional stuff these days–so therefore dry and medical.

I feel your pain. I’ve always been a line by line guy. It’s excruciating, but the bright side is that you get to listen to a lot of music while you suffer.

But then again, wouldn’t line by line be a good thing for a cartoonist?

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