A drafty topic

Hello everyone!

Kobayashi, mangaka, of AMWC here! Well, I can write too, but I’d much rather do a comic, I’d like to share on why too, but there seems to be too many of such posts around so I’ll skip that. You guys probably wouldn’t be interested in my autobiography anyway. Well, Moon requested a guest post from me, I shall oblige. Despite being an amateur, I’ll share on what I have learnt picked up so far. Should there be any errors, please forgive, we’re all still learning. So here, I bring to you the thing which involves writers and mangakas (or comickers as some would call us):

DRAFTS. I wouldn’t say that it’s a must for all works to have drafts, but I would say it CERTAINLY makes things a lot better, both for the readers (having a better story to read) and the writers/mangakas (easier writing process). So what is a draft? A search on dictionary.com provides us with 38 answers, however, only the first 2 is related to the topic today:

  1. a drawing, sketch, or design
  2. a first or preliminary form of any writing, subject to revision, copying, etc.

Simple enough. A draft would actually be sort-of a skeleton of a story/comic, containing only crucial information, events and actions that are usually decided by the direction of the plot. A draft serves the main purpose of allowing yourself, and maybe your editor, to see a simple and clear plot line, minus all the fancy language or extras. Having a clear plot line allows one to stay focused on the direction of the story without being distracted by the fact that there’s a random cat lying around or that the passer-by just farted. You’ll have a clear birds-eye view of the situation, much like what God would probably be having, and from there, make necessary changes to improve your story and further plan the story, should you be required to. Without a draft, you’d probably have to read through your lengthy written work to find the area of which you wanted to make changes to and lose track of your idea half-way through it. Furthermore, doing up a draft is a lot easier and less time consuming than the real deal, as you can leave out all the little things which give your work it’s flavour (readers aren’t going to read your draft, are they?), and you would not be required to change as much as compared to working directly on the manuscript itself.

Being a mangaka, I’m obliged to share views and tips about writing/drawing comics as regards to the topic. From what I have experienced so far, there are quite a few ways to do a draft for your work. One of it being thumbscripts (think thumbnails with words instead of pictures),in which you decide what would be portrayed in each page or panel by writing in small versions of the pages or panels. Another is would be a totally written form, in which everything is put down in words, from the size of the panel to the dialogue of the characters. However, my method of choice is rough sketches of the page itself (the Japanese call it ‘names’, I wonder why too), in which, a rough version of what the page would look like, how the panels and speech bubbles are placed, how the characters look like in them and what they are doing. It’s up to the individuals’ preference as to which way of doing it is better, after all, you should be comfortable with your working style.

In addition to the plot and development of events, a draft for a comic, if you were to do rough sketches for it, also enables you to have a pictorial understanding of the flow of the comic. As any comicker should know, paneling is very important in the writing of a comic as it guides the reader along the story. Depending on the shape, position and size of the panel, a reader’s attention can be grabbed or redirected easier. With the help of your draft, you’ll be able to put yourself in the readers’ shoes as you feel how your paneling is guiding you through the story, whether the point you wanted to bring attention to is working out or producing a counter-effect. Many things are always perfect when we picture it in out mind, but leave a totally different impression upon finding its way onto paper. Thus, a draft would give you a preview and allow for changes in the paneling and placement After all, you want the readers to see and experience the things that you are trying to express, keeping the good stuff for yourself isn’t going to be as much of a thrill as compared to sharing it with others.

Like written drafts for novels, a draft sketch should also be kept simple. Draft sketches can be as simple as skeleton sketches in poses related to the plot (labeled as who they should be, of course), roughly drawn panels and bubbles and your untidy handwriting for dialogues. Backgrounds can even be left out, unless, of course, its important to the development of the plot. After all it is still a DRAFT, and would not be seen by your adoring fans who think you that you’re incapable of drawing anything short of a well-inked comics. Furthermore, keeping things simple in the draft means that you’d be spending less time working on the details which give the final touch to the picture only to find out that it didn’t look as thrilling as expected as it appeared in your mind’s eye, then grumble on how you have to redo your well-detailed face which you spent a full-hour on. Keep in mind that this is still your draft and your masterpiece will ultimately be your manuscript.

Doing drafts can be a real bore, knowing that things you put down in the draft is merely temporary and that you are required to do up a well-done manuscript for printing or submission. I, for one, have the same feeling too. I even worry at times that I would not be able to reproduce the draft’s effect in the manuscript later on. No one’s stopping you from working on your manuscript without a draft, unless you have an editor who insists on seeing a draft before allowing you to start on any actual work. However, we must understand that there is no perfect piece of work and every piece of work would have room for improvement. As mentioned above, your draft allows you to see your script in a glance and make changes easily. As such, you would be able to make necessary changes to improve your story with more ease and produce a better piece of work, which is, of course, delightful for everyone.

I feel that doing a draft is a wonderful way to help guide yourself through your piece of work and improving it. Concluding this sharing, I strongly encourage writers and mangakas to work on drafts and go through it to help produce quality work, both for yourselves and the readers. Remember, there’ll always be room for improvement, regardless the standard.

P.S. Mangakas (writers too), please read BAKUMAN (from the creators of ‘Death Note’), it offers much insight into the work and industry (in Japan though) of the mangakas. I guarantee it’ll help you a way or another.