The adventure begins…

Here I go, plunging into a new world and a new adventure.  I have not yet published a graphic novel, but that’s what I hope to do, and I’m planning to share the adventure with all of you, in hopes that some info here may help or at least amuse someone else on the planet.

Actually, I’m plunging into two new worlds, and two new adventures, because I don’t know much about blogging, but here I am doing it.

Why, you may wonder, am I pursuing a graphic novel, and a blog, when I don’t know much about either one.  It’s a great question.  And the answer is: I’m a screenwriter.  But it turns out that these days it is not enough to be good at screenwriting to get started in the business, you also have to have something else going, like a graphic novel, or a blog.  (A word to my fellow aspiring screenwriters: start a blog, or get a book deal, in addition to polishing your screenwriting skills.)

I graduated from USC film school with an MFA in Cinema and Television.  I’ve been studying and practicing screenwriting ever since.  I have had some high praise from professionals in the industry, and this year I finally got a manager, who thinks my writing is great.   We were going to try to get me staffed on a TV show, or get other assignments this year, but when my manager called several agents she has worked with for years, they all said the same thing:  not only did I need strong writing samples (which I have), I needed to have a book deal, or a graphic novel, or a blog, or something else to help constitute a brand.

I admit to being initially a bit discouraged at the news.  Here I have worked for years to get to this point.  When my manager asked for two new TV spec scripts within a few months, I delivered.  But all this isn’t enough.  I have to do more.  There are still more dragons to slay.

Now, I like to imagine that if there were real dragons, they would not automatically all be targets for  slaying.  I like to imagine them like humans, varied:  some wise, some foolish, some helpful, some vile, but slaying them certainly works as a metaphor.

So the news was a little daunting and discouraging, especially as it means we can’t try for this year’s upcoming season for a writing job; we have to wait another year, during which I need to come up with something else for my brand.  But I don’t daunt or discourage for very long, and I have shifted into “let’s get this going” mode.  I’m almost there.  I’m not going to let this stop me.  I’m going to push to get one of my screenplays adapted somehow into a graphic novel.  And I’m going to blog about it in the meantime.  You can watch me as I go through this.  And if you have any helpful hints, please do share, and I will be most grateful.

Speaking of being “Almost there,” I have decided that Tiana is my favorite Disney Princess.  (In my day job, I teach piano, and it’s always good to know which is your favorite Disney Princess when dealing with kids, especially little girls.)  The reason she’s my favorite is that her dream is to run a restaurant.  She doesn’t want to be rich and just lounge about.   All she’s asking for is the chance to work amazingly hard at the thing she loves, the thing she can do really well.  That’s what I want.   And I’m almost there.  (By the way, “Almost there” is a really useful lie or exaggeration sometimes.  It can really get you through some tough times.  I once got a friend off a mountain with it, but that is a story for another day.)

About the graphic novel, here’s what I have done so far.

I already have the story, in the form of a screenplay I wrote, so I need to find out how the business works, and adapt the story into a format for a graphic novel.  I realize this whole business may be far more complicated and difficult than I realize.   But I just have to try.

I am actually encouraged at this point by a quirky venture in my past.  A friend and I designed and produced a board game, and we didn’t know anything about it before we started, but that is another story for another day.  The point is that we researched and made connections, and got the thing made and sold.

Some friends who know about graphic novels recommended a couple, and I have read a bit of a book at their house, Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud.  I was in L.A., meeting with my manager, so before I left L.A., I ordered that book for myself, and some graphic novels to study as examples.  I picked Watchmen, which I borrowed, read, and loved, many years ago.   While I was looking at that on the Alibris site (my favorite for ordering books), a recommendation popped up for Watching the Watchmen, which seems to be about producing the book, and seemed like a very helpful resource for creating a graphic novel.  I also ordered Persepolis, because I loved the movie, and Maus and Maus II, recommended by my friends.

I live near San Francisco, and Wondercon is this weekend, so I’m planning to attend, especially lectures and panels about publishing.  I also want to research how the business works,  get more familiar with graphic novels, and make connections.

I have also realized that it will be faster to communicate with my illustrator by making rough sketches of the panels, rather than lengthy descriptions.   So I started practicing drawing (again) right away.   I have done some drawing in the past, and I enjoy it.  I always wanted to get better, but I spent my time practicing writing instead of drawing.  I am certainly not good enough to do my own illustrations for the graphic novel, but with some work and study, I can improve to the point of being able to use drawing as a tool to work more efficiently with my artist partner in this project.  I started to look at Dover Publications (I absolutely adore Dover),  for books on drawing and perspective.  Probably I’ll select and order some after Wondercon.  The weekend is fast approaching.

There may be those of you out there gnashing your teeth, and saying that I don’t deserve to have a graphic novel published: I’m not devoted to, or even overly familiar with the art form.   And in that sense, you’re right.  But I do have a very visual story, which will make a great graphic novel, and I need to get one published to open the doors to the career I dream of, that I have trained for, that I have sacrificed for, and that I have worked so hard at for many many years.

In subtitling my blog “How I published my first graphic novel,” I’m using a principle advocated by Andy Nulman in his excellent and inspirational book, How to do the Impossible.  He says to think of the impossible as already done.  Of course, he is not the first or the only one to mention this principle, in fact, he lists several books that discuss it.  I highly recommend his book to anyone contemplating a seemingly impossible dream.

To anyone else contemplating a seemingly impossible, but beautiful or useful dream, I say,  stop contemplating and go for it!

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