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The Indisputable Matt Maxwell Presents:




Of course, once you’ve been sharp and open, you usually end up feeling kinda drained afterwards. I can relate to that, currently. I really can.

If this is Monday, then that means I’m supposed to talk about comics. Well, every other Monday, that is, as I’ve been leaving these columns to the last second, and today is no different. I mean, now that I’ve got a working computer with a keyboard that’s actually sized for my hands and not sized to fit within a TSA-approved carry-on, I can actually stretch out and get some work done right?

Only most of the work recently hasn’t been writing. It’s been anything but writing, which always leaves me a bit out of sorts. This is where I let you in on a little secret, one that I’m sure the secret cabal of Writers What Control Everything read, and promptly put out the word to their shadowy Enforcers to have my spleen removed, sliced into julienne strips and have sent by DHL (on dry ice to maintain freshness) to all my family members saying that this will happen to them unless I keep my trap shut.

Okay, here’s the secret. Writing is easy. Super easy. I can sit down and write a script page in an hour. Less if it’s one of those fight scenes that everyone loves that eat up pages like there’s no tomorrow. Those can be fun, but really they’re more fun for the artists than the writers. They also sell a lot better in the secondary market (as do splash pages—which I’ve finally given in to writing—I think there was one actual splash page in the entirety of MURDER MOON, and only because Luis drew it like that.)

But back to the point. Writing is easy. You sit down and write. Of course, it’s only easy if you know what the hell you’re actually going to sit down and write. Once I’ve gotten page beats set up (as comics are utterly and completely ruled by the invisible tyrant of the single page), then the script flows pretty naturally. At least I think it does. I’m sure there’s plenty of people who think that I haven’t got a grasp of what fits onto a page and what’s too much; I oughta know as I’ve read the reviews.

Again, this is something that’s utterly unique to comics, so you can get away with a structuring device like page beats. Only trick is getting into that rhythm. When you’re there, the stuff basically writes itself. You’ve already figured out where things are going, all that’s left to do is to spell them out on the page so the artists can go along for the ride and keep the readers informed. Unless of course, you’re writing collaboratively with the artist. I, however, am not. I get questions and the like, but that’s good. More informed eyeballs on the script is a good thing.

However, getting to the “Man, this is so easy” stage isn’t such a cakewalk. The work, the real work of writing starts far before the actual scripting/prose (since I’ve done both). You’ve got to have a plot, and to plan that so that it makes sense. And oh yeah, make it entertaining and snappy. Let the characters drive the plot, let them be revealed in it. That’s all well and good, once you have a hold of what the characters are. You might hear about characters pushing writers around, but that only happens when the writer has the skill and knows the characters well enough to let go. Frank Miller talked about this with the first SIN CITY book, as it went from serial to graphic novel, how Marv pushed him around and wouldn’t allow himself to go out like a chump because that’s how Marv rolls.

But Mr. Miller had to know that first. He had to do the work, he had to sweat over the planning, the plotting, the balance. When you work on this long enough, if you’re lucky, it becomes a kind of second nature and you can slip into things more easily. But if you disrespect the work and you don’t put the effort in ahead of time, then you’re going to get kicked in the teeth every single time.

And I’m not talking about these essays, for instance. This is out of my brain into the keyboard with a spell check if I’m feeling cautious. I’m sure it shows.

But fiction is a different thing. Scripting even more so. Scripting operates on a completely different wavelength than prose. Scripting is about externalizing the internal (though if you’re deft, you can dip into the internal, but man, we sure don’t like that in our comics these days. At least not most of ‘em.)

But internal or externally-driven, without some semblance of structure and preparation, there’s no way you are going to pull off anything resembling a plot, much less a story. All the preplanning, all the countless words that get written out before the page beats get laid out, all that needs to be done before you can come across the surprise, the twist, the demands from the characters that you only thought you knew can come out to play.

So yes, planning. Pre-writing. Needs to be done, but there are times that you don’t want to do it, don’t want to mess with it.

That’s a mistake. A big one.

Doesn’t make the pre-writing any less frustrating and seemingly fruitless.

Why yes, I’m in the pre-writing stage. Why do you ask?

Oh yes. The horizontal creases in my forehead from slamming against my desk. Yes, those will fade, eventually. Once they stop bleeding.

In other news, I should probably mention that the serialization of the second STRANGEWAYS book, THE THIRSTY, has started over at the Blog@Newsarama.

The link looks something like this:


Pages three times a week, in advance of the collected edition. Once I finish writing it.

I kid! That’s done.

The third one? Not so much…

Matt Maxwell

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