I haven’t been writing about the upcoming Uptown Girl book, ‘The Lazarus Heart’ much because it’s…well, it’s a new exercise for me and I’m still wrapping my head around it, in a way. When Uptown Girl was a monthly comic, I would write and pencil all 24 pages over the course of a week, and spend the next couple weeks inking it. When Uptown Girl shifted to annual graphic novels, I moved to writing/penciling a page and then inking it. I got into this routine because Brian Bastian wrote a full script for the first graphic novel, ‘Big City Secrets’, and to keep myself on pace, I penciled/lettered/inked a page a day. For future books, I kept this same pattern even when I was writing the story or book, which is fine when you have a full script but I’ve never written a full script before. I am not a writer by trade and I wasn’t comfortable writing one and then penciling it. This way to work can create a lot of problems when it comes to pacing and repeating myself and writing oneself into corners. I think I got a lot of things right with ‘Long Forgotten Fairytale’ but there are definitely some pacing and repetition issues with it.
When it was time to start ‘The Lazarus Project’, Brian stepped up to write it and I was really happy about that. Since this would be the last Uptown Girl book, I wanted it to be a strong finish and I knew he would be a better writer for it. I wanted to avoid some of the things that ‘Fairytale’ ran into. He wrote the first dozen pages or so and then backed out, he just couldn’t get a feel for it. Which is fair, one shouldn’t write something they aren’t connecting with. Having no other choice, I set out to write it.
This set me into a bit of a mild panic but I went straight for it…kinda like walking down the hall of a dentist office for a massive root canal. I penciled and inked the first few pages, working right from Brian’s script, which had only covered the first dozen pages. The next parts were up to me. I knew this was going to be a massive, sprawling story with a lot of stuff happening and I was freaking out a little. The book needed to wrap up a few loose ends from previous books, there were going to be some life changes for some of the characters, relationships would be affected, some action stuff, some subtle stuff…basically a lot was going to happen. Writing the book page by page would not work for this so I decided to do something I’d never done before and write a first draft. I am not a writer so I wrote my first draft the only way I know how to write: comic book style. At first I thought I’d pencil the pages and write it, and then once I was happy with the book, I’d go back and edit the pages as needed, take stuff out and add stuff in.
This was, and is the right choice for a book like this. I like being able to quickly put the scene in my head to paper and keep the story moving. I can tell this is the right format for me and for the book when I compare the pages so far.
I suppose there may be some spoilers here, so heads up. This first picture is the first panel of the first page:
Look at how well the characters are penciled. The little details, like Ruby balancing the wine glass on her knee, the stem between her fingers. At this point, I thought I was penciling it to be inked later, but as the story progressed, I penciled a lot quicker and the characters became less detailed and defined. Some later scenes had a lot of energy to them as I found my groove and worked faster to get the scene written and the ideas to paper.
For example, compare the above panel to the most recent panel:
Yikes. Here we have what looks like the Walrus talking to a beach ball floating in mid-air. As I mentioned, the penciling is a lot less detailed because I am trying to get my hands to work as quickly as the story was unfolding in my mind but the penciling is a lot looser because when it is time to ink, I will actually re-pencil the book.
This book is a lot more than I expected it to be. The page number there says 221 but in truth, there’s more to it than 221 pages. There are entire scenes I haven’t done yet but simply have a description to them like ‘Exciting rooftop battle occurs’ that I will go back and do when it’s time to do the final draft. In terms of pacing, each of the characters has their own thing going on. Uptown Girl’s story is going well, Ruby’s is also going well but man, do I feel bad for her. Rocketman’s…well, stuff is happening with him like…well, I shouldn’t say but I need his story to pick up the pace a little. I have a plan where everyone needs to be by the end of the story and the girls are on track but Rocketman is so far behind. Typical Rocketman.
Working this way is frustrating at times and at times I hate it. Right now I am …okay with the book. I know I will go back and redo the villain’s scenes as the motivation seems a little wonky, and I am trying not to get tooooo down on myself. I can’t afford to be negative right now. I am also reminding myself that this is the first draft and the purpose of a first draft is to get it to simply exist. Once the first draft is finished, then I go back and edit as needed.
Anyway, I thought this book would be about 300 pages, but I am thinking the first draft might be closer to 350. Once I jump into the next, and hopefully final draft, I can tighten it up a little. Ideally I’d like the book to be around 300 pages when it’s all said and done, but we’ll see how it shakes out. That ‘Exciting rooftop battle’ that will occur might bump up the page count a little.
Right now I am guessing I’ll be done by the end of September. I’ll take a short break and then start the next draft and hopefully final draft by the end of October. I plan on working at a page a day pace. I really need the book to be done by the end of 2016 to give me time for working on the cover and fixing any mistakes my amazing proofreaders find. The book will be out in spring of 2017.