I have a project being nursed along to birth right now, and I thought it might be interesting to track the little thing’s gestation period. Here’s the timeline:
January 1 – I was away for New Year’s, and the basic idea for the story popped into my head, fully formed. This happens to me from time to time, and it’s often with the stronger concepts. I was in Cape May, New Jersey, staying at Congress Hall (gorgeous, old-school place, if you aren’t familiar.) I let the idea sit for about ten minutes, then gave the bare bones outline to the first person who typically hears most of my ideas. She dug it a lot, which I figured was a good sign, since it wasn’t her usual kind of story. If it could win her over, then there was a good chance I had something solid on my hands.
Between New Year’s and the first con of the year (Emerald City in Seattle, the first weekend of March), I didn’t do much with the idea, although I did think about it from time to time. It didn’t disappear, which again, was a good sign. It kept popping up in my head at odd moments. (I was pretty busy with 27 and Strongman 2 in this period, too.)
March 3 – I often use plane flights to do some writing. I had some work to do on another project, but I grabbed about half an hour on the flight to Seattle to jot down some thoughts and potential plotlines in this little Moleskine notebook I have (it’s the one a little bigger than a deck of cards, with ruled pages.) I am almost never without that Moleskine, and it’s generally the first place my ideas see print outside my head.
March 5 – I had dinner with Allen Gladfelter, the artist for the Strongman series. We had been trying to figure out a series to work on after Strongman, and I had an idea for something I thought he’d be good for. So, we started talking about that, just throwing ideas back and forth. I still think he’d be great for that first idea, but I have since found out that the idea I was planning had already been done, almost exactly the way I planned to do it, at the very company I planned to pitch to. Nice. (By the way, I found that out when the writer of that series told me about it in Chicago at C2E2, just in the course of telling me about his work. I’m glad it happened, though, because it saved me a lot of work and heartache, and now I can reconfigure the bones of the idea into something else. Plus, it’s an all-ages series, and those are tough these days. Anyway!)
While at that dinner, I also told Allen about this other project, the one I’m tracking in this post. Allen thought it sounded awesome, but he wasn’t sure his style was appropriate for it. I let that go – I don’t like forcing artists into contortions they aren’t comfortable with – and we kept talking about the other idea.
March 6 – I told my little brother about the idea (he lives in Seattle) and got an ooooh from him – another good sign, and I decided that the moment had arrived to put in some serious time fleshing the story out. For the next few weeks, that’s what I did (mostly in my head and in the Moleskine.)
March 17 – Allen emails me, mainly with respect to Strongman, but at the end, he asks if he can be the artist on the new story after all. He can’t get the idea out of his head (that’s a GREAT sign, because he’s seen everything in this particular genre, and if he likes it…)
March 18-20 – C2E2, Chicago. I semi-pitch the idea to a great company I have wanted to work with for years. Their reaction – very positive. “Get me something to look at as soon as you can.” Of course, this presents a problem, because although I have an artist and several pages of notes I’m pretty happy with, that’s all I’ve got.
March 22 – I had a great, fruitful online chat with Allen that helped to push things forward. We talked about the look of the main character and some other important story elements, and Allen said he’d get to sketching.
March 23 – Allen gets me the first sketches from the story. Some we kept, some we’re fiddling with, but this is the first time I saw anything from the story in “real life.”
March 29 – I wrote the synopsis for the story, which will form the basis for the written pitch and serve as a loose outline for where the story will go. Over the next several weeks, I fiddled with this synopsis/outline in various places, dialing the characters in, figuring out where the issue break points would be, the cliffhangers, etc. Allen and I talked a few more times, I told a few additional people I trusted about the idea (including a fellow Image writer who had some fantastic suggestions for research.)
April 22 – The pitch script was written in longhand in a larger Moleskine (I write the first draft of most of my scripts these days in Moleskines, each dedicated to a specific project. This pitch script is only seven pages long, so I stuck it in the back of the Moleskine I’m using to write 27: Second Set.)
April 23 – The pitch script was typed up, which allowed me to make some edits, and then emailed off to Allen. I haven’t heard back from him yet, so it’s probably terrible, but at least I’m getting things out the door. My guess, though, is that he was just busy over the holiday, and I’ll hear from him soon.
April 24-25 – I spent a night and a morning in Washington, DC, a location that figures heavily in the story. I’m not going to say more than that at this point, but I’m very glad I got a chance to spend that time. There’s no substitute for being in the place where the story takes place. Crucial, actually.
My next step will be to refine the written pitch into something I can send to editors. Hopefully I’ll just have to do that once, but I’m not kidding myself. I’d like to have the whole thing done and ready to go by HeroesCon the first weekend of June. That’s the goal, anyway.
So that’s how it’s worked out – from conception to near-birth, how an idea came to be. I think the main thing I notice from typing out that chronology is that I kept testing the idea – giving it in its various forms to people I trust to gauge their reaction, spinning new ideas into the story depending on what seemed to work and the new concepts I developed. I think that’s the way it works for me. I like telling stories – out loud, with my voice. It’s a good way to figure out how to pitch a story, for one thing, and I just like it.
Anyway, hopefully more on all of this soon. I need to do another art post soon (instead of all these damn WORDS, am I right?) I have some new Strongman guest-artist sketches, as well as a bunch of artwork from a book of fairy tales I’ve been secretly working on for about a year. I don’t know what I’m going to do with that, maybe nothing, but the art’s pretty and deserves to be seen.