Before I start writing I will have had a theme in mind, a central protagonist or a location. I’ll do research , draw a lot of sketches of characters, kind of get a feel for the shape of the project and get excited about it before I have to have any structure at all. In the past I would set off in a direction and after a few weeks find that I had set myself up something quite dull to write and draw. By thinking ahead in an abstract way, I can avoid making bad decisions on the spur of the moment or losing enthusiasm quickly.Once I’m ready to write and have the jist of the story in mind, I write out all the plot points I can manage on lined paper. The first act will be very detailed with everything (narratively) I need for the next 32 comics, there will be loose ideas for the middle third, and a skeletal structure for the final part – really just an idea of the ending and how to possibly resolve conflicts.
You may already be aware that I’m pretty fond of Bad Machinery, the webcomic drawn by British artist John Allison. He’s wonderfully transparent about his process, and in this blog post, he describes how he goes about plotting and scripting the comic – and why he follows a more rigorous process than he did with Bad Machinery’s predecessor, Scary Go Round.