There's one assumption being made by most people who get vocally upset with me as a creator: that Erfworld can be made any faster than it is currently being made.
It can't. And I would like to help you understand why that is.
I went back and picked a 1-week span at random. I can't give you absolutely every detail about how Xin and I create Erfworld. But this may give you a better picture. You need to know several things before you read this.
1. Over a three-year span, we've analyzed the comic making process endlessly. We've tried many, many approaches to improve our workflow. Nearly every one of them was a failure in practice, a waste of time, another setback. Bringing in a colorist failed three times. Bringing in an inker failed after interviewing and reviewing auditions from more than 70 different people.
2. The one thing we have found that improves the process is a workgroup called "Xin's Progress," which consists of 7 people we trust in a Google Groups mailing list. Xin checks in with the group by email every day, declares her goals for the day and how long she can work, then sends screen shots of her progress every 2-hour "cycle." Members of the group offer encouragement and check in on her when they have not heard from her in a while.
3. We are not asking for suggestions. If you can think of it, we have tried it. This is for you to understand better, not to help. Please.
So, here's the summary of a random workweek from about a month ago:Tuesday, July 10
- Page 080 is due on Wednesday, and as usual my goal is to have it ready to load right at midnight.
Xin and I have the following late night conversation, starting while I am into the 4th hour of lettering page 080. It includes last minute art corrections and my struggles with substantial writing additions.
10:29 PM me: Hey
me: I'm not liking the wind-blown effect on Ace's hair in panel 5. I took him for Tramennis at first. I think his hair would bend but not flow. He looks like a gel guy to me.
10:30 PM me: I've been spending the last hour reading quotes from GI Joe, looking for a way to punch up Ace's attack.
10:32 PM Xin: Find anything good? ^^
me: I wish
10:34 PM Xin: ^^' I'm sorry...
me: I'll figure out something.
Ace is a hard one to write
10:35 PM He's comically focused, over the top. This is his kind of day.
He should have something cheeky and over the top to shout
10:36 PM Having a hard time figuring out what.
10:37 PM Xin: Aah, you do always figure something out. ^^
10:38 PM me: Maybe he could do some rhyme-o-mancy
10:39 PM Xin: That's always fun.
10:41 PM me: cracking my rhyming dictionary
10:42 PM Xin: New version is uploaded. ^^
10:49 PM me: Yeah I got a reasonably funny awkward attempt at Rhyme-o-mancy going on
Xin: We all have that awkward stage during our growth. XD
me: I've heard enough bad white rappers
That is true
10:51 PM I think I would like some more work on the bat.
10:52 PM me: He's a bit big and he doesn't look like he's flying
Xin: Oh okay, got it.
me: http://ww3.hdnux.com/photos/05/74/35/15 ... 28x471.jpg
By way of inspiration/models
Xin: Thanks. ^^
11:19 PM me: Yeah I just made Ace reasonably hilarious in combat.
11:20 PM me: That's one of the things he says. XD
Xin: XD Ahahahaha~ Awesome!
11:34 PM Xin: Uploaded. Sorry for taking a while. Was catching up with friends on gchat.
11:35 PM me: k lemme pull it and look
11:37 PM me: Yeah both corrections are great
XD Now I will never be able to say that without thinking of Ace.
11:39 PM me: Haha
11:59 PM me: Hm. I see an art flaw you might want to correct.
me: It's one you have done before. You seem to have trouble with leg lengths on mounted units.
Panel 7, Ace's leg is just way too short
12:00 AM Xin: Okay.
me: Don't you think?
His upper and lower body are not in proportion, anyway.
12:01 AM Might be you need to shrink the upper body instead?
Xin: Okay, I'll try that as well.
12:18 AM Xin: Alright, it's uploaded. ^^ I gotta get some sleep. My eyes are no longer focusing unless I squint.
12:19 AM me: okay I am done lettering so it's going right up
I will wait for it, then~
12:20 AM me: We'll need to talk illo for the text at some point too
Doesn't have to be now
12:21 AM Xin: Okay. I have to pick my dad up at the airport tomorrow afternoon, not sure when exactly yet, his flight has been delayed. But I will work on the layout for the next page until I have to leave.
me: sounds good
12:29 AM Xin: LOL! Charming and hilariously inept.
Alright, I'm off to bed. Good night~
me: hugs Gnight XinWednesday, July 11
- Xin starts work on p081. I start writing Inner Peace 035.
The script for p081 was written about a week before. At this point, I am trying to build out a script buffer to at least 085 or 086 to allow me time to travel when GenCon comes around in a month. We have also been trying to build even a one page buffer to cover that time, but we are finding each week that every page takes a week.11am
- Xin checks in with the workgroup.
She needs to leave in half an hour to pick up her dad from the airport. I'm not at liberty to discuss the details of where her dad has been, for how long he has been gone, or how this has affected Xin. However, this continues to be related to family upheaval and personal tragedy. Xin has been dealing with things you would never wish on your worst enemy, and soldiering on.3:30pm
- Xin re-checks in with the workgroup.
The morning was lost to her family responsibilities. She's able to begin the layout of page 081 from script. She works until late at night, and gets the pencil layout done.Thursday, July 12
- Xin begins inks. I write Inner Peace 035.11:34am
- I send the following email to the workgroup, titled "Great Comment on the FB Group":
Xin I know you are not on Facebook so sometimes you miss some of the best feedback. I was struck by this comment on the latest page:
"This strip is unprecedentedly well constructed. That last panel is so insanely well laid out (the bat placement? So good.). The implications of the text and the visual are nuts! It's completely absurd that you can consume something this well done on the internet FOR FREE."1:09pm
: Xin replies "Wow, that is really incredibly heartening. Thank you for sharing it~!"1:10 pm
- Xin checks in with the workgroup.
She apologizes for sleeping late, sets a goal of 9 panels of foreground inks. This is character and unit drawing only. She pledges to make up for the previous day's lost time with 5 working cycles (10 hours, with breaks). Even so, she can only get that much inking done in that span.10:23pm
- Xin and I discuss the next text update.
I have spent the day writing Inner Peace episode 035, second day running, total of 13 hours writing (counting the 4 hours of creating and playtesting the card game rules with my next door neighbor, my girlfriend, and people from my board game group). I won't paste it, but Xin and I have a 1 hour conversation on IM about the text and its illustration at this time. We get pretty deep into the backstory of Chip, Hedda and Bart and the emotional undertones in this group that Jillian leads.Friday, July 13
- Xin continues inks. I chuck out a fully-written page of script on a technical detail, and begin a rewrite.11:13am
- Xin, feeling groggy, checks in with the workgroup.
She pledges 4 working cycles, and sets the goal of finishing all inks and doing flat filters (the process by which regions that need to be colored behind the inks are identified, essentially creating a massive paint-by-number over every region of space on the page). I spend the part of my day that I can spare for writing on that elusive script buffer.*Saturday, July 14
- Xin inks Inner Peace 035, goes to flat filters on p081. I rewrite script.2:30pm
- Xin checks in with the workgroup. Declares her goals to be the text illustration and flat filters, in four working cycles.4:43pm
- I give Xin my approval on pencils for Inner Peace 035, following a correction discussion about how to show them playing the card game. We discuss the rewritten page, and future plot through about p086. This takes 30 min.9:25pm
- After 4 revisions, I approve inks for Inner Peace 035.9:50pm
- Just before updating Inner Peace 035, I check an art detail with Xin by IM. Confirmed, and good to upload.Sunday, July 15
- Xin finishes flat filters and begins flat colors. I finish a page of script.1:03am
- Xin finishes flat filters.1:39pm
- After sleep and various family matters, Xin begins flat colors.9:08pm
- Xin has 3/4 of the page colored, and is hell bent on finishing before she sleeps.Monday, July 16
- Xin works to exhaustion at 3 am, wakes up, finishes flats, and creates a Carnymancer for a Kickstarter donor. Then she does shading and emblems. I finish a second page of script, and work with the donor.2:52am
- Xin gives up on finishing colors tonight, and sleeps.2:50pm
- After deciding we needed to fulfill one of the Kickstarter promises, I have had a discussion by email over the morning with one of the high-level donors who is due a Magic Kingdom cameo. Xin submits the first pencils for the character design of one of the Carnymancers based on him.5:03pm
- The new Carnymancers (there are two others, unrelated to Kickstarter rewards) are inked and colored, after some revisions. I send the art to the backer.7:40pm
- After dinner, Xin finishes flats and begins shading and emblem work (like Parson's Hamstard crest and the Arkentools).Tuesday, July 17
- Xin again collapses at 3 am, finishes page in afternoon. I begin lettering p082.2:57am
- Xin declares she's going to bed, leaving only the emblem work.5:00am
- Xin actually goes to bed, having had to do some work for the family business so they could open in the morning.4:12pm
- Xin uploads page 082 for me to begin lettering. This leaves me less than 8 hours to midnight. Fortunately, there are no major art corrections needed in this one. It takes me about 6 of the 8 hours.Midnight
- I upload the page. Xin and I have a conversation about how we've let another week go by without gaining any ground on GenCon. We're both committed to trying to get a 1-page buffer by then, but it's starting to look bleak with a month to go. We also discuss my script for p085, which is close to finished.
*My writing time is approximately 30 percent of my work time, which is something above 80 hours a week. Most of the rest of the time I am trying to deal with shipping and order fulfilment, the motion comic (and the two dozen people involved in it), the current website, the future website development (after losing two developers), convention planning and travel, getting things made and printed (often overseas, with language barriers and customs hassles), managing the social media channels, fielding emails, inquiries, offers, and complaints (like here, lately). Once I can get all the things we promised on the Kickstarter done, then NEXT year I might be able to have creating the comic up to 50% of my job.