This past summer, I had a goal of creating a pitch packet for my spooky middle grade graphic novel. Somehow I managed to lose sight of this goal, likely due to some fear-based procrastination. I’ve noticed throughout my life that when I’m just about to take the next step in a creative endeavor, I just avoid it and shut down.
Last week during Thanksgiving I decided that I had to get it finished by January 1. It wasn’t a huge project, and it’s one that I want to get published traditionally. I figure that an agent can help me iron out the kinks, or perhaps hook me up with an editor who give feedback to improve it.
Once it’s completed, I can partake in a Twitter pitch party (like #mswl). Or I can pitch to a few agents who are looking for middle grade graphic novels. (I paid attention to the last Manuscript Wish List pitch party and saved a bunch of tweets to a Tweetdeck collection)
What’s in my pitch packet?
The contents of a pitch packet vary from agent to agent, or from publisher to publisher. I used my notes on pitching a graphic novel and came up with a list that should fulfill most requirements:
- An elevator pitch/logline
- A cover letter
- An outline of the complete story
- 20 pages of the script
- My bio (this is gonna suck)
- Main character designs
- 2 fully inked and colored comic pages with text/dialogue
- 10 penciled comic pages
Once that’s done it shouldn’t be too hard to customize it to individual requirements.
On December 1, I started the 30 Day Challenge to complete the pitch packet for my first graphic novel.
Actually, I started two challenges because I decided I wanted to get back to making comics consistently. I’m concurrently doing Season 2 of the 100 Days of Making Comics Challenge as well. This challenge requires at least 30 minutes of comic making every day for 100 days.
Which brings us to this blog post, which was not in my plans (and one part of my brain is most definitely yelling THIS IS A WASTE OF TIME at another part of my brain).
Today is Day 3 of my challenges. Part of the 100 Days of Making Comics Challenge includes posting about it in the Facebook group (link) for accountability. As I started describing today’s actions, it just kept getting longer and longer until I decided that it should be a blog post.
And so here we are.
Previously I had a loose collection of story beats that I had yet to organize. I tried filling out the story the old fashioned way (which was me pounding my head against a brick wall). It didn’t work, and that was one reason I stopped working on comics back in spring. We also moved, which was pretty disruptive as I need routine for productivity.
Back on Day 1, I spent 5 hours looking into story structure – primarily Save the Cat. Now I loathe formulaic stories but most stories are structured. Younger Me would have scoffed at any structure (Younger Me scoffed at a LOT of stuff…). Older Me is ok with understanding a structure and then trying to bend/break the ‘rules.’
I’ve actually dug a lot into screenwriting in the past year because comic writing is script writing. The Save the Cat approach made a lot of sense to me. It’s concise, easy to digest and easy to research. That’s another way of saying: it’s shorter than McKee’s Story and there’s lots of info online. There are many online examples of how the STC structure works in the form of ‘beat sheets.’ Seeing my favorite movies broken down into the STC beats helped me understand how the structure works.
It also helps a lot to see how different genres of films fit into the structure, be it Elf, Die Hard, or Raiders of the Lost Ark. The STC method breaks things into 10 genres with 50 subgenres, which shows that a structure doesn’t beget similar and formulaic results. It’s also helped me get ideas to fill in the blanks, on the incomplete parts and the nagging feelings that things were missing.
I just want to make sure that my story works well. I want it to be the best it can be. I can see how someone can look at a structure, try to follow it by copying a movie, and turn out forgettable drivel. Taking an existing story and putting a thin veneer of change on it is pointless.
My approach is that I know the majority of my story from beginning to end; there are some parts and details that need to be fleshed out. I was stuck on that, but using a structure is making me aware of what’s missing. It’s also giving me ideas on fleshing the tale out.
It’s also making me think a lot deeper about my story, particularly the idea of theme. I tend not to think in terms of theme so I need to see what jumps out at me during the writing and re-writing process. In the end, this approach is going to result in a better story than if I just winged it my own.