Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Behind the Scenes Blog Hop with Dahlia Adler!

Hello, kidses! Today is very special because I'm participating in the BEHIND THE SCENES Blog Hop . . . to celebrate the release of Dahlia Adler's new book!

And for this special event, each of us participating in the Behind the Scenes hop is going to take you behind the scenes of something in our own lives. You get to see our mysteriousness! Our hidden stuff! Our closely guarded secrets!

Sort of.

For my peek into the unknown, I'm going to show you . . . dun dun dun . . . BEHIND THE SCENES of making my webcomic for writers, So You Write! But first . . . let's talk a little about Dahlia's book, since that's what we're celebrating today!

Releasing June 24, 2014, from Spencer Hill Contemporary:

High school senior Ally Duncan's best friend may be the Vanessa Park - star of TV's hottest new teen drama - but Ally's not interested in following in her BFF's Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally’s ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father's mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van's on-set assistant to get the cash she needs.

Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors’ publicist arranges for Van and Liam to “date” for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she's capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can't play by Hollywood's rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.

I have yet to read this, but I think it sounds pretty intriguing and it's on my to-be-read list on Goodreads. However, based on what I know about Dahlia, I'd bet my sock collection that it's fantastic. This quirky author is always goofing around on Twitter, giving awesome writing advice and perspectives on her blog and elsewhere, providing/boosting resources for diverse books/authors (especially LGBTQ), and recommending her favorite books like there's no tomorrow. If I were you, I'd get busy putting this in a shopping cart or on a to-read list; you can do that at Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Book Depository, or IndieBound.


Now for my behind-the-scenes silliness. The VERY first thing you should know is that all of this comes with a disclaimer: I have had absolutely zero instruction on how to make comics or do Internet things with comics, have undergone exactly no formal art training, and have no illusion that I am "an artist." So take all of this with a grain of salt.

So You Write is a webcomic about the writing life. Authors tend to like it and recognize situations from their own lives in the often exaggerated, nearly always autobiographical content. The first thing I do when I'm trying to make a new issue of my webcomic is storyboarding; I try to think of something funny to make a comic about, and then I spell out what the dialogue will be for my four-panel strip. That way I can have some idea how much text I'm going to have to squeeze into each frame and know how big my drawings will be, which helps when you have to plan how much detail will be in your doodles. (It's frustrating when you spend a lot of time on a drawing and then you have to shrink it so small that most people can't see all your hard work! BLAH!)

So, in my latest issue of the comic, I decided to make it about why I have a non-writing day job. Sometimes people think it's really weird that I don't pursue some career in journalism or magazine article-writing or something, and seem to believe any writing-related career would be satisfying (or possible!) for me just because it involves words. Here's me being incredibly fancy (not): my storyboards are generally just typing into Notepad.

Next, I get on Google Images and look for models. I'm pretty awful at drawing cute anime characters without something to use as a reference, so I go searching around for chibi characters who are in the right positions or making the expressions I want and that way I can totally get away with not learning to draw properly myself.

Then the sketch begins and chibi manga characters mysteriously leak out of my pencil. I use a mechanical pencil, a kneaded rubber eraser, and marker paper.

I generally draw all of the frames' sketches at the same time, so when I'm done with this I'll have four sort of crappy-looking pencil sketch pictures. After that I start the inking, usually using an 0.5 thickness Copic Multiliner pen (which my first Pitch Wars mentee and critique partner Whitney got me, 'cause he is cool).

Once everybody is outlined, I erase the pencil marks and then it is time to choose colors for everyone. I use some really ridiculous markers for this. Oh yes. The Copic Markers.

These awesome refillable art markers are fantastic. My Sketch markers have a paintbrush end and a highlighter tip. I use the paintbrush, generally, and start filling in the lines.

You'll notice that even after it's all opaquely filled in (except for anything that needs to stay white for shines and accents!), it still looks . . . kind of unfinished.

What I do after that is use slightly darker colors along with the existing colors to create shading, giving the people I draw a more three-dimensional look. I'm not very good at it, but sometimes it looks decent.

I'm ready for the next part when all four sets of figures are colored in.

Next, I draw some extremely generic background images. If I'm feeling really adventurous or patient, sometimes snazzy backgrounds appear like in #17 or #11. But usually I'm pretty lazy and I'll just draw a vague background, or a pattern and colors, and sometimes I even digitally manipulate photos instead of drawing a background because I just hate backgrounds that much.

There. Backgrounds. You happy now?
Then it is time for the digital work to start. I have to scan the drawings and do all kinds of manipulations before it will be live, so I have to get ready to sit for a while. People watching me from afar have no idea if I'm working hard or screwing around on the Internet.

I could be doing either one. You don't know.
Scanning the documents in can yield disappointing results, honestly. This looks crappy.

So, after scanning, I pull the drawings apart and digitally darken them so it doesn't look as light as it usually scans. This can distort the color a little but I live with it. And I remove the white background digitally too.

Then I create a blank frame that's a certain standardized size.

I throw the background in first so it will be the back layer.

Then we paste our focal characters.

And then, if applicable, I'll paste a foreground. In these ladies' case, they are sitting at a table in a restaurant, so they have a counter in front of them.

And now, to make them talk, I type in Wurper Comic font, circle the words with an ellipse tool and delete anything in the circle besides the words, and give the talk bubbles little tails.

I do this with all four frames and paste them into a larger document so they're all part of one image.

Then it's time to share this with the Internet! I go to the website--which is a WordPress blog--and create a new post (giving it a title), and I upload this picture into the new post.

I usually have a bunch of rambling that I want to put under the comic to give context or clarify an issue that might have been exaggerated or not totally clear just by reading the comic. Usually it's just supplementary material.

And finally . . . it's time to publish it.

Hooray, it's up!

Then there's one more step; I like to have a gallery of all the comics on another page of this site, so you can see them all in a preview, so I have to edit its guts. The gallery never looks right to me using the ready-made image-adding tools on this WordPress site, and I know just enough HTML to get myself in major trouble, so I prefer to write the code for the gallery table in HTML mode.

What a nerd.

But it looks pretty!

And then . . . I tweet about it, show it to people on Facebook, update the comic's Facebook page, and put it on DeviantArt. And I try to do this about once a month.

I have another webcomic too--Negative One, an ongoing fantasy comic that's been running WEEKLY since May 2005--but I've already made a page about its creation process and I didn't feel like reinventing the wheel. Plus it's all black and white pencil sketches and not quite as interesting to look at (though it DOES have a story and a huge archive of close to 500 comics now).

And now you know what goes on behind the scenes of So You Write! Try the same process yourself if you want to make mediocre comics just like me! :D

So, the end. Make sure you check out all the Behind the Scenes posts and give Dahlia some lovin'! You can also follow her and all her macaron-festooned loveliness on Twitter.


  1. Oh. My. GOD this is awesome, Julie!!!! So incredibly cool and ugh your talent levels are just astonishingly gross, and I mean that in the best way <3 Thank you so much for sharing!!

    1. Thanks, you're the sweetest. I'll take being called "gross" in the best way, certainly. ;)

      I don't think much of myself as an artist so it feels good to hear your compliments. I hope my writing is better than my drawing. :o