Defeat World Building Syndrome, Execute, & Use Failure As a Tool To Write Your First Issue

September 21, 2016


World building is your opportunity to play the hand of God. And that can get addictive.

I’m talking 4 ½ years worth of addiction.

You can redefine the laws of physics, erect powerful cities and establish new continents; create primitive or advanced alien races; or even take the world as we know it and just twist it a bit—constructing new, fictional cities in Illinois or dropping a fictitiously named college or university in the middle of Oklahoma.

But if you’re not careful, this level of control and creative freedom will convert itself into a wormhole, sucking you in deeper and deeper into the funnel until you find yourself looking up and seeing nothing but black.

You get lost.

You try to figure out how you got down this road, because now you’ve spent so much time world building that you forgot the main objective and the reason you started the project in the first place: to create a comic.

The idea of creating a comic is easy. Having the discipline to limit yourself with world building and character development is the hard part.

That’s how we got stuck in 2014.

It finally hit me—we got caught in world building syndrome. Now don’t get me wrong. We’ve built an incredibly rich, deep world and universe but the main goal—the MAIN thing—didn’t get anywhere.

And that was the story.

You can work on everything else, but if you don’t work on the actual story of your comic, the project won’t move forward. World building creates depth. Story development creates lateral movement towards the finish line.

The part of any comic project that moves the entire project forward.

We just hadn’t touched it. And it was at that point, right before the holiday season, where I put a moratorium on everything related to world building and character development. Because what little audience you do have, they’ll start to get restless. And once they get restless, they start to leave and not care anymore.

You Have to Execute. Ideas Are Worthless.

“Hey! Here’s 2,000 words of great thoughts and ideas for the comic!”

“Hey! We’re still world building. We’ll let you know when we’re finished!”

“No. We can’t show all of the characters now. We’re still working on them.”

“Here’s a really cool idea, but we can only share 2% of it. The rest of it is still underdevelopment!”

It’s crazy.

Looking at them typed out like this I can see why what little audience we had started diminishing. Hell. My interest started diminishing. It seemed like there was just no end in sight—and that’s the truth.

There will be no end in sight if you keep world building to perfection.

The problem with perfection is that it’s never attainable. Ever. You can’t 100% your world building. There’s always something to tinker with. Always something to iron out. It’s a constant process that should be left to your story to determine how far you need to go.

The season of world building and great ideas had ended for us.

It was time to execute.

Because 4 ½ years worth of ideas are just that: ideas. Highly polished ideas that sound good but have no foundation to stand on. And once the season ended I found myself riding solo. Priorities and obligations started stacking up for everyone else. I was on my own.

And it hit me: Ed. You’re really on your own. This is all on you. Sink or swim champ.

Thankfully, I choose to swim. But no one told me I’d be swimming upstream for weeks.

Want To Know the Difference Between You and Someone Who Wrote a Comic? They Wrote a Comic.

Let me be real with you. I’mma keep this 100: there is no magical tutorial or book out there that’s going to write your script.

I’m going to say it again in case you’re in the back of the room somewhere:

There is absolutely no magical tutorial, book, YouTube video, blog or podcast that’s going to write a script for you.

You can read every book in the history of comic book script writing; can watch every YouTube video; can read every blog post. But if you don’t actually sit your behind down—pen to paper or fingers to keyboard—none of that will do you any good. You just gotta start writing your script no matter how nervous, unprepared and ill-equipped you are.

Because the truth of the matter is you get to edit it later on.

And if you’re like how I was, I know what’s holding you back. It isn’t the fact that you lack inspiration or motivation. You just want the thing to come out perfect.

Stop Trying to Achieve Perfection On the First Try

Your story will never be as perfect on paper as it is in your head.

And here’s why.

Because the story in your head is untouched. It’s unblemished. It hasn’t been stressed, tainted or the container for all of your rage when you hit writer’s block. The story in your head is perfection. It’s a unicorn that taunts you in the middle of the night because it knows you’ll never get to that level of execution.

And that isn’t a bad thing.

What you need to do is get it to what Sean McCabe calls the 90%.

That was my goal.

90% wasn’t 100%, but I could be for doggone sure my 90% was better than someone’s 100%. And no. That’s not even cockiness. That’s just my standard.

And I know plenty of others who can shoot for 60% when in reality their 60% is more like 300%—running circles around my behind. I’m good, but I’m not that good yet.

But when you start penning your first full script don’t worry about it being perfect. Just get the thing done. Yeah. It’s scary. Because now you have to back up all of what you talked. It’s no longer an idea or thoughts that sound good and are protected inside your head. It becomes this tangible thing you stare at for hours on end that creates a cloud of stress, frustration and anxiety from time to time because you want it to be your best. You almost need it to be your best.

And it also requires that you leave behind what’s comfortable and familiar to you.

For me, that was world building. We were safe there. It was what we had come to know as normal, but now it was time for a new normal. It was time to be a beginner again and get comfortable with failing. And failing often.

Fail Early, Fail Fast, Fail Forward

If that four letter word has you paralyzed you gotta cut that out.

Change your mindset.

Failure is a tool, and I hate when people say otherwise like it’s the worst thing in the world that can happen.

Take the stigma out of it.

Failure only has a negative connotation to it if you quit or give up. Not if you found a way that didn’t work, picked up the working pieces, and tried a new way. And that’s what I had to do when I laid across my bed with my Milestone trades beside me, a notepad and pen.

Failure is a tool that helps you to determine what didn’t work and what is going to work moving forward. It only becomes negative when you give up and quit.

The sound of tearing and crumpling paper mutes itself after a while. Along with the grunts, sighs of dismay and utter frustration. You’ll learn to adopt it as part of the process, but the point is to keep going. No matter how many times you start and stop—keep going. In fact, don’t even stop. Just write.


And write some more. Don’t delete. Don’t erase. Just tap into your stream of consciousness (when your mind is churning out words like a machine gun—do NOT stop firing) and keep going until you’ve reached what will be the first rough draft of your script’s end.

And something amazing will happen.

Because even though I was nervous and had to deliver on a very tall order, what came next was a very proud moment and day in my almost 6 years with Arclight that would be a turning point for the entire studio from then on.

Welcome To the Arclight Universe

Even though the journey to this first issue has been rough, it’s finally coming to an end this year.

We’re publishing our first 20-page issue.

It’s crazy. It’s surreal. But it’s a long time coming and I really couldn’t be anymore excited about it than what I already am.

First it was the mini issues. And those were an eye-opener. Never would I have thought that creating a 1-page story would take between 40-60 hours to execute and deliver. But they prepared us for the season we’re in now (and I highly recommend you do a series of your own, too!)

This year it’s our prequel issue.

Next year, it’s graphic novels.

We’re slowly building on our last project and getting to where we want to be with this issue being your precursor and introduction into our universe. You got a morsel—a fraction—of it in the mini issues but now you can treat this like an appetizer.

I seriously can’t wait to get it to you.

If you want to get on the list for updates, behind-the-scenes and exclusive previews of our first issue, sign up below!




The Backlog

Become a better storyteller, character creator and more with this all-access pass to The Backlog—our entire archive of over 35+ podcast episodes.