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Tokyopop "OEL" Finales - Little Rivkah's Journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Rivkah רִבְקָה

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Tokyopop "OEL" Finales [Mar. 4th, 2008|12:14 pm]
Rivkah רִבְקָה
Johanna over at Comics Worth Reading has written an essay about whether or not the first group of "OEL" series from Tokyopop that have come to an end were able to create a satisfying ending.

"I’ve been thinking lately, as Tokyopop’s OEL series come to their ends, about whether these young creators have been given the help and support they need. Tokyopop claims shared copyrights on these works, for which one presumes they had some input into them. (The suspicious say that it’s just a way to manipulate creators unaware of their business choices and take more profit and control from them.) However, judging solely by the way I’ve found the final series volumes severely disappointing, the editors aren’t providing the guidance or story feedback that would help create satisfying resolutions."

I have many of my own thoughts on this subject, the main course being that the importance of a good editor who is given the time to edit his or her books is part of the most important business of a publisher. I state this because, like Johanna pointed out, my first two books received practically no editorial oversight. Except for grammatical corrections, throwing out three pages of dialog in the final book (I believe, accidentally), and forgetting to drop in balloons in an entire chapter (which is why I draw in dialog balloons with the art, now), the scripts for "Steady Beat" books 1 and 2 were sent back to me unedited. The art received no feedback whatsoever. The only reason I believe the writing improved from the first volume to the second was because I realized with the second book, I was going to have to edit it myself and therefore spent more time going over the dialog after it was completed (before sending it in for approval), but I still felt a lack of confidence in the quality of either when they were published.

However, with the third book, I've changed editors to someone I feel has been far more confident and active in the editing of this book. Lillian has been a phenomenal editor, for all that I can tell she's overworked. While the script for "Steady Beat" 3 didn't go through any major overhauls (thanks to Svet sending me some awesome writing links and my writing a freakin' 90,000 word novel alongside, which has given me PLENTY of practice), she gave me a thorough edit of the first two books, glossing over the issues she believed I already knew, and focusing on those things she believed I still had so much room to improve upon.

And most important of all: she told me what she believed I was doing right.

I cannot stress the importance of letting a writer or an artist know what she or he is doing oh so right in their work. The reason being that, for me, it instilled a confidence in myself that I didn't have working on the first two books. While yes, this last book has gone slower than the first two (mainly due to my moving out on my own and having to pick up a managerie of jobs to support myself at the same time), I feel it has also gone smoother. I don't spend time angsting over whether or not to change a scene or erasing and redrawing panels and pages at a time. Being told, "this looks good, keep doing it," assures that I will.

While there will always be editorial and opinion differences between creator and editor, I believe that the outside view of someone who makes the study of writing and art for a living is an invaluable tool that the publisher has to offer the creator. When I ran my own publishing company, I felt that my business partner and the head editor of our company, David Baker, was the greatest asset we possessed. He's the one who taught me how to write with a voice, when to use "show not tell" and when not to, how saying less is saying more, and what a really good piece of writing feels like . . . and why. And when a company fails to offer their writers and artists editorial feedback (without micromanaging every letter), then they are seriously overlooking the potential of making what is good into the truly great, of saying, "This writing is beautiful, but this is how we believe it can be beautiful AND sell well, reaching the kind of audience it deserves."

As for the rest of the article, I'll have to keep my opinions off the blog for now, because I believe there's a lot of experimenting and figuring out what "works" right now for so many of my fellow creators--and myself, as well.

However, I am, personally, a stickler for the ending. For me, it's the beginning and the end that get imagined and written first. The ending for "Steady Beat" had been in my head since day one. I believe the ending should be satisfying, and to a certain degree, anticipated. The reader should feel like this was a meal that leaves you feeling neither stuffed and overloaded to the point of illness or slight to the point of dissatisfaction. And mixing in weird flavors at the end--such as liver pie when you were expecting pecan--can throw off the reader. The beginning, middle, and end, are a fine balance of flavors and tastes, each that complement the other.

And maybe that's why I HAVE spent so long getting this book done (other than having other projects, obviously). Because I feel it's the most important, and where I feel my writing lacks, I've struggled to improve. I only pray, that it's a successful ending and that the extra effort and hard work have been worth it.

Well, we'll see. I can't make any promises, though. I can only ever try and continue doing my best.

[User Picture]From: tmcm
2008-03-03 07:03 pm (UTC)
I've often thought that one of the biggest problems in comics is the lack of editors. Most people with that job title focus on trafficking. I used to say that Hemingway was Hemingway because he had a great editor.
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[User Picture]From: jeff_morris
2008-03-03 07:46 pm (UTC)
I fully agree with your assessment about editors. Back in the day when I edited fanzines, I always took great care to emphasize the things I liked about the story--style, plot, etc. before going into "I want you to think about this" and offering suggestions to solve the problems. Most if not all of the writers were thrilled with the feedback and I generated a great deal of loyalty that way.

I always figured I should be the kind of editor I'd want to have.

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[User Picture]From: chrissydelk
2008-03-03 10:43 pm (UTC)
I really enjoy reading your thoughts on the creative process. It's always an interesting read.
And nothing beats a good editor, absolutely nothing.
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[User Picture]From: jdalton
2008-03-04 12:09 am (UTC)
Writing (and by extension comicking) is a lonely, lonely job and even the internet doesn't always do a great job of making your audience visible. This is why editors are important. They can intelligently stand in for your audience, and give you the feedback you need before the story is finished. My brief encounters with editors have been positive ones and have made me better at my job. Yay editors!
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[User Picture]From: alexdecampi
2008-03-04 12:15 am (UTC)
I have to put my hand up here and say that the two editors I had while at Tokyopop were very strong story editors and sent me extensive feedback at every stage - characterisation, outline, breakdown, script. I think a writer or artist's experience really varied depending on who you got but I was very lucky with my two. (They also give extensive art notes.)

My disenchantment with Tokyopop comes more from its strategic management's seeming habit of finding something new and shiny, playing with it for a year or so, then putting it down and wandering off in search of something else. This was what really frustrated me, rather than the editors - it was being part of two line launches that, in the end, felt like they were mere whims rather than actual, solid, well-followed-through business propositions.

Amusingly/scarily, the last time I checked the "manga level" at my test bookstore (Borders in Logan Airport international terminal) there was NO MANGA AT ALL. Three years ago manga had its own wall. Now, there were a few graphic novels, but no Tokyopop or Viz stuff. But in the magazine racks they did have the WIRED issue all about how Manga was taking over America, with the big Tokyopop advertorial in it! That WIRED, always first on a new trend.

(re-post, due to appalling grammar)
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[User Picture]From: tonysalvaggio
2008-03-04 01:08 am (UTC)
I'll have to say that Bryce at Tpop has been a pretty amazing editor. He inherited Psy-Comm from Mark Pannicia on Mark's way out, managed to wrangle art and writing and ship it pretty close to on time. He then co-ordinated everything when we had to change artists, and he never let us settle for anything short of what he felt was great. In fact, we re-wrote the end of Psy-comm 2 several times because it just didn't have as much punch. He never tried to change our style, and he really "got it" the whole time. I've been amazed at his ability to wrangle all of our team through various changes here and there.I know that we have been super lucky. We're luckier still that our book does ok (not super gangbusters, but not terrible), and we still get to complete it (book 3 should come out in the fall). However, I have heard the horror stories here and there about some of the editors through the years and that once scared me a lot.

I have to agree with Alex about the "new shiny" comment. There have been some interesting opportunities here and there, but I wish Jason and I could run with more of our ideas on marketing (sadly book 2 was one that almost no one knew about, and it looks like book 3 is getting nominal press.. maybe we can change that). We'd love to do more with Psy-Comm, but it's not in the cards yet as far as I can tell.

Through Clockwerx and Psy-Comm, I have definitely learned the importance of having a good editor. Having someone there who works with you to spur creativity, work with everyone's egos and insecurities, and have that critical eye that makes the book 200% better (suggesting good solutions but never trying to write for you), can never be underestimated. When deadlines are tight, it's good to be always have someone who will call you on your BS, if you have slacked at all (even if you have convinced yourself it is all good). I hope that I always have someone like Bryce as my editor in the future.

BTW good to hear that there is traction on Steady Beat 3. I'm anxious to find out how it all wraps up!
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[User Picture]From: fuuringo
2008-03-04 09:29 am (UTC)
Reading the article, your thoughts and the comments on this blog was very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

For many new creators, getting signed by a company like TP is the ultimate dream but it's very interesting to hear about the problems that crop up during the "dream". I feel some see it as a hit-or-miss situation. If you get signed it's a hit and if you don't you will keep trying until you do. In truth whether you get signed or not I think the work you do on your own sould be just as important as the work you get paid to do.
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[User Picture]From: stirfriedguitar
2008-03-05 10:39 pm (UTC)
Hooray for Lillian! Hooray for Svetlana!

I know exactly what you mean about endings... it is why I am taking such care with my next project... because I have a frickin' amazing intro... but I can't figure out how I want it to end at all... and until I do I will not draw a page, and stick only to character design. Yargh! Finding the right ending can be really tough sometimes... So I think it's great you've had yours planned and coming, with each volume pointing towards it. I can't wait to see the final volume. Keep it up, Rivkah! *thumbs up* You can do it!
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