Paper Girl delivers the news, "Novella is Dead."

Image preview

The title, Novella: College Journal Manga is several years old now. I first used it back in mid 2002 when the first editions of the so-called "Draft 2" comic were published. It fit with the writing style I had at the time, but I've grown tired of it over the last few years. Today it seems an ungainly string of words as well as plain.

Today I prefer short titles. You can see in many of my blog entries that I often choose a single word as a title. The word chosen typically refers to something in, or something vaguely related to the subject the post. In the case of a story, I prefer to choose something from within the story that on first glance, seems outwardly plain. The meaning of which might not be revealed well into the story.

I had wanted to change the title for over a year now, but I haven't had anything I liked to replace it with. I thought of leaving it with just Novella, but even with the italics, it can be a terrible confusion between the nickname of the main character and the title of the comic. Besides, it didn't absolve my dissatisfaction. Then, about a month ago I was sitting at a client's office working when inspiration struck me.

It happened to be that this particular client had very high security standards. This included locking down the network to all streaming music options. As a result, I was in the rare position of listening to all the music on my hard drive. This is a rare occurrence despite the fact I routinely add music to my collection. After several hours I was deep into my work and was not completely paying attention to the music. Then suddenly, the singer said something that stuck me.

Did I hear that right? I asked myself. I actually had to stop the MP3 player and start the track over again. The track starts slowly with a guitar being plucked in a repetitive pattern in a minor key. The singer whispers, "My pain, may pride, these scars are mine..." She continues explaining the state of her life, and the terrible secrets she's had to keep. She wishes to build a new religion to enshrine this pain. Then reaches the chorus:

I am made of pages
paragraphs and inspirations
paper girl, burn the world
I pass the flame to you.

The next stanza contains another three lines which resonated with me and the story,

My first act of treason was picking up a pen,
my first act of love was finding myself again

In many ways writing has served as my refuge, much as it did for the singer Otep Shamaya. When I first began writing, it was indeed an act of treason against what I was told wrong and impossible. Today it is still a comfort to me and I keep a paper journal regularly. The character of Novella has similar motivations. In the story she's writing as her true self, and not the person everyone expects her to be. Novella is writing about a girl that doesn't yet exist, a girl that exists only in paper of her journal. The process of accepting this paper girl, of course, pushes Novella to the edges of her strength and sanity.

Throughout this summer, I have been working on a new draft of the story. It changes several of the main events and maps out a much more interesting story for the main character than ever before. At one point, her conflicting drives and the disapproval of her family does indeed break her. It is something that paves the way for her eventual transformation. This as well as several other subplots creates the most complete version of the story that's ever been.

So where in the hell is the comic already?

The fact of the matter is that this summer has been rather rough on me. Work has had an unprecedented run of assignments for me. I have now spent more time in hotels in the Eastern Time Zone than I have in my own apartment. Some of these clients have also been rather demanding, leading to extra hours and very little energy for writing or drawing. Furthermore, I've been dealing with difficult personal issues that have prevented me from having any consistent creative output. I'm only beginning to recover, and next week, I'm off to another client for a month.

In addition to lack of time and energy, there is still an uncomfortable gap at the beginning of the story. I have been trying to resolve this over the last few weeks, but it has been slow going. It may be that there's nothing of note in this gap except to set the stage for later plot development. Either way, I'm afraid that until I know what's in this gap, I won't be able to produce any comics. I simply afraid that I'll make some sort of a mistake if I move too quickly.