So there I was with 70% of my book to complete In about 4 months. I quickly realized that I could not waste a moment of time. As soon as I finished my comic book page for the day I was working on the creature book in some fashion. Because this 4 month period began in June and ended in October, I had my kids at home for summer break. Even more daily distractions then normal! But I quickly learned how to make those potential distractions work to my advantage.
My son was on a swim team at the time so I had to take him to practice almost every day. So while he was swimming laps I was up in the stands writing. I had a spiral notebook that I wrote all of the text to the book in and 90% of that writing was done at an indoor swimming pool. Luckily for me the book was not a structured narrative but instead just a series of one page “technical” write-ups of a given creature. Being irreverent and off the wall comes pretty naturally to me, so once I started scribbling down words the whole thing just flowed. One ridiculous comment or observation flowed into the next and by the time my son was done with his hour practice, I had one page written (at least as a first draft) and was ready to move on to the next.
When I took time to sit down in front of the TV, I brought my sketchbook and feverishly worked on the pencil drawings that would accompany the color illustration for each creature. I also planned out how much time I could take on each color painting so that I would be done by the end of September. I believe it was about one a week. As you can guess I had no free weekends (nothing out of the ordinary for a comic book artist). I also assumed that if I showed major progress by the deadline they would give me more time because they would be comfortable that I would actually finish the book. I was right and they did, allowing me until the end of October to turn everything in.
Being under such incredible deadline pressure did force me to finish my dream project but the result was that not every illustration in the book ended up being the masterpiece that I dreamed it would be. The question in your mind, I’m sure, is: “If it’s your dream project, why not stop working on everything else and pour yourself completely into the work until it is done?” An excellent question, I’m glad you asked. The answer is simple. There is not a lot of money in illustrated books (unless you hit it big like Dinotopia) and certainly not for a first time author. You get an advance on the book (enough money to cover one month of expenses) and then you hope you get money in royalties off the back end. In simple terms, if I had quit working on comic jobs until I was finished with the book, my family and I would have been evicted from our house and starved to death. So you do what you always end up doing as a commercial artist, the best you can with the time you have.
So I turned the completed book in to the publisher and never felt so relieved in my life. My first book was done….or so I thought. Little did I know, my frustration was just beginning…