Sarah Howel on her writing process

How do you initially jot down ideas, if at all?
When I'm in a habit of comic journaling I use a set panel format so I don't get blocked by stressing about best layout. This of course means the stories always have the same rhythm. The panel layout is three rows on A5 paper, each row has a square panel and a rectangular panel: row1: short(title), long; row 2: long, short, row3: short, long. It looks like a brick wall pattern.

Do you have a drafting process, eg, thumbnails, quick sketches, notes etc?
For longer non-diary pieces I thumbnail figures thinking purely about body language and character interaction.

All thumbnails, sometimes some more character design sketches, then back to thumbnails.

How do you (or do you) edit your work in terms of the writing?
Editing all takes place as thumbnail scripts.

My comics have very little writing. My current story telling derives from theatre storytelling exercises so it is all about expressing the characters' different states of tension physically, at a certain point the story will demand dialogue if things are getting too abstract and one character needs to clarify an abstract state to one of the other characters.

Is there anything peculiar about your writing process, eg, has to be at a certain time, has to be in a certain type of book or paper, pens etc?
I used to be fussy and then I moved to Melbourne and couldn't get the same notebook I used to use in Hobart. For the last year I have been using up all the random notebooks people have given me as presents over time. This plays havoc with my pen choices.

My ideal is: Daley Rowney A5 Portrait or A4 Landscape with Pentel Ball R50, Pental Aquawash Brushpen with Art Spectrum ink, Copic marker pens for greys and colours.

What concerns do you have when starting out in the writing process, eg, to not spend too much time, to get compositions right, to make it flow etc?
Finding out where the characters are going to take the story. Unless it is a diary story I don't have an end when I start drafting, just an initial framework for each of the characters, and rules like "in each panel at least one of the characters has to move away or towards the other". It's an improvisation game basically, some stories work and some fall flat.

My current work is usually borderless, just characters on a plain ground, so page composition is purely a result of the narrative pacing.

The reason I work like this now is because in the past I would spend ages on making everything beautiful but the characters were emotionally blank.

Sarah has a blog with Comics, Art and drawings here


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