Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ciudad Structuring

First, I want to thank everyone who offered support after yesterday's post. I really appreciated the kind words.

Okay- I thought I'd talk a little bit about the project I've been writing lately. It's called Ciudad. It's the story of a mercenary extractor who has to go into a really dangerous city in South America and bring a kidnap victim out safely. If you're so inclined, you can google Ciudad del Este.

I didn't come up with this idea. The concept was brought to my publisher (the wonderful Oni Press) by a couple of film directors, Joe and Anthony Russo. They made the films Welcome to Collinwood and You, Me, and Dupree, and they worked on the tv shows Arrested Development and Carpoolers. Very talented guys, and as nice as they could be. I've been really lucky to end up working with down-to-earth people as I first encounter the craziness of Hollywood. Anyway, Oni approached me about collaborating with the brothers, developing a graphic novel at the same time they're developing the film.

Since we started work on this thing a couple of years ago, we've had a lot of discussions about the setting, characters, and overall structure. We spoke with former CIA guys about Ciudad itself, and we hammered out what we wanted to do with this story. Near the end of last year, the project was optioned by Paramount, and the pressure to write both the film and the book was stepped up. Paramount agreed to fly me out to LA, so we could all bash out an overall outline. With that done, Joe Russo got to work on the screenplay, and I started on the graphic novel script.

So, that's where we are right now. I've been running behind Joe so far, and that's one of the reasons I really felt I needed to find more time in my schedule for writing. I've been able to up my script output quite a bit, and I'm getting close to a third of the way home now.

I think the work is good so far. My only big concern is the pacing. Our outline was heavy on setups and character details in the first act, and I have been really hesitant to trim any of that crucial stuff. The problem is that this is supposed to be a 150 page book, and I'm not quite done with the first act, sitting at page 50. Something is going to have to give here pretty soon.

At this point, I haven't done a tight outline that is unique to the book. Instead, I've been working from the outline we put together for both the book and film. One of the big differences in those two mediums is the way action plays out. As I said, there is a lot of action in this book, and that stuff takes some time in comics. You can't cram multiple actions into one panel, so a big action sequence eats up a big page count.

I will get there. Once these 50 pages are tight, I'll lay out the rest of the book as tightly as possible. I'll probably have to lose some of the stuff that will end up in the screenplay, but I'll get there. It's an exciting process. Most days, it beats inking!

That's all... I'm off to work!

As always, your humble servant,


Gordon Harries said...


With this kind of project, how do you go about selecting an artist? Is it a matter between yourself and your editor (as was the case with the preceding books) or does the selection process go through several more hoops? Or has the artist already been selected as part of the pitch package?


Ande Parks said...

Sounds like a topic for tomorrow's post! Thanks, Gordon.

Gordon Harries said...

No Problem, I'll look forward to it!

Scott Chantler said...

Maybe it's because I came to writing professionally fairly late, but I've never really understood the point of outlining a graphic novel all that tightly. A monthly comic, sure, because with only 22 pages to work with, efficiency is key. But with NORTHWEST PASSAGE and the books I'm working on now, I had a (rough) plot outline, then simply wrote until I was finished. I do rewrites to tighten things up, of course, but on the first draft especially I rather like having some room to discover and play as I go along.

Of course, that makes it tough, as you say, to tell a publisher how many pages you'll need before you start. I told Oni that NWP was going to be 150 pages, and it ended up being 235. The colour fantasy book I'm working on now was supposed to be 96, but ended up at 108. Both publishers were able to roll with it.

All of which is a long-winded way of asking: are you going to be held to that 150 pages? If you turn in a 200-page script, are they going to make you cut it drastically? Or is there some flexibility there to accomodate your working style (which sounds a lot like my working style)?

Ande Parks said...

I hold myself to a pretty strict page count for one big reason... the artist's money. I refuse to make the artist draw more pages than he agreed to for the money he agreed to.

Union Station suffers for this, frankly, but I was determined not to make Eduardo draw more than 100 pages for the money involved.

Of course, Oni would like to have a pretty good idea on the page count, too. I think they're somewhat flexible, though, as long as it's big enough to justify a certain price point and display well on the bookstore shelf.


Scott Chantler said...

Good point. I guess since I'm the artist on my own books that I never looked it that way...I'm not committing anyone's time other than my own. But yeah, that makes perfect sense.

In the past you've mentioned maybe drawing some of your own stuff. Still thinking that way?

Scott Chantler said...

Scratch that last question...I see you've already answered it in your newest post.

mar said...

It's good to read the updates on what you're working on. I didn't know that you've been involved in this project. I look forward to hearing more about it in your blog entries. Keep posting links on Twitter!