A comics script assessment is a written report that identifies strengths and opportunities in a work-in-progress (ie. comic book, graphic novel, webcomic and comic / cartoon strip). Assessments help comics creators up-skill, edit their work and accelerate it towards final draft stage in line with their publishing goals, although publication is not a guarantee in the comics marketplace.
Here are 7 tips on how to you can get the most out of your assessment.
1. Meet the submission criteria and guidelines
The submission process is quite intricate because aspiring, emerging and developing creators need to orient themselves towards industry protocols and standards, and also understand how marketing can influence choices instorytelling. Consequently, we ask you to prepare submissions to specific templates, as well as to provide a conception of your potential readership and apreliminary marketing plan for your project, so the assessor can compare this to established genre parameters and conventions. Although this process may seem onerous in the first instance, we believe that it ups your professional game and understanding of what is required when pitching.
The Comics Mastermind™ script submission criteria and guidelines have, therefore, been designed for very specific and important reasons.
Firstly, many people starting out in comics use screenplay templates and film jargon for their scripts, and are unaware that there are specific comics script formatting conventions and standards. Comics Mastermind™ templates show you how to present your publishing proposals properly.
Secondly, there are so many incorrect variations on comics scripts that it makes it difficult for key publishing personnel like editors, artists, letterers, as well as assessors, to do their jobs. Therefore, a submission that complies with the Comics Mastermind™ guidelines eliminates distractions and allows the assessor to focus on your work and not on their frustrations when that work is presented badly. Because all assessments follow the same criteria, it not only makes it easier for the assessor to read and comprehend the material but also to prepare the written report.
Finally, the assessment process provides good practice for comics creators who want to send proposals to publishers. Comics and mainstream publishers often have even more rigorous script and art submission guidelines than we have. Each publisher’s will be different. If you do not comply with instructions, you risk getting your pitch thrown onto the rejection pile even before it is read. Some publisher’s submission guidelines are so intricate that they can take up to a fortnight of full time work to prepare. This process soon weeds out the wannabes from the serious contenders who are positioning themselves as professionals.
If you choose to go forward with a script and sequential art assessment, please email Comics Mastermind™ at firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain the submission guidelines and templates.
2. Ensure that whatever work you submit is as good as you can make it
In assessing scripts, we have found that many writers have an unrealistic picture of the process, thinking that the assessor will be able to ignore major spelling and grammar problems as they are swept up by the potential of the work. If you know anything is wrong with your script (no matter how seemingly minor) fix it before you send it in. That way the assessor will not be distracted from areas where they could more fruitfully focus attention and the script’s potential can be fully appreciated. In short, prior to assessment, work needs to be as polished in every aspect as the writer can make it.
The same rule applies for artists. They need to submit their best work. If it is only a layout, then it will be critiqued as if it were unfinished pencils, but it should be developed in regard to being a layout (showing the artist’s most refined use of their visual storytelling skill) as far as they can develop it without further input.
In regard to comics creators in general, the thought “Well I already knew that and was going to fix it” in response to an assessor’s comment is one to be avoided as it represents a waste of the assessor’s effort and the creator’s investment. We cannot know what is in your mind—it is only what you have on the page that matters.
3. Consider your submission letter carefully
Creators have the option of sending in a submission letter with their package of information. If you choose to write one, indicate any special concerns that you may have for particular attention. While the assessment aims to be comprehensive, such observations and requests on the part of the creator may elicit extra useful information that is particularly germane to the project.
4. Approach copyright protection from a standpoint of reasonableness
Ideas get shown to agents, editors, publishers and producers all the time without confidentiality agreements and extensive copyright protection measures being taken. This is because professional people and organisations have their reputations to protect, and are not going to risk them for the sake of pinching your idea.
It is important to acknowledge that comics script assessors may have been developing similar ideas to yours for years. These may have been scribbled in notebooks, dot-pointed on computers or drawn up in artists’ sketchbooks. There may be a slim possibility that the idea you submit may be similar to work already developed or in development by an assessor and, in that event, any such similarity needs to be deemed coincidental rather than an instance of plagiarism and a breach of copyright.
As Alan Moore said, “There are no great properties, only great treatments“. It is, therefore, the execution of the central idea that will vary from creator to creator.
Having said that, Comics Mastermind™ takes copyright issues seriously and has established safeguards and protocols in the form of a Non-Disclosure (Confidentiality) Agreement amongst other Agreements to protect your rights.
5. Understand how you deal with criticism
If you’re a Masterchef TV show viewer, you know that the judges will taste-test each contestant’s dish and then analyse the flavour profile (is it balanced for saltiness, sweetness, sourness and heat?), presentation, texture, inventiveness and other criteria. The feedback is not intended to denigrate or humiliate the contestant but rather to improve their skills. By the end of the television journey, many of the contestants have taken quantum leaps and have evolved into exceptional cooks whose dishes are of restaurant quality.
So it is with the Comics Mastermind™ script assessment service. The report deconstructs your work to provide you with the tools for self-improvement.
The assessment is a professional opinion. It consists of an objective critique of the writing and / or drawing (eg. identifying spelling or grammatical mistakes, identifying anatomical construction errors and so on), as well as a subjective critique (eg. whether a character’s dialogue works or not, whether the timing of a scene is right and so on).
Just remember that a script assessment is one professional opinion and you may want to get a second opinion or indeed a third or fourth. In his book On Writing, Stephen King talks about finding the “perfect reader” for creative projects. He described this as an entourage of about six people who you feel have a suitable background of knowledge and interest in literary culture to be able to offer an opinion that measures your work against the standards of others, to be honest, and to be able to articulate intelligently the reasons for their opinion. Ultimately, their opinions are sought, valued and trusted. We believe our comics script assessment team fulfil and / or act as an adjunct to this need.
6. Be mindful of your human nature
Sometimes you may not want to hear something about your work via an assessment but it is what you have asked for. Your reaction may be to get defensive about it—this is quite human and quite normal.
Defense mechanisms, also known as “coping styles”, are automatic compensatory behaviours, impulses, reactions and responses utilised when you want to avoid confronting a truth about yourself (or others) that could potentially damage the way you perceive yourself (or them).
Defense mechanisms serve a protective function for the psyche. They distort uncomfortable realities into acceptable ones by blocking conscious awareness from experiencing painful thoughts, feelings or desires.
The way to deal with them is to understand them and to become self-aware. For more information, go to: “Unburying Your Head: Understanding Your Defense Mechanisms”
If comics creators approach an assessment in a measured and contemplative way, and in the spirit of openness and learning, then they can get a lot out of the process and achieve their goals in line with their personal success criteria.
7. Be realistic
An Olympic coach can assesses your potential and can give you the training needed to get you to an elite level, but cannot guarantee you will win a gold medal. Similarly, Comics Mastermind™ can help you identify where you are and help you move towards where you want to be by providing guidance and advice on how to get the best out of your talent. However, Comics Mastermind™ cannot publish your work, find you a publisher or a literary agent or a film producer, or help you create a bestseller. This depends entirely on your ideas, your skill levels, as well as your ability to work hard, stay focused, and persevere until you achieve the outcome you want and realise your personal success goals.
In the words of Australian graphic novelist Bruce Mutard, “Professionalism is a statement of attitude and conduct rather than a measure of income.”
The Comics Mastermind™ script assessment service helps orient you to finding that professional state-of-mind and being.
© Julie Ditrich, 2013-2016