KISS it Up!

3:10 to Yuma Promo Photos (via

AS IN: Keep it Simple, Silly.

Everyone wants to write their sweeping 40-volume epic story with an ensemble cast of characters rivaling the likes of One Piece or Naruto. But that drive to clutter story with too many characters and too many cool elements is often a mistake of beginning writers. The true challenge is to simplify and distill the most important elements of the story and let those few bits shine through.

Take a story like 3:10 to Yuma. Now, I usually don’t watch Westerns. I just didn’t find them that interesting. But when I saw James Mangold’s 2007  remake with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe leading – I’ve finally included one in my Favorite Movies list.

The premise of this story is brutally simple but utterly compelling. One man needs to bring a convict to a train station but is having a hard time doing that. The movie was solid and I’m sure it’s because the screenplay was adapted from a short story by Elmore Leonard. Successful short stories often have a straightforward but still engaging narrative.

The goal is crystal clear, the audience knows what’s at stake is with both characters and the obstacles in front of them, all the more trying.

Are you having a hard time making people care about your story? Consider making it simpler and punchier instead of convoluted.

Do you agree/disagree? Sound off in the comments below!


Dan Pink on Drive and Motivation

Read this book over the last few weeks. And while I wasn’t that surprised over his findings, it did make me reflect on just how much my entire art career at this point has been fashioned from things I pursued on my own time (as opposed to things I learned in a formal class setting.) I picked up Photoshop, learned how to use a tablet, learned how to draw figures etc. because I thought it would be fun! As it turns out, that actually made my progress better. What a concept. Despite my lack of formal training, I feel I’ve been improving year after year because I’ve been focusing on getting better and mastering my craft. That’s been encouraging for me and I hope for all of you as well!  

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Create something meaningful.


Why else would you undergo voluntary manual labor?

When I was a kid, I had a really hard time coming up with story ideas. Compared to my sister who seemed to come up with idea after idea effortlessly, I struggled to write up even a basic premise for a comic. I thought that was my shortcoming and that I just wasn’t creative or inspired enough.

It wasn’t until Polterguys came around and I asked myself why I was writing it that I finally started feeling like there was a fire lit under me. I was motivated not just because I thought the idea of a ‘ghost harem’ was cool but because I finally realized what I wanted to say with my work. I was constantly inspired by all these TV shows and books about strong women and I wanted to send back that same message out there. “Look at all these cool women being awesome!”

See creating something WELL takes a lot of time and effort. If you pursue it half-heartedly, it’s very easy to give up halfway. You’ll  hit that point in the process where you feel lost, discouraged and overwhelmed, and you’ll definitely need something substantial to carry you through. If you’re not even sure why you make art, it might take you longer to find your way out of the dark. I think having a purpose to your work, like a guiding star, helps re-orient your thoughts and energies back into the project.

If you’re passionate about your work, it also ends up showing in the end result. People want to support artists who bring something good to the table. They also want to feel like they’re getting something that could have only been made by you and your unique vision.

Do you agree? Have you thought about how your creative projects are meaningful to you? If not, what would you like your work to say?

This post is part 3 of my blog post series, How to Run a Successful Kickstarter for your Manga.

Living Well on Less

This was the podcast I was on a few weeks ago with C. Spike Trotman. I’ve been blessed to have a penny-pinching partner so this topic is actually one that I’m quite familiar with. As a comic artist, it’s important to have a very good grasp of your financial situation because 1) if you’re freelancing, that’s of utmost importance and 2) if you’re going to be self-publishing and starting your own business, it becomes even more so.

I make some points about finding your own tribe which is a concept from Seth Godin’s book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.

These are my favorite financial sites that I mentioned and don’t forget to check out Spike’s Poorcraft!

Participate in your Community

Sac-con Artist Alley 2006

The comics world is a fairly small and enthusiastic environment.  I didn’t actually know much about the scene until I started hearing about local and major conventions around the Bay Area.  I realized, “Oh wow, anime/manga-loving kids actually get together every year!” Here are a couple of ways you can engage in the community and start developing a platform for your own work in the future.

1. Utilize social media.

Here’s a tip I found has worked for me on Twitter, my favorite social media site. Be a real person. That means don’t just broadcast all your updates to your feed. Talk to people and especially your fellow artists.  Follow your creative heroes and have conversations with them. You’ll find a lot of people chatting about industry news, sharing tips and tools, and just hanging out. If you place nice, offer thoughtful comments or questions that spark a good discussion, you’re off to a great start.

2. Attend and/or table at conventions.

You don’t live in a vacuum. And you shouldn’t have to! I’ve attended a few conventions since college and I’ve always had a fun time. I’ve had the opportunity to meet my favorite webcomic artists at SDCC and have tabled next to other aspiring comic artists at Anime Expo. Let me tell you other artists trust you more online when they’ve met you face to face and are assured of that fact that you’re not a psycho. I’ve also met people who have followed my work for quite some time and it’s always nice to keep in touch.

3. Look out for contests and join them.

Final Track was a submission entry for Yen Press’ first Talent Search back in 2011 and The Dark Horse Fan was the winning entry to a short contest held by Dark Horse. Both stories were a challenge on my time, organizational skills and comicking efforts but they pay off because you get your name out there. People start seeing your work and understand you’re someone to watch out for.

Even if you don’t win (as in the case of Final Track where there were no winners), I made friends with my fellow entrants, follow each other on social media and we support each other through the good and bad.

4. Support your favorite artists by buying art, commissions or comics.

I’ve made it a point to support my heroes financially when I can afford to. Since I am not rich and don’t have much space, I’m quite limited in this endeavor but when I can’t throw cash at people, I offer them my time and effort when I retweet, reblog or share their work. People remember good deeds and you build goodwill in the community by doing so.

5. Be nice!

I’ve heard this over and over again from creative people everywhere. The community is small and artists warn each other about people to watch out for. It pays to not be so negative all the time either. We all have bad days but when you’re known as the “artist that____,” you have to consider the association that does for your work.

You are certainly free to be yourself but if you want to be taken seriously as part of the industry, conduct yourself as a professional as much as you can. (I make exceptions for fangirling/fanboying over other artists’ work because there’s just never enough of that to go around! ^_~)

The items listed above are not meant to be a strict laundry list of things you need to do to succeed in the business but they have been especially helpful for me. If you’re shy for example, it can be quite hard to approach other artists at cons for the first time. But believe me, it helps to move out of your comfort zone once in a while and reach out to others. It’s definitely made me feel less alone in my artistic endeavors and it’s provided me a stronger sense of belonging in my own tribe.

This post is part 2 of my blog post series, How to Run a Successful Kickstarter for your Manga.

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