I'm often asked how long it takes to do a strip. It's hard to answer because the strips are done in an assembly-line fashion. I don't work on each strip individually. I write a week's worth at a time, then I draw the week, followed by inking and finally photoshopping.
I can ballpark the time it takes for inking and photoshopping. The writing part . . . that's a whole other story. Writing is the deal-breaker for how long completing a week of strips is going to take and whether or not I have to work on the weekend. Sometimes it goes whiz-bang and I've got the week written in a few hours . . . other times it drags on and on for untold agonizing days.
Even when the writing is complete, I'll find myself editing right through the drawing stage. Here's what my writing looks like when I sit down to draw:
I've purposely scanned this image on the small side to make it difficult to read as it's the writing for some upcoming, as yet unpublished strips
Once I've completed the week's writing ( 6 strips ), I loosely sketch out six frames on two sheets of 8 1/2 x 11 paper and label each frame from Mon. - Sat. Then I write in the finished copy for each strip and tape the two sheets to my drawing board. Before I begin to actually draw, I do a quick read through the series to refresh my mind regarding where the action is taking place and who is speaking. This determines things like clothing styles, props, character positioning, etc. You can see a bit of the extra editing that I've done in the first frame. (above)
The above snip is a closer look at the last-minute editing process. I changed "your personal growth" to "self-improvement." There are lots of reasons for making these types of small changes. The change in this strip had to do with over-use of the term "personal growth" in following strips. It also had to do with the fact that I changed what the characters say to each other in the next panel.
You can see where I completely changed the responses and then tweaked the replacement copy from "...always so gung-ho about self-improvement?" to "always so gung-ho to self-improve?"
I also have my own little short-hand to remind me of the "stage-directions" I want to use. In the above snip, I underline words I want to ink in bold letters. Normally, if I want lettering to be bold, I write them in caps on the copy . . . but in this instance, it was on the re-read that I decided there needed to be some emphasis. Notice the word "air quotes" in brackets. That's just a reminder that I wanted to draw the character doing air quotes. (I just checked . . . I didn't end up having Susan using air quotes because I included Kim in the drawing and there wasn't room to make the drawing clear)
When I want to remind myself to use italics in my lettering, I underline the phrase or words with a wavy line.
Another stage direction. Occasionally I will draw a very loose rendering to indicate mood or positioning. I decided to change Susan's reaction in the punchline of this strip so I scratched out the "sigh" and drew a disgruntled Susan to indicate the new tone of the gag.
The little suggestion of Susan's face (nose and eyes) in the above frames are mainly to determine how I am going to position the staging of this strip. When I got down to drawing this strip, I changed the positioning again.
In the above frame, I decided to re-write the punchline. Both punches are similar but I thought the shorter version was better. Generally, a short punchline is preferable. On the second read, I also recall thinking that the line, "Okay, okay - then how about I lose ten pounds and we'll call it even?" didn't really make sense. It's not very clear but the second punch reads, "Would you settle for losing ten pounds?"
I also write the date the strips will appear on my copy sheets. The above 9/21-26 means these strips are for the week of September 21 - 26. On each original strip I pencil "9/21-26" in the upper right corner of my bristol (not on the strip itself) along with a corresponding " 1 " (for Monday) and "2" (for Tuesday), etc. to label the strips for my own filing of originals.