Buffer off

There’s been a lot of talk in the forums recently about how far ahead of your comic’s updating schedule you should be, and if you should bother at all. There seem to be two schools of thought about this issue, the pro side claiming professionality always shows in time, while the con side is more about not stressing yourself out because that’ll kill your comic for sure. (No pun intended in either case of naming, btw.)

Personally, I’d love to keep a large buffer, but I know I’d blow it within the first couple of weeks. Like a bike helmet or a cell phone on a mountaineering trip, a buffer can make you overconfident. I need deadlines to get my work done, or I’ll waste time researching and designing stuff. Because I have so much time, you know. On the other hand I believe in punctuality. I’ve promised my readers that I’ll update Conny Van Ehlsing every Friday. How can I expect anybody to take my comic seriously if I don’t even bother to commit to it in time? (Recently, I’ve added “usually before 8 AM EST” to the promise because I had been cutting it close a couple of times.) You don’t need a buffer to be on time, but it’s a good safety net. Of course, you have to ignore that the logic behind the buffer is very, very flawed.

A buffer allows for two things the update-by-update approach doesn’t:

  • You can work in spurts, which may be very exciting and fun. I did that with NOT REALLY THERE – the bulk of that story was done within two weeks, due to organisational problems that were totally mine.
  • You can go back and fix things you didn’t see at first before it’s too late. It can be a safety net – but also a recipe for disaster, if you do it too much. Because it takes time off the current page you’re working on.

The third advantage – buying you time – is where the logic breaks down. Let’s assume I have a two-week buffer, and I leave for a two-week holiday. I’ll have to work double shifts after the holiday or continue without the buffer. Any way you slice it, I’ll still have to finish one page a week, on average. If you’re finishing one page a week anyway, it doesn’t really make a difference if the page you’re working on this week is up this week or next month. Well, until something unexpected comes up, and it does matter.

Since I used up the buffer that was NOT REALLY THERE, I’ve been working in real time. I used to work in spurts whenever I felt a new story was up, then send the completed stories to zines. Now, I’m really just working on the current week’s page, and later I collect the finished stories to submit them. Of course, I can still switch to burst mode if I’m in the mood and find the time to do it (and with all the other comics I keep planning to do one day, I’ll have to, just to get them started). But that’s just the thing – the webcomic is keeping me busy from Tuesday to Friday, so with life demanding attention every now and then, there isn’t that much time to go into burst mode.

Things being as they are, I’m stuck doing the other Very Professional Thing now –  making it up as I go.