Comics Mastermind™ offers a dedicated comics script assessment service for Australian comics creators.
So what is a comics script assessment, what does it entail, and what value can you get out of it?
A comics script assessment is a confidential written report that identifies the strengths and opportunities of your work-in-progress (ie. comic book, graphic novel, webcomic and comic / cartoon strips). Assessments help you up-skill, edit your work and accelerate it towards final draft stage in alignment with your publishing goals.
Here are 7 tips to help you get the most out of your assessment.
1. Meet the submission criteria and guidelines
Orient yourselves towards meeting industry guidelines and standards, and also understand how marketing can influence choices in storytelling. The Comics Mastermind™ has developed script assessment submission criteria and guidelines 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 tools, as well as formatting conventions and standards. (You can learn more about how to write a comic book and graphic novel script in the Mechanics of Visual Storytelling short course.)
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 formatting guidelines eliminates distractions and allows the assessor to focus on your work and not on their frustrations when that work is presented badly.
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 guidelines 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. Others are easier to write.
This process soon weeds out the wannabes from the serious contenders who are positioning themselves as professionals.
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 something is wrong with your script (no matter how seemingly minor) fix it before you send it in. That way the assessor will not be diverted from areas where they could more fruitfully focus attention and the potential of your script can be fully appreciated. In short, prior to assessment, work needs to be as polished in every aspect as you can make it.
The same guidelines apply for artists. You need to submit your 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 you can develop it without further input.
Sometimes comics creators say: “Well, I already knew that and was going to fix it” in response to an assessor’s comment is 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
You have the option of sending in a submission letter with your 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 your part 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 for its Assessors 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, umami 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.
This is what Comics Mastermind™ script assessment service hopes to achieve with your comics script. 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 (eg. identifying spelling or grammatical mistakes), as well as a subjective critique (eg. whether a character’s dialogue works or not, whether the pacing of a scene is working etc).
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 arts 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 intelligently articulate 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.
Defence 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).
Defence 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.
If you 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 your goals in line with your personal success criteria.
7. Be realistic
An Olympic coach can assess 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.