Last week’s Webcomic Chat was about pacing in webcomics! And most of my answers were relevant to BICP, so I’m posting a roundup here. (For answers to previous chats, see the blog posts at Leif & Thorn.)

Depends on the comic — I’m making 2 comics with pacing, and 1 without. But I’m A Cat Person, of course, is a single overarching story. I think some readers get frustrated with the 2x-a-week update schedule, especially when the plot isn’t moving quickly to begin with.

Leif & Thorn is sequential storylines in the same universe. It runs on newspaper-comic pacing — one joke every 4 panels. As long as I keep that up, I don’t think the overall pacing of any given storyline plays a role in how much people like it. Unless readers can tell there’s some big reveal coming, and are impatient for me to get there.

…and then there’s Webcomic Woes. (Link is on Patreon — they all go public in time, it’s just that patrons get early access.) It’s a bunch of disconnected one-shots about webcomic fandom feelings. It has no pacing. The fact that it’s even had a regular update schedule for several weeks in a row is purely a quirk of fate.

A lot of the conflicts in BICP come from secrets…and most of them aren’t caught out in some dramatic way, but get deliberately revealed by the secret-keeper over the course of character development. Either because the secret-keeper has grown as a person, or because the person they were keeping secrets from has earned their trust, or both.

Which is good Healthy Relationship Content! But can make for anticlimactic pacing if the reveal isn’t emotional in some other way. Take Miranda’s chapter-25 reveal — she didn’t just drop that info, she literally brought Sparrow to a graveyard and gave her a whole speech about magic and feelings and dead parents to set it up.

One thing you do want is a tense, dramatic first chapter. Don’t do a slow-and-dreamy prologue unless you have the art skill that people will be hooked by virtue of sheer prettiness. (Floraverse pulled it off, for example.)

And definitely don’t do a full-page-of-infodumping update early in the comic! Most people flat-out won’t read it. I sure won’t. You have to get people engaged and invested enough to care first. I specifically averted the wall-of-backstory in Leif & Thorn, and within a year or so I was able to start doing info pages that readers actually asked for.

…this one actually has come up in Webcomic Woes. It’s structured like a 4koma, no special layouts, but sometimes I’ll add an extra panel to give the reader another beat before the joke lands.

The page layouts in BICP were designed to work on-screen, but weren’t done with an eye toward print. Now that I’m in the middle of formatting them for books, that can be painfully obvious. The big issue (other than “keeping text from disappearing in the margins”) is that you want big dramatic reveals to happen on the page flip. Some of them work, others…don’t.

Mostly I just let it slide as-is. There’s only one so far (Interlude 3) (coming out soon!) where I inserted an extra page, to make sure the last few reveals happened on the flips. It’s a big splash image, something that would’ve been frustrating as a single webcomic update, but it’s designed to look particularly cool in your hands.

Yes with long-form comics. Which is why, as a reader, I save them up and then read them in batches, ideally stopping at the actual chapter breaks. Most awkward part is when a comic randomly stops updating mid-chapter, so it gets to sit in my “you have unread pages” queue in perpetuity.

With BICP, I try to compensate for the “only 2 updates per week” slowness by putting something funny and/or cute on every otherwise-slow-paced page.

All too often I’ve run out of buffer and end up frantically drawing each page the night before it’s scheduled. (Or the night after it’s scheduled….) The one upside of this is that it’s very easy to keep the one-Thing-per-page pattern active, because I can’t operate in a mode of “okay, this page contains half a conversation that’ll be resolved tomorrow, and this one has foreshadowing for an event I’ll get to draw next week.” It’s all “draw a page Right Now that’ll be worth reading Right Now.”

The effect in an archive binge can be, uh, jerky and erratic. (I’m smoothing some of that over during the revisions, by the way. Nicer transitions between pages, that kind of thing.)

On the flip side, right now I’m working 3-to-5 pages ahead (!!), which is cool. I can plan transitions! I can realize “oh, hey, this page happens too soon, I need to draw another one to insert ahead of it for setup” and have the time to actually draw it! But here, the one downside is that it takes conscious attention to remember that I’m not writing at the speed people will be reading, and adjust accordingly.

Honestly, 95% of the time I’m just winging it.

You know how each BICP chapter is exactly 27 pages? Yeah, I didn’t plan that from the beginning. I just drew the first one and it was 27 pages, and the next one was 27 pages, and after a while I made the conscious choice to be consistent about it.

The most planning I’ve done is, like…I thumbnailed the last 5 pages of chapter 25, but even then I knew going in that I had approximately 5 pages’ worth of panels. It was just a matter of arranging and pacing them so there was a worthwhile punchline/beat/cliffhanger at the end of each page.

I know I’ve gotten better at it over time, but there’s no conscious strategy or control to it. I’m still mostly going on instinct. Instincts get developed and honed with practice, that’s all.

If you want to talk about your own experiences with webcomic pacing — in my comics, in your own comics, in the other comics you read — please jump in and share!