Aug 192010

A lot of people find quantifying the creative process to be distasteful somehow, but I dig hour logging — I keep track of how much time I’m spending on most of my projects. It gives me a way to predict timelines for similar projects in the future, and there’s something geekily satisfying about all that addition at the end of a day. It didn’t really work well with the movie project I’m working on, too many people and too many working styles, but it worked well with Shannon and I on the Sword of My Mouth graphic novel.

[Shannon, by the way, is currently on tour on the west coast — she’s doing a book launch at Lucky’s on Aug. 24th in case you live in Vancouver!]

So here’s a breakdown of how much time we each spent working on the book.

Jim’s hours: 283.8 (writing: 23%, revisions and editing: 16%, publicity: 20%, publishing business: 38%)

Shannon’s hours:  1000+ (drawing)

So basically, Shannon put in 80% of the time even considering I took on publicity and publishing roles. (If I was just doing the writing, it would have been closer to a 90/10% split.)

We’re dividing the money we make 80/20%, but it still feels weird. I mean, I knew it took a long time to draw, but it really takes a long time to draw. This wonky division of labour is something to keep in mind when if you’re ever approaching someone to draw a comic. Even if you’re a slow writer and they’re a fast drawer, you’re still asking them to spend much more time realizing something than you spent creating it. What are you bringing to the project beyond amazing ideas and sparkling prose?

  15 Responses to “A Graphic Division of Labour”

  1. This is really a good thing to make visible. I don’t think most people, even people who know and love comics, would have expected the division of labour to work out quite to that extreme.

  2. […] Munroe, writer of the graphic novel Sword of My Mouth, kept track of the time he and artist Shannon Gerard put into the project. Not surprisingly, the scales don’t balance: Sword of My […]

  3. Where I used to work, we used Freshbooks to track time (I think you can signup for free if you don’t have too many users):

    I personally use a google docs spreadsheet for my time tracking.

  4. […] Jim Munroe on the division of labour between writer and artist in his graphic novels. Item: Rina Piccolo on the strength of the newspaper comics market. Item: San Francisco’s […]

  5. This is something I wouldn’t have thought of – I’m glad you spelled it out.

    I hope you continue this story – in fact that’s why I dropped by; there’s this site called Kickstarter, a method for fundraising creative projects. I’m telling you about it because I want you to keep writing this comic (!) though you’ve probably already heard of the site?

    Anyhoo these projects made me think of you, and Therefore Repent. I see you have lots of other projects brewing at all times though ^_^

  6. Ola — as far as I know, Kickstarter is still US-only; or at least, you have to have a US bank account to create a project. So it’s less useful for those of us north of the border. (I’ve looked into it in the past for my theatre company.)

    • btw, what I meant was, yeah you’re right – but it’s always been easy enough to get a US bank account. I did back in 2006.

      Seems things have changed with Kickstarter since this conversation though, anyway.

  7. DJ, Yeah, you’re right. A US based account isn’t that hard to get though. I have one..

  8. so she got payed 80%? or 20?

  9. […] Creative labour tracking is necessary, and to a certain extent it’s fun. Once you break the initial anxieties you can get into a rhythm that not even the most perniciously obtuse Byzantine provincial bureaucracy can stymie. […]

  10. Interesting read! I have no idea what the breakdown of our hours are with graphic & logo design for t shirt printing. I’d say most of the time is handling clients objections!

  11. Yes, many people forget how long it is to draw. I am in a middle of completing a short graphic novel, and you would think I would have finished it. There’s the backgrounds, the layouts to check, etc, before even drawing your favourite characters. And also, there is the psychological time to get to work. I need to be certain of a two hours window of freedom before committing pen to drawing board, otherwise the interruptions gets at me.

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