As I post this page, I’m in the process of organizing the rest of The Water Phoenix King, which is a task I’ve been neglecting given the still-considerable size of the comic’s remainder–a bulk that dwindles far more slowly than I would like, given the speed at which I draw. I haven’t re-examined the comic’s outline as a whole since I first starting writing chapter 1, instead being content to dive into the bullet-points that comprise each chapter whenever a new chapter needs writing. (I am always surprised when I need to write a new chapter, as if I can’t tell when the existing one is ending.) However, the reality of the comic has diverged sufficiently from its outline that it’s time for another (and I hope, a final) reorganizing and reexamining of the whole comic.

It’s funny how much a story can drift in the telling–at least my stories do that. I start out with very tidy outlines, and before you know it an idea strikes me and a character’s role swells, or it suddenly makes more sense for a character to live, or to die–I think I remain unfazed by these sudden changes because I grew up running tabletop role-playing games, where the idea is you write the clearest, most complete, most organized adventure you possibly can, and then you put it in front of the players and they blow it to pieces, ignore it, or wander off into the woods to die of hunger and thirst.

This experience, repeated twice a week for fifteen years, produces a kind of Zen-like acceptance of the fragility of outline. But I outline anyway, because in every medium I’ve explored, I’ve found it easier to outline and then ignore my plans than to not outline and find myself with nothing to “push” against when it’s time to show people what I’ve made.