Make It What It Needs To Be

Make It What It Needs To Be

Ever since I realized that my newest comic is actually supposed to be a novel (surprise!), this has been my motto: make it what it needs to be.

I’ve been drawing Jack Tinn and the Aquanauts for almost an entire year and just realized two weeks ago that the story is actually a novel, rather than a comic. (If you’re really interested, you can read all about it here.) Once I knew that I had to recreate everything I’ve been working on as a text-only novel, I panicked.

I immediately started thinking about all the things that I needed to in order to write the book (the least of which being how to write!) and in a matter of minutes I felt claustrophobic from the heavy stresses closing in on me. I felt the weight of what I couldn’t do and what I didn’t know. After a time, I realized that my job as a storyteller is to serve the story. To tell the story in the way that it needs to be told, whatever that might be. In other words: I need to make it what it needs to be.


My Writing Progress So Far

I’ve been writing every day for the past two weeks or so, with a daily word count goal of 2k words. I’ve been shooting for a goal of 80k words for the rough draft, but now I’m thinking it’s going to be closer to something like 90k. Time will tell. As of right now I’m sitting at 32k, putting me at about 40% toward my goal.

Two weeks in, I’m feeling like 2k is a good daily writing goal. It’s enough to push me and keep me writing, but it’s not completely overwhelming. I loved drawing the comic, but it feels good to be able to focus on the story this way. I enjoy the writing process. I like spending time with the idea this way.

A Snippet from Jack Tinn and the Aquanauts:

Though it’s just a rough draft and who knows what I’ll end up keeping in the end, here’s a snippet from my manuscript.


The sound of chirping crickets and crawling caterpillars ate at Jack’s mind. It was all he could do to keep his thoughts away from the dark forest of creatures around him. The sound became suffocating and Jack felt claustrophobic, even on this deserted island surrounded by the open seas. The clicks and croaks of shadows within shadows became deafening and Jack suddenly remembered the receiver in his pack. He’d turned it off to preserve battery power, but decided that he had traveled far enough into the forest to put it to use again.

Jack flicked a switch on the side of the receiver, placing it in the on position. He extended the collapsed aluminum antenna and turned the upper dial until a wash of static came through the speaker. Jack adjusted the lower knob and searched through the waves of static, searching for the tone he had heard earlier, aboard the Beagle.


Just the sound of uninhabited airwaves.

Jack stopped walking to feel for a place to sit and concentrate his efforts on the receiver.

No sooner had he started to feel the forest floor around him with his right boot, when a branch snapped behind him and a nearby bush shook as something passed through it.

Jack instinctively crouched into a standing fetal position and froze in place. His breathing suddenly sounded much louder than it had been, and the beating of his own heart began to pound against his eardrums.

Jack switched the receiver into the off position and his eyes darted as much as they could without moving his head. A lump began to form in his throat, and his chest tightened. Sweat began to collect on his forehead and temples. Jack swallowed.

Standing absolutely still for the entirety of three minutes, Jack tried desperately to quiet his breathing. It sounded amplified somehow, and he knew that whatever insects and lizards and other animals were around him knew his every thought and action. He had stepped into a heavy grove of trees, where the leaves covered the light from the moon, and he found himself in complete darkness.

In front of him and off to the left was a small patch where the forest opened up and allowed a sliver of moonlight to rest. Jack instantly wished to be in the moonlight, so that he could see the ground he stood on. Then again, Jack reasoned through the thumping of his heartbeats, the moonlight would put me in plain sight. I’d have no place to hide. His heart pounded and he struggled to swallow.

Five full minutes passed. Jack’s neck and shoulders took on a sharp soreness from holding their strained positions. The thought never once crossed Jack’s mind to relax and take on an upright standing position.

Another two minutes passed. The minutes felt like seconds. They felt like an eternity.

Still, I’d rather know something about where I am. What’s around me.

Another minute passed. And another.

It’s what I can’t see, what I don’t know. That’s what scares me.

Another minute passed and Jack’s thoughts went to his receiver. He had turned it off in order to hear the threats around him and focus on escaping, or waiting out the danger. Whichever came first.

Want to Know More?

If you’d like to know more about my work-in-progress, Jack Tinn and the Aquanauts, then check out last week’s post where I explain what the story is and why I am writing it, rather than illustrating it in comics form. Please feel free to post your comments and questions below.

5 Responses to “Make It What It Needs To Be”
  1. “Make it what it needs to be”… great! I could add that a work of art will always be communicating what it wants to be, but we have to listen.

    • Jess Smart Smiley says:

      Excellent point! In my last post I shared that although I’ve been hearing a little voice for the last year telling me to write this story (rather than illustrate it in comic form), I ignored it until a couple of weeks ago. Now everything is really coming together and all I had to do was listen!

  2. Coming along well I think. It makes me want to read more, and that’s a good thing! Keep on plugging away, Jess.

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