In writing this little comic of mine, I've learned roughly a butt-ton about myself, and how I work. Or, perhaps more importantly, how I DON'T work. Learning what not to do is perhaps the most important lesson of all as an artist (or I guess any profession, though learning not to stick your arm in a wood chipper is probably a lesson best learned through advice rather than experience), and even though I wish I would've learned that by pumping out a bunch of crappy comics rather than no comics at all, it's still important, and it is something I'm improving at.
See, the reason I get so frustrated at times is because when one of my comics ends up on the cutting room floor, it's always due to the same thing. It goes a little something like this:
-inspiration. A frenzied night of writing where my music's really loud and the idea floodgates have burst far beyond the help of a small boy plugging the leaks with his finger. Probably the most enjoyable phase.
-scaling. Trying to make some sense of everything I've just written, organizing it into something coherent. At times it's not fun, but let's face it; making the crazy nonsense in our heads manifest requires some dialing down at times.
-bloating. This is, I believe, where most of my stories get killed. Taking the original bursts of inspiration and trying to make them more "epic" in scale, make them more like the stuff I grew up liking. More has to be at stake! People have to die! How can I write this?!
At the bloating phase is where I start looking at other comics to see how they did it. BLAM. Hear that? That was the sound of my story being shot right in the face by the big ol' 10-gauge of self-doubt. This next idea is capitalized just as much for my benefit as the benefit of others: DO NOT LOOK TO OTHER ARTISTS FOR THE TEMPLATE. YOUR WAY IS THE CORRECT WAY.
It's why ideas written in the spur of the moment will always be more pure and immediate than ideas that have been endlessly rethought and rewritten. Don't boil the living crap out of your coffee, and don't rewrite something more than twice. Least of all your main storyline.
I can't speak for everyone, but I've never felt the strongest part of any piece of work has been the overarching plot. Hell, look at Watchmen; you could fit the gist of that story on a Post-it note... and it was hardly a new one. It was the development of the characters and the way their struggles were presented that made it so brilliant. I've taken a new policy; if I can't sum up in one sentence what the story is about, it's probably not a good one.
If you're thinking about what the moral of your story is, what people should take from it, what it should all mean, how to make your plot different from everyone else's, take it from me: STOP. Pick a story template. Evil guy wants to take over world, evil government operation to kill millions must be stopped, some kid wants to hook up with this one girl... there are plenty. Clichés exist for a reason. It's when you stop looking to others and realize that you are a completely unique vessel which can take any trite, tired plot and make something special out of it that your best stuff arises.
So, here's the Post-it version of this, um, post: KEEP WRITING.