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Breaks and Hiatuses

HippieVan at 12:00AM, Jan. 22, 2016

Hiatuses are a necessary evil in the webcomics world, it seems. Most webcomic artists can’t devote all their attention to their comic, and will at some point find that life – school, work, or family – gets in the way of regular updates.

In terms of maintaining readership, it’s best to avoid hiatuses as much as possible. Online audiences can be fickle, and too many missed updates can mean that a regular reader stops checking in. Some of the most successful webcomic creators are those who seem to be able to keep plugging away at their comic week after week for years on end, rarely missing an update. Of course, building up a buffer can be a big help for allowing small breaks.

But taking a break can also be a positive thing. The worst thing for any artist is for their pet project to turn into a chore, or worse, into something that causes stress. If you feel like your webcomic is just becoming another burden in your life, it might be best to set it aside for a short while so that you can come back to it reinvigorated, rather than quitting altogether when it finally becomes too much.

If you do have to take a hiatus, the best thing to do is to announce it and to be honest with your audience about the length of the break. The saddest thing in the webcomic world is to find one of your favourite comics suddenly abandoned without any note from the author (see Opey the Warhead, and numerous other favourites of mine over the years).

Does it bother you when a comic takes a hiatus? Have you ever taken a break from your comic? Was it beneficial?

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KimLuster at 5:51AM, Jan. 23, 2016

I think, having a definite ending helps too, and although mine is still a long ways away, it is in sight - like being at sea and seeing the shore, you don't feel lost! Now... other comics that have gone on indefinite hiatus... Man, how I wish the creators of Elspeth and Opey the Warhead would come back and do something... anything...!! There is this void feeling the way they left it hanging...!

KimLuster at 5:48AM, Jan. 23, 2016

Bravo always makes me snort-laugh when he get in self-deprecation mode!! When I first started the Godstrain, I came close to hiatus before I even started (I think there's a month between pages 2 & 3)! I just wasn't sure I wanted to do this! I had a story in my head, and I hated the way my art looked...! But then I had a reader I know personally ask me why I wasn't working on it! He reminded me that part of the reason I wanted to do the comic was to get better and faster at art... So I got back at it and now for almost 4 years it's been pretty steady! I've felt the hints of urges to go on hiatus for a bit, and it has felt like a chore here and there, especially when RL has been hectic, but so far it's still something I look to as a joy to do and a break from the chaos! I hope that feeling holds...!

PaulEberhardt at 5:14AM, Jan. 23, 2016

I hate having my comic on hiatus, though. There's always this nagging feeling of being a million miles from where I really want to be and possibly even drifting away further. Then again I even find myself being sort of glad that that bad feeling doesn't go away but gets worse, if anything. Shows how much you actually care, see? I wonder what I did with my time and what it felt like before I got into webcomicking. There must have been such a dark time, but I really can't remember. Anyway, finally updating at all feels so much like coming home every time, it's rewarding in itself.

PaulEberhardt at 5:06AM, Jan. 23, 2016

Rather than being worried about getting less comments than before, I prefer to appreciate those I still get. Don't get me wrong on this, but it's a way of knowing that these commenters are special. As for the others, well: I know how much it sucks if a favourite webcomic hasn't updated in months, but comic creators like us hardly ever go on hiatus because they like annoying their readers. I certainly don't, at any rate. My way of working is just to do as much as I can manage at any one time and then see how far I got. If that's too slow, I can't help it. Thinking too much about the load of stuff I've still got to do would just achieve that it occupies me too much to find a starting point, making me end up with doing nothing at all. At least it isn't any of that stupid oh-so-sensible real life s*&§ that keeps me from updating right now, but work on a picture book project with a deadline. It sort of feels like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for the first time in months.

maskdt at 4:56AM, Jan. 23, 2016

I've had to abandon a few comics, but I've successfully come back from hiatus. I'd personally recommend going on hiatus as rarely as possible, and for as short a period as possible. Hiatus absolutely eat away at your hard-won readership, and too long a hiatus will permanently shrink your reader base. Think about it: a comic doesn't update in a long while, so you move on to other things that are currently updating. Eventually, you might forget about the old comic entirely, except for those rare moments when you wonder whatever happened to it. . If you're struggling with keeping to your current update schedule, consider updating less frequently, but still regularly instead of taking a hiatus. While 3 times a week seems to be the norm for webcomics that are functioning as a business, once a week or even every two weeks aren't unheard of. This is especially true if the comic's artwork or format is pretty demanding.

Gunwallace at 12:15AM, Jan. 23, 2016

I'd reply to this, but I'm on hiatus.

ozoneocean at 10:59PM, Jan. 22, 2016

It comes down to readers quite a lot I think and not wanting to ruin expectations- or in bravo's case, being annoyed that there aren't more, haha :D ---------------- I try not to think about them too much and that helps a lot, I just update when I can and promote when it IS updated so people know to come back and see. I LOVE having comments and people reading my stuff, but thinking about readers too much and then thinking about disappointing them or making them wait will kill your comic. It can be GREAT as a prod to keep you doing but when you're passed a reasonable limit it becomes a negative influence.

usedbooks at 5:26PM, Jan. 22, 2016

My buffer waxes and wanes. I usually keep about two weeks ahead, so I can plan my pace. If I know I'm falling behind I can either change the pace to a page a week instead of two (and let readers know) or plan a suitable time for a week (or two) off rather than eating through the buffer. I work seasonally, and I know in summer, my workload makes it more realistic to draw a page a week rather than two. I'd rather be slow and regular than miss scheduled updates at random.

Stellar at 3:42PM, Jan. 22, 2016

When I started getting back into making comics last year I knew my boundaries. I knew if I were working on one story and one story alone, I'd distract myself with new stories and plots. I also knew I had to get out of the habit of going "Here's a new finished page! enjoy!" Nearly a year has gone by and I'm thoroughly enjoying swapping back and fourth between Deadgirl & Sue and the Madder Affairs Mix. The best part is sticking with this has made my comic process much more efficient, so I spend less and less time making pages; meanwhile the one month buffer I had last year has ended up tripling =)

bravo1102 at 1:19PM, Jan. 22, 2016

A break between or within a project can bring fresh perspective and a new approach to the comic. I have done comics that end. The ensuing break gives me a chance to look back at what I have done and try to see what can be done better and how I can keep it interesting for myself as a creator in addition to keeping whatever reader ship there ever was. That's probably why I don't get the whole shame and guilt thing. No one read the thing when it was updating why should I feel anything but relief for ending the torment. Put it behind you and go forward. Learn whatever lessons there are and go on so that next time there will be no stopping until there is a conclusion.

HippieVan at 12:41PM, Jan. 22, 2016

I definitely know what you guys mean about abandoned comics (I've done numerous newsposts about those in the past as well - it's a pervasive problem in the webcomics world). I think a lot of the time it's because the creator doesn't want to let go of the idea of eventually picking it up again.

Jenna Marie at 11:56AM, Jan. 22, 2016

The "life getting in the way" and guilt over not holding up promises really resonate. Sometimes you underestimate the amount of time the comic or your life need. Thinking I just needed some adjustment time for life changes after updating my old comic continuously for 3 or 4 years, I made promises that I ultimately couldn't keep. I still toy with going back to it, but after 7 years, I think a full revamp is the only thing that would work. There is definitely a lot of guilt in abandonment, but I think the perpetrators often have good reason. If you need to take a break, do it, and be realistic with yourself and your readers as best you can.

bravo1102 at 10:58AM, Jan. 22, 2016

Guilt and shame? Try anger and frustration. Like too little too late, screw you this waste of time is over. Then you throw your easel through a window and use your felt tips as shooting stars.

ashtree house at 10:37AM, Jan. 22, 2016

I also agree with El Cid, it is pretty crazy when comics just drop off and the creator never comes back. I have ditched alot of comics over the years, but always told the readers that I was stopping and why. I also have road blocks with my current comic, but feel guilty if I don't follow up with readers. On another note, OMG! The funding is going good, we are more than half way there! I will try and spread the word more!

usedbooks at 8:22AM, Jan. 22, 2016

I feel guilty if I miss a page of UB for any reason. I usually pop in for an explanation. On the other hand, I walked away from two other projects at DD with nary a word. Neither updated with regularity at the time. Delays stretched into weeks and months, but I couldn't bring myself to admit I wasn't coming back to it. In a way, I still am of the mindset that maybe I will continue it someday. But on the other hand, it has been so long (years), who will be coming back to see the "it's over" message? And if I make it an update, how much more disappointing would it be to think, "Oh! _______ updated! _______ is back!" only to see "Nope, sorry. Not coming back."

rawdale at 7:10AM, Jan. 22, 2016

Hell, I feel guilty if I'm a day late with a page-even if it is unavoidable. I was surprised at the amount of strips that were featured last year on DD that stopped updating shortly after. Doing a strip is hard work and very time consuming for something that takes only a minute (or less) to read and it is easy to get burned out. Maybe having guest artists do a pin up for a few weeks would be a good way for the artist to get a break and still have content that gets posted each week.

ozoneocean at 6:32AM, Jan. 22, 2016

Ironscarf was on the same page :D

ozoneocean at 6:31AM, Jan. 22, 2016

Some of what drives the comic ending without explanation thing is guilt and shame. The creator feels guilt that they can't continue and shame towards their audience stops them coming back to explain or even attempt a restart. Just one of those strange tricks of human nature. Explanations are always good though!

Ironscarf at 6:29AM, Jan. 22, 2016

I wonder about that same thing El Cid: are people too ashamed of their own failures to make that post, or do they imagine they will return at some point and hope no one noticed they were gone? Something similar happened to me, with a loosely updated comic that ground to a halt. I fully intended to continue, still do in fact, but I had to pull the plug on it to put anyone left wondering out of their misery. My current comic is on an update whenever schedule, but I'm still finding it better to give some explanation when that starts to stretch beyond normal limits.

El Cid at 5:57AM, Jan. 22, 2016

It's depressing how many comics in the Quail's Random end with a page saying something to the effect of "will be back in a week" or something like that... and of course that return never happened. What really bugs me is that, after months and years being away, the creators usually can't even be bothered to drop back in and tell their readers "Sorry, not updating anymore for x,y,z reasons." You owe your readers at least that much.

usedbooks at 5:55AM, Jan. 22, 2016

The longest I took was two weeks, usually because I'm on vacation, moving, starting a new job, or completely internetless. (I have to do another one soon because my scripts aren't where they need to be.) Usually, stopping drawing altogether and coming back to it is a good thing. It breaks the unconscious routine of it, breaks habits, and forces me to be more aware and deliberate. When I return after a break, I usually have some fresh perspective and new tricks. (Works just as well with writing.)

Genejoke at 3:20AM, Jan. 22, 2016

hiatuses (hiatii???) are unfortunate but often unavoidable. I've made some, some intended, some not. I recently ended a hiatus on BASO as I got completely burned out making it. It wasn't a chore to make, it was an impossibility. I just didn't have it in me to make it anymore, but I also knew that would change, so here I am updating weekly with a buffer building up. The worst thing is when comics stop midway with no explanation. I've done it myself a number of times though, I often take on too much and cannot keep up with everything. I have a number of projects bubbling under the surface. Some of my readers with know that Underbelly is still slowly ticking away but hasn't updated regularly in years.

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