This marks year two of my multi-year project to bring my novel THE TRIP to life as an animated movie. It’s been a long, tough project but I’m feeling like things are coming together nicely. I figured I’d share some updates and tips for you should you decide to tackle a project like this.

Start With Good Story
I was scared when I wrote THE TRIP, I was terrified it would flop. I spent more than a year of my life working on that novel – creating the world, figuring out the rules of the zombies, fleshing out the characters, writing the story. That took around nine months. Then there was a break, followed by honing the story.

All that advance work paid off: while I have gotten some less than stellar reviews, I only feel two were truly negative and one didn’t really bother me. I know part of the reason I feel successful about this project is I didn’t rush it.

Follow with a Good Plan
Before committing to the project, I spent months figuring out how to do it. I took a sound recording class so I could record on my own. Gear and software needed to be purchased and tested. I needed to find a cast. Artists. So many things needed to come together – and I knew I couldn’t do it all at once.

The cast took a bit to find: a few people I knew from other projects; Felicia and Jared had just finished a project with me. Chris was more difficult to cast and I spoke to several actors before settling on Ariel.

We read some scenes over the phone on a con-call. You can get a free one from FreeConferenceCall.com. It was a lifesaver. Ideally I like to get the cast into a room together, but if that’s not possible a con call works almost as well. (I’ve had mixed results with Skype; not everyone is near a computer with a camera or stable wifi all the time, but almost everyone’s got a cell phone)

Take Your Time
I won’t lie to you. Six months ago there were stretches when I thought I’d never be able to finish this project. Animation is daunting – you have to set up everything all the characters do. It can be overwhelming and you can feel like there’s no end in sight.

At times I took breaks. I’d put the animation down and research things – pictures to inspire artwork, or how to do something in the software. How do I want to set this up? And at times I’d work on other projects.

These breaks helped tremendously. You can’t look at a long project like a diet: most people diet and then when the hell am I going to get off this thing? You need to look at it as something more, you need to see it as art. And at times you’ll need to get away from it so you can clear your mind and come back refreshed.

Celebrate the Victories, No Matter How Small
During this project there have been hours of work that frustrated me. I’d throw the work out, start over and try again. It would get a little better, but still wasn’t great.

Then I’d stop, research and seek out new approaches. I found some Anime Studio gurus over on YouTube who shared their knowledge for free. These guys were lifesavers. Implementing their approaches boosted the quality of my own work, and streamlined things significantly.

I’d fist-pump when something went right. I still do. And I’ll post a video for my friends and cast on Facebook so they can track the project.

Keep Creating
When a project is on a geologic timeline, it can be easy to throw your hands up and say you’re done with it. I knew early on that I couldn’t put all my other projects on hold while animating THE TRIP. So I’ve split my time into writing and animation cycles. There will be a few days or a week when I write; then I switch to animation. If I’m riding the wave, I do both.

Doing this helps me make sure I’m continuing to create, which goes a long way toward warding off project boredom. And it gives me much-needed breaks on a regular basis.

How about you? Have you tackled a long project like this? How’d it go?