Zinemaking 101 – how I make ’em

I got interviewed recently about my ‘practice’ as a zinemaker and ever since I’ve been thinking about how I go about making zines. Here are some facts I’ve learnt:

  • Making zines, as with most things in life, always takes much longer than you might expect. For example, issue 1 of the Angry Violist is a slender 16 pages long, but it still it took around three-four months to produce.
  • Unlike most types of writing, when you’re writing for a zine you don’t write to suit your audience, you write to suit yourself.
  • Taking a lot time to think ideas through is more important than the writing itself. It is akin to the relationship between viola practising and viola performing. Or maybe the old iceberg analogy is appropriate: 90% unseen and below the surface.

This is a zine, from start to finish, the way I see it:

1) Get ideas. From everywhere. The majority of ideas I have I end up thinking about for months: without writing anything down, I work out all the angles and approaches an article could take and think about what I want to say.

Mmmmm, books.

2) Research. I do a lot of reading on and around the subject. Most of my articles are spin-offs from questions raised by doing research about something else. For example, doing research for an article about Fluxus cellist Charlotte Moorman led to more ideas and research about prepared string instruments (which will be in Issue 5) and Fluxus and its relationship with stringed instruments.

Mmmmm, notebooks

3) Writing. This is the shortest, quickest part of all. Since I live with articles for some time, it’s a relatively fast and easy process to write. Especially because I am a lazy writer and do very little editing/redrafting. (Due to lessons learned during NaNoWriMo a few years ago, in which editing is completely verboten and speed is of the essence).

4) Cut’n’paste and make things look good. This is the stage that really takes much longer than you’d think. Always use really cheap pritt-stick so that you can easily unpick things. Number your pages too: it’ll save your head from exploding with confusion.

AV#1 proofs

5) Make one copy of the cut’n’pasted sheets and then send this to the printer to make further copies from, cos you don’t want your cut’n’pasted work falling apart in transit.

6) There is nothing like the feeling of getting a big stack of zines back from the printers, and you can now sit down with a cuppa, regard your handiwork and notice all the spelling mistakes that you didn’t see before.

7) Onwards forever onwards with the next issue… go back to step #1 and repeat.