got a letter with some great questions, and i get asked some of these questions a lot, so i thought i'd put the reply here for everyone's entertainment:
hi lord voldemort!
1) focusing on just one story is and has always been a problem for me. i feel that i've only got it under control in the last year by being ruthless and avoiding even a peek at certain project folders.
2) another thing that helps, both in sticking to one thing, and in moving that one thing forward, is having hard deadlines/goals. for example, i was noodling with dare from at least 1996 (it was a terrible RPG before then). but finally, in the spring of 2002, i said "enough is enough" and set the goal of having a 14pg ashcan to sell/pitch at SDCC. well the ashcan part fell apart, so i printed up a bunch of dare sketchbooks and just hopped on the plane. met dark horse and explained the premise and an idea of a few plots, (probably whipped out a folder of sketches, if i know me,) and tossed in a sketchbook. having the goal of putting something together by a specific point (comiccon), for a specific end (showing editors) helped focus me tremendously.
3) once you are hired for something and have deadlines, it's like school, much easier to motivate yourself to get it done. although, if you are like me, there is the terrible temptation (especially early on, when the deadline is so comfortably far away) to go crazy with things like character designs, then rush some of the actual story/drawing part later on. which is a terrible plan.
4) a good way to keep motivated is to actually look away from your project, finding outside things to incorporate. everyone needs a break, but you might (for example) go to the museum and find interesting armor or animals or whatever that you can cannibalize for your project. that way it feels that less is set in stone from the beginning, with the rest of the project being just rote completion.
i have also deliberately left certain parts of stories open-ended at the writing phase (starting with WW), so that i feel like i'm still contributing something new -- and even surprising myself -- as the work progresses. in the case of WW, etta was a very minor character who was actually cut from the first installment. but i liked her, so i worked her into the 6th part. turns out she really helped that part work much better than had i gone with my original treatment, and in the end she was so useful for the story (and fun for me) that her role expanded throughout the rest of the project.
5) you can do a whole book as pitch, and sometimes it helps, but i wouldn't. you should have at least 4-6 pages finished, both so editors can get a feel for the story and rhythm and how the final book would look and read, and also so they know you can actually tell a story (both as a writer, and as an artist). too many finished pages lock you into a story you might want to change. some editors/publishers also look askance at too much completion, as a sign that you are set in everything and unwilling to be flexible and to make the best project as they see it.
you should also have at least a rough outline, if not a rough script, so they can get an idea of how the story opens, all the exciting stuff, and how it ends. if you're meeting them in person, you might not need it all typed out if you can explain it both clearly and concisely, but that's rare among creators. but if you're sending them stuff, they'll need some idea of what happens. also, some sort of character bible. nothing fancy, just an idea of who the main characters are, what they do and why, how it affects the story, and why we should care. a few words (and art!) about what makes the world they live in interesting also helps.
when i first showed dare to DH, as i said it was very informal. but they were interested enough to ask for a formal pitch, which i believe included:
a) thumbnailed first issue (32pp),
b) a list of 10 case synopses (mostly a paragraph or 2, like the blurbs you read on back covers)
c) 10 character pages with sketches, very basic backgrounds, personalities, relationships etc
d) a few random sketches and notes of the dare world, wacky scenes etc
i've shown another potential project to a few publishers, and some have wanted a full outline or script, others have been interested solely based on this mini-website "pitch" that has characters, the enviro, a VERY brief (4 sentences) concept background, and very little about the actual plot (and no sample pages). so sometimes if the project looks interesting enough, or if you show it to the right person at the right time, you can skip some of the other things. although even then, people will usually want to see a little more meat before giving you lump of cash and a deadline.
and that's all i can think of for now. let me know if you think of anything else!
it is possible i changed the recipient's name. it is also possible that i am an evil wizard. who knows?