To write comics and graphic novels, you must have an engaging and interesting idea that appeals to a broad audience. If you don’t believe wholeheartedly in your message and the tale you’re spinning, you may find completing your comic or graphic novel challenging. Follow these tips for getting your graphic novel idea from your mind to the page.
Understanding the Genre
The first step in becoming a comic or graphic novel writer is to read graphic novels and comic books. If you are unfamiliar with comic books or graphic novel format, take the time to research some comic books you might like and read them. Don’t order the e-book versions. Instead, pick up the graphic novel in physical form so you can study the colors, formatting, and design.
It’s not just about having a good idea; producing a graphic novel from start to finish is a transformative process. As with all creative writing, making sequential art that tells a story is challenging. You want to create something genuine that has never existed, and that’s hard work.
Before you put pen to paper, you need to know which you’re writing: A graphic novel or comic book.
Comic Book or Graphic Novel?
There are some definite differences between these two forms. Graphic novels contain a complete narrative, even if they’re part of a more extensive series. Each issue should have a thorough beginning, middle, and end.
Comic books are shorter than graphic novels and are usually serialized narratives centering on one or more characters. It can be challenging to follow the storyline if you haven’t read the previous issues.
Examples of graphic novels include Maus and Amulet; comic books include Saga or The X-Men. Graphic novels are a dedicated venture, so when you’re ready to write, be prepared to put plenty of time and effort into fleshing out your characters, settings, plot, and other fine narrative details.
Prewriting Your Graphic Novel
Many people who write creatively talk about prewriting, but what does that mean? Prewriting is everything you do before you put pen to paper. It involves brainstorming story ideas, storyboarding, outlining, and more.
When you’re not actively in the writing stage of a good story, you can use some techniques to help you come up with more ideas, deepen the ones you have, and decide on characters and plot points.
Brainstorm Your Ideas
Some people use chalkboards or dry erase boards to edit their ideas and move them around quickly. Others want to keep their brainstorms close so they can refer back to them while writing and include them in a notebook or a file on their computer.
Likely no one will see your brainstorming ideas but you, so don’t hold back.
Some brainstorming methods include mind maps, The 5 Whys, and even backward planning: Beginning at the end of your graphic novel’s plot and working backward.
Develop Your Cast of Characters
Your characters are the heart of your comic strips or graphic novel projects. Developing the characters is a critical part of the writing process. Think about who will be the hero or protagonist of your story; this is the character that readers should root for. While it’s hard to create a hero as iconic as Frank Miller’s Batman, this is the part of the writing process where you can let your imagination run wild.
Write out character descriptions to clearly depict your protagonist, antagonist, and other key players. Include details of their physical appearance and list some adjectives that describe their personality. Include interests, significant life events, and unique quirks that bring the character off the page into the reader’s mind.
These minute details give your readers a personal connection to the characters.
If you’re stuck when developing a baseline for characters, look at archetypal character types. These stereotypes give you an outline for your villain or your hero.
Storyboard Your Big Ideas
Especially useful for graphic novels, storyboards can also be used for full-length novels. In this technique, you break your story into chapters and create a separate drawing for each one, laying out the project panel by panel. This part of the journey gives you your basic story structure.
In some writing workshops, they ask you to put the action of the segment above the drawing and the emotions your main character feels below it (if the feelings or actions change, you can write it out like chagrin > disappointment).
Drawing aspects for your plot in a storyboard can help you visualize your plot points and characters. You can hand draw the panels using stick figures or get creative and use software like Adobe Illustrator. Each comic creator has their own process for storyboarding, so find what feels natural for you.
For a comic book writer, this can be incredibly helpful in the visualization process to bring your story to life.
Outlining Your Graphic Novel
An outlining method can be used as a guide to writing your comic or graphic novel projects. Be as detailed as you can while outlining, but don’t focus on the formatting. Use bullet points, numbered lists, or separate pages to organize your thoughts.
You don’t always have to stick to your outline, especially when changing critical points about characters or the storyline. Draft a new outline to incorporate any changes.
Deciding on Format and Design
If you plan on inking and drawing your images, you won’t need to send much out. However, if you, like many writers, aren’t great at drawing human anatomy, you should treat your story as a script when you get ready to send it to an artist.
This script can contain precise details and leave room for the artist’s imagination to work. Be creative with the character’s dialogue, incorporating speech bubbles within the comic strip panels to supplement the prose.
Once you send your script off, you’ll get back a rough sketch of how that segment appears. After incorporating any edits or suggestions, the artist mocks up a black-and-white version for approval. Most likely, after this stage, the draft moves to the colorist, who may or may not be the same person as the artist.
Printing Your Finished Book
More so than novels or short stories, graphic novels are collaborative efforts. Unless you’re multi-talented and plan on writing, drawing, coloring, inking, and lettering your entire story, you may be working with someone else.
When you reach the final stages and have a polished draft you can be proud of, c onsider Comix Well Spring as the publisher for your comic or graphic novel. Comix Well Spring offers a range of choices, including the paper type and coloring of your interior and cover, gloss levels, and the number of issues you’d like to print on your first run.