Comic Revolt with David Gillette: Breaking Into Comics
This week’s Comic Revolt begins the first installment of an ongoing look at breaking into the comic business as a writer by focusing on getting started. Each subsequent installment will look at the submission process, finding an artist, and models for publishing yourself.
Frankly, I have chosen to focus on this from the viewpoint of a writer because most major publishers accept artist submissions and do portfolio reviews at conventions.
Writers don’t have the same luxury afforded to them, but it’s not because of bias or lack of fairness. Quite simply, it’s easier to judge the work and ability of an artist from their portfolio than it is from looking at a writer’s pitch and script.
Having said that, the most important thing a writer can do to get noticed is by developing a plan of action. First, ask yourself this question – Do you have an idea that is compelling enough to be turned into a story? If you said yes, read on. If you said no, read on. Maybe you’ll find some inspiration.
Second, is this the kind of story that you want to personally tell? I ask because you better have your mind and heart into it or it will show up in the quality of the story. You may be a good or even great writer, but if you hope to truly connect with a readership, having a passion for your story goes a long way.
Now that we’ve determined that you do indeed have a passion for your story, let’s build things up. What kind of world is your story based in? What kind of characters would you develop to inhabit this world? Avatar Press offers a great read for developing story titled Alan Moore’s Writing for Comics.
Moore offers lots of good, common sense based ideas about organizing your thoughts into a story structure. For those just starting out, it’s a great way to get your sea legs and find direction with your writing.
Once you’ve accomplished the task of putting together a working structure for your story, it’s time to start developing a script. There are a few different screenplay or scripting programs out there, but I recommend a visit to the Dark Horse Comics submission page to download their scripting format. It has served me well and it’s geared towards comic book scripting.
Alright, now you have a script in the can and it’s time to find an artist to make a comic book with. Let’s put the brakes on that notion for a second. Chances are, you’ve been operating in a creative vacuum for an extended period of time and need to pass that script around to see how far you’ve come along in crafting a cogent and cohesive story.
More likely than not, there are a lot of first time mistakes in that script that need to be ironed out to make you look like a seasoned pro. That’s where a writer’s workshop comes in handy. There are a lot of options out there too.
Andy Schmidt, a professional editor, runs Comics Experience, a site dedicated to helping writer’s hone their craft into becoming professional, industry ready stories. They offer beginning and advanced courses on developing stories and scripts.
Also, you can get afternoon seminars at various comic conventions. A couple years back, Mark Waid participated in the Long Beach Comic Con writer’s workshop, offering important insights to developing your story to a literary level of craft. Take a look at what comic cons are happening in your local area to take advantage of learning from a pro.
You can also take things to a whole new level by enrolling in a comic writing class. I personally attended Sarah Lawrence College’s Summer Writers Seminar for graphic novels where I was able to workshop my script under the guidance of Batman writer Scott Snyder.
Snyder stressed the importance of working at your writing every single day no matter whether it was good or not. Doing this helps the process along to where your writing well more often than poorly.
We also looked at how a story comes together, focusing on beginnings, emotional arcs for characters, and finding your story’s voice. Each day, we would read two participants from our seminar’s scripts and offer our insights on what we thought the story was about, what worked, what wasn’t working, and how the story could be made better.
Snyder isn’t alone in trying to bring his insights to students of the medium. Brian Michael Bendis also teaches a comic writing class at Portland State University. Start doing some investigative work into who’s who in the industry and whether they offer instruction.
However, if you truly want to craft a great story as opposed to a good story, taking these steps can make a significant difference in crafting a story that will gain the notice of folks in the industry. No one becomes a superstar overnight. Writing is a process, but my goal is to help aspiring writers accelerate their learning curve.
Check back in next week as Comic Revolt examines your options once you have that script ready. We’ll also look into the submission process and attempt to demystify pitching your story.
Keep the conversation going with me on Twitter by following @DavidGillette1 or leaving a comment below.