All About Writing (for comics)

I don’t think I’m very good at writing. Sure, I like to write, and it’s much less time-intensive to tell a story in the written medium than any visual medium (just facts, not hate), but I’ve never much been good at weaving words together to paint pictures. I prefer to… well, paint pictures. That won’t cut it when you want to delve into comics, for obvious reasons.

When faced with the prospect of writing Self-Conclusion (my webcomic stuck on hiatus), I thought writing more in a small amount of time and just drawing for as long as I could would be the best bet. Maybe it is for some, but for me it didn’t work out- I got too excited about what was coming to care about what was happening now. I think, personally, that if you write a rough draft for the future (I’m a believer of knowing where you’re going before starting to drive) and stick to the present, it’s easier and you won’t lose motivation. Of course, now I have a writer helping me with Memento Vivere, so…

I am working on What Has Been Lost, my novel in the works, but I find myself skipping around. I’m not interested in the now, I want it to be done. That’s the trouble with art, the creation process is long and it requires work so it feels longer. When writing for comics, though, I find I have a few tips here found from various sources and also gleaned from personal experience.

  1. Have an End Goal, but don’t get Attached.

Put simply, don’t dwell on the end, or any one part of the story. The story needs to be appreciated for its whole. Of course you need to be excited for what you write in the future, but you need to do your best to be equally excited about the part you’re currently working on. If you think it’s boring, your audience probably thinks it’s even more boring. Be excited, because if you’re not, how can you expect your audience to be? Often (not always) your readership is only about 20% as interested as you are. Or at least, that’s a good rule of thumb. If you’re passionate, it will show.

2. Don’t sweat over Dialogue so much!

Dialogue is hard- ask anyone (except savants). You’re not sure if what you’re writing is how you would put it or if it’s how your character would put it, and sometimes you’re not sure if anything should be said at all. What about smart characters? What if they’re smarter than you? How would they speak? You don’t want them to sound like they’re from the 1800’s, right?

To you, my advice is to chill.I can’t count the number of times Ellen (MV Writer) has said, “I really am almost done, the dialogue is just giving me problems.” Relax! Writing dialogue when you’re fretting about it is not going to work. Often, especially if you’re writing for your own comic, the words will come to you when you’re bubbling- not that I recommend writing all the dialogue at the last second. What I’m trying to say is this: Write out what you would say, or what you think the character would say, and move on. Certain text can’t fit in certain bubbles, and sometimes seeing the emotion on their face will help. Make the final tweaks at the last minute, not the full conversation.

3. Establish the scene, write the dialogue…. You’re 99% done.

Don’t spend so long on establishing exactly what needs to be in each panel. I find the creativity of knowing I can establish their positions in the scene and their movements throughout as well as their emotions makes it 100% easier to draw. If you get attached to something specific, you’ll just make yourself feel like garbage if you can’t recreate it on paper, and how often can we really draw what we imagine? Almost never, or if you’re like me, just never.

So, my advice is to establish a scene, write what needs to be said (not necessarily how exactly it’s said), record actions as needed. Nothing else. Move on! Don’t even fret over layout- if it makes sense to you that’s all that matters.

 

Maybe you already knew all that, or maybe I’m too disorganized of a comic planner for you. That’s fine as well! There’s really no correct way to do a comic- it all depends on you. Some people need a structured script with keys and exact dialogue to do any work, other people get stressed out by the mere concept of writing it down beforehand. Hey, if you can skip a step or give yourself more framework, more power to you.

More importantly: Create. Just go.

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