Learning to Write Comics

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I’m currently just under two weeks away from launching the Kickstarter for the first two issues of my first comic series ‘Vampires Of Hungary: The Holy Roman Empire’.  It’s took me over 13 years of reading comics and over 6 years of writing everything from screenplays to reviews to get into writing comics. Which is a long time and one of the reasons for that is overestimating how different it is to write comics. Therefore, as we’re all comic book readers here I thought I’d share some advice that hopefully will make some of you readers try your hand at writing.

First concern for comic book writing is how do you learn the craft? How much detail do you put in description? How do you even layout the script? Is it something like playwriting?

Like with any craft there are thousands of books out there with people expressing their opinions, although many tend to focus on the comic art process not writing.  Stan Lee’s How To Write Comics is a good starting point as it covers lots of aspects of writing but in a basic easy to read way. Dan Clooney’s Illustrating and Writing The Graphic Novel though is my personal favourite as it has analyses example panels showing how the description led itself to the creation of the panel and has lots of questions on what you should consider when writing a panel, a character, even a story. Even the books which focus mainly on the art are important to read because you get an understanding for what the artists needs to create your story and a better idea on the terms and possibilities of comics. Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics is a great example of the latter.

Some people learn more by doing than reading and there are several free online comic courses although again the focus of most is on art.  One that focuses on all aspects is Making Comics available at https://www.coursera.org/learn/make-comic-books. This a project led course which will have you focus on a different aspect of comic creation from concept to writing to several different stages of art each week. To progress on the course you post your work, review feedback from fellow students (or if you pay, from the teachers) and give feedback. The aim of the course is to have a short mini comic created by the end but if you only want to learn writing just do the relevant weeks. There’s tons of articles and resources from top writers and artists to read and they have a full website at http://www.makingcomics.com/ with even more on a regular podcast.

Of course as you begin writing you will come across specific problems in your own writing or maybe you would like feedback and there’s several places you can try for this. Comic Book Hour has an active community and you can advertise for an artist there (more on that in my next post) and on Facebook I’ve found The CVA (a Community for UK-based Comics Creatives) useful.

By looking at the above books and sites you will have a firm grasp of what comic book writing entails, the different ways to format your script, even how many words is too many for a speech balloon (35 apparently). Now all you need to do is sit down and write your script. Next time I’ll look at finding an artist.

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