How to start writing a comic book

Useful tips for getting into the world of comic book illustration

It’s long been a fact that if you lock the world’s greatest director and the world’s greatest writer in a room, they’d come up with a comic book. Well, we’re not entirely sure of that fact, but we think so for sure! Creating comic books can be a daunting (and incredibly labour-intensive) process, but here we have a few tips that can help you in making your own.

Pick a story that you can follow through with, at least for a while

Sometimes you’ll have a story brewing in your head for a while, full of life and wonder and characters that will pop straight off the page. But the thing is, can you see yourself sustaining this story beyond the bright first impression that you’re currently hovering over?

If you’re going to commit time and resources to creating and producing a comic book, you’re going to want to allow yourself the grace to pump as much energy and initiative into that title as possible. This means going with a story that you know you can write, not one that you think should be written.

Maybe the post-apocalyptic neo-noir revenge story seems more attractive than the straight-forward space pirate one, but if you can’t sustain the narrative trajectory required to make it an engrossing read that goes beyond the first issue, stick with the space pirates. You’ll be much happier 10 issues down the line and you still have a story to cover!

Write the story of your book before you do anything else

Speaking of story, this should always be the starting point for any comic book. Comics and graphic novels are a very visual medium, so you may be mistaken for thinking that the look and feel come first. this couldn’t be further from the truth, as the story or at least the narrative intuition always leads the visual execution. Thus, it’s important to focus on this before moving on to the other elements that make up your book. Start with a basic 3 act structure for your plot, and have a robust list of characters that you can drop in and out of the action and test how you are going to tell your storytelling style.

Set rules and plan layouts

Writing rules and planning layouts is basically your way of delineating expectations and making clear, comprehensive statements about how and what you want from your comic book. Layouts can be hastily cobbled together screenshots or doodles, but the rules should be thought out and deliberate.

If your book is in black and white, with occasional flashes of red, make sure this is a rule and clearly indicating somewhere in the text (or the brief if you’re not illustrating it yourself) so that everyone working on your title is aware of important creative decisions.

Indicate fonts, colours and general details that you find important or pertinent to your comic and ensure that everyone is aware of these before starting off and realising later that something is not in accordance with your vision.

Research methods

There are so many ways to skin this cat! (eeuw)

Have a look around at the ways people have constructed their own comic books in the past, from the way they write and present the script to their layouts and notes on scenes. Neil Gaiman will not write and pitch a story the same way as Greg Rucka, so take some time to do research and learn from the masters! The relationship between writer and artist is also a super important and complex thing, so watch a few tutorials on how to brief artists and how to effectively communicate visual expectations. It will help a lot in the long run, I assure.

Choose a publishing platform

When you have a comic that is ready to be seen by the world, take the same amount of care you did in making it in the act of publishing it! There are so many options for publishing your content nowadays, and experimenting with platforms and format has yielded incredibly positive results for some! Webtoon, Instagram and Twitter have also seen their fair share of amazing and innovative comic books expertly geared toward the platform itself, so try out different places and pick the one that best represents your creative efforts. If you want to go the traditional route and print it, research marketing strategies that help you do that successfully.

Written by Dante Ludolf