How to get better at writing comics?

Think your comic can improve? Whether it's art or writing, composition or colouring, feel free to ask here! Critique and commentary welcome.

Postby LibertyCabbage on Tue Nov 13, 2007 6:56 am

mysticela wrote:some of the best writing occurs with not planning it, and just making it up as you go along ^_^


This is completely wrong, unless you have a very different idea of "the best writing" than I do.
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Postby Jackhass on Sat Dec 01, 2007 2:13 pm

LibertyCabbage wrote:
mysticela wrote:some of the best writing occurs with not planning it, and just making it up as you go along ^_^


This is completely wrong, unless you have a very different idea of "the best writing" than I do.


Don't be a jerk...there's no such thing as a "completely wrong" way to write. A lot of top selling authors would agree with Mysticela (Stephen King for instance is famous for essentially making it up as he goes along).
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Postby Jen_Babcock on Wed Dec 12, 2007 1:50 pm

Here are my tips:

1) The best way to improve your writing is with practice. I know my writing has improved over the years, and I think the same is true for everyone else here. It's a matter of getting the hang of your medium and writing naturally.

2) Make sure all of your characters stay in character- don't sacrifice their personality for the sake of the punchline/to make a point.

3) I've found it best to learn how to be concise. You don't need to put mundane conversations in your comic to better reflect "real life" (unless the whole point of the comic is to be mundane)- eliminate unecessary words.

Also remember how your dialogue will work with the images that you put in each panel- arrange your speech bubbles so that the reader can easily follow the flow of the conversation.
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Postby Lei on Wed Dec 12, 2007 3:50 pm

Here's mine:

1) Be an artist. Get someone else to do your writing.


:D

(I've yet to write a word for Turning Point. My buddy Brad does all the scripts, I just draw folks with their clothes half torn off!)
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Postby Inshue on Sat Dec 22, 2007 4:33 pm

When it comes to comics...

Plan. Planplanplanplanplanplan. And the writing can still be made up as you go along, just before you draw the comic part. It always helps to have a clear idea of where you're going before you start drawing. This way, you can have a better idea of the pacing and layout, and also of how to show your characters reacting. If you start making the comic up as you draw it, you're torn between two focuses. Eventually, you'll probably wind up rambling without having done anything of any consequence.

So have your ideas planned before you draw. It really helps.
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Postby Mindfeck on Thu Jan 17, 2008 10:06 am

I took a creative writing course. It probably helped. Here are some important tips:

1. Writing is rewriting. There is often a better way to express your idea.
2. Show it to a focus group, they often can help you determine if something makes sense or can be done better.
3. Whenever you have an idea, write it down. Extrapolate more ideas from it. Always think "What if?"
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Postby Jessi_B on Thu Jan 17, 2008 6:35 pm

If I'm unsure about a joke or the way dialogue is going, I'll get someone else to look at it (mainly Matt, since, well, that's his job). There are times when I'll get someone to read it cold to see what their reaction is. It works the same way with the artwork; if I'm not sure about how something looks, I'll get someone to look at it and give me their opinion.

I don't necessarily follow every suggestion, but I have found that it's helped me greatly in improving what I do. I guess I'm kind of used to it, though - art classes usually have critique sessions for this reason.

Also, I keep a notepad by the bed. Matt will bring one with him when we go out. If we remember or do something funny, we write it down and go over it later. We just make sure that it's decipherable.
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby Smelch on Thu Feb 28, 2008 5:32 pm

I'm going to barge in here with my first post...

I've just read through this thread, and found quite a lot of the tips handy, and something to think about later. One of the things I did get from it is that everyone seems to have their own style or method of writing. What works for one person is crap for another. Thats another thing to think about. Do I take careful note of all the advice in here, or just use it as a rough guideline?

I'll admit to being new to this whole writing thing, so you can probably ignore everything I'm about to say.

1) Write as much background for your characters as possible.

The way I see it, it doesn't matter if none of your background material makes it into the comic, its there to put you right. Its essentially a how-to for that character. Things that happened in their past affect how they act today, so having that down in type seems like a good idea. It'll keep a consistency too, avoid background stories shifting around as you try to shape characters to fit plots. Set their background down before you even start writing. Background doesn't have to go into intricate detail about every aspect of their lives up to this point, just the important parts that shape how they fit into the story and interact with other characters.

2) Write as much background on your universe.

Same as with the characters, the more background information you have on the universe your story takes place in, the more detail you can pour into the finished product. Consistency in story needs to be maintained, so setting out a timeline of events relevant to your story helps. It doesn't matter if you're writing a comic about people in space, a couples life and marriage or whatever, they inhabit a specific universe. It affects them, and they have their places in it. Set out in advance what that place is.

3) Revise.

As I said, I've only been writing a short time, but one of the things I have noticed is that after scripting a major part of a first story arc, I went back and re-read it. I hated parts of it, characters were acting wrong and the dialogue didn't flow naturally. So I re-wrote parts of it. Then I sent the script as it stood to the artist I'm working with. I wrote a little more, looked at thew background material I'd written and rewrote another big portion from the start. Every time I revise, it seems to work a bit better, so don't be afraid to revise your script, because chances are, it'll be improving on it.

4) Follow your plot.

When I started writing my storyline, I had as the initial idea, the start of the story for several arcs and an end to the whole comic. I wrote down a basic overview of the first arcs, then started fleshing it out. The further into the script I wrote, the more it deviated from what I had planned out. Rather than following a set path, the storyline just seemed to naturally go in a different direction, still ending at the same resolution, but more naturally than what I'd originally planned. I think its better to allow your story to evolve during writing and just work from a basic plotpoint framework.

5) Communicate.

I'm an Artlexic. I can make stickmen look wrong. I need an artist to work with. Communicating with the guy I'm working with at the moment is really important. He's more than just "some bloke what does drawings", ratehr he's coming into something that I've thought up and brought his own ideas into the mix. I think its important to be able to talk to whoever you work with and be able to bounce ideas off them. It just seems a better way of doing things than saying "This is what I want, this is how I want it drawn. Do it.".

Anyway, sorry for the long, rambling post. These are my opinions and as such probably don't count as I'm both inexperienced and a complete n00b.
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby Parables on Sun Mar 09, 2008 2:28 am

Planning is brilliant, a good idea. Just a newb, but I've found so far that comics require a lot more planning than regular prose. There's such a huge gap between the initial idea and the final result that you can't help but refine over and over. And why go to all that work if you don't know where you're going next? Not planning for the future of the plot is an excellent recipe for writer's block.

On the other hand, I'd like to warn against too much planning. I've fallen into this trap, and I have a friend who, in the short time I've known him, has exquisitely planned out a million different projects and not begun a single one.

At a certain point, you have to stop yourself, and just pick up the damn pen/mouse/pencil and GO.

zefrank put it perfectly:

I'm interested in this flip from zero to one, this confidence to start things, because I look at creative projects like they were Sudoku puzzles. You can stare at them as long as you like but you won't suddenly see all the numbers. You have to start. You have to find one box to fill in. And from that, another one reveals itself.


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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby Harishankar on Sun Mar 09, 2008 3:12 am

I currently write/draw 2-panel gag comics, and I find that even there if I have a script, I find I need to vary it in the final strip because the words which make sense without pictures suddenly seem not to fit well in the picture.

For a large comic project, I believe having a broad outline script is necessary but I believe a majority of the individual panels will turn out to be different from what was initially planned. So don't waste too much time in planning because the words will always be fluid and subject to change.

For graphic novelists/comic artists, it's much more important to visualize the story rather than verbalize it. In other words, I believe that the two steps of planning and production are fluid and never rigidly separated.
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby Nikara on Tue Jun 24, 2008 7:31 pm

if you're a writer like me who has multiple stories whose characters seem VERY similar, try to imagine that all of the characters you've EVER created are sitting in the same room together. How would they react to one another? That helps me develop more distinct characters :)
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby Metruis on Sun Jun 29, 2008 5:37 pm

(Long post ahead, summary at the end!)

I will argue vehemently with anyone who tells me the only good way to write is by planning, outlining, or writing huge panels of background on everything and anything before starting to write.

No, the people who claim that--you guys--you might be right for you but there's aproximately a 50/50 split between the writers who plan and the writers who don't.

I don't.

This is why.

On the other hand, I'd like to warn against too much planning. I've fallen into this trap, and I have a friend who, in the short time I've known him, has exquisitely planned out a million different projects and not begun a single one.

At a certain point, you have to stop yourself, and just pick up the damn pen/mouse/pencil and GO.


Said perfectly, though I disagree with other things said--and I'm a writer first, artist second. Overplanning kills. What I disagree with is this.

Not planning for the future of the plot is an excellent recipe for writer's block.

Not for everyone. Meet ME! Tiana! Who only really suffers writers block if she knows what's going to happen. This causes slightly remote problems with her writing because she can't preplan fics or anything, she has to write without much of an idea of what's going to happen. Seat of the pants writer, and she's not wrong, she's just one of many writers who writes this way. Nanowrimo is her muse, a month of frantic, and supposedly bad writing, the best way she's found to produce anything. If she wants to write something long, she waits til November and finds that, with a crappy start comes an amazing story. She realizes not many people can write like her... not many people can jump into a story with no idea of setting, characters, or plot, and produce from beginning to end a novel that makes some remote sense to other people, and in a month make it readable... but she winces every time someone says 'but you can't write that way!'

Because she does. ;)

Hence my tip for writing: there are no rules for writing. Find what works for you. Find what inspires you to go and don't decide 'but since all these other people write like this, I should be too' and kill your muse. Find something that works. If that's 50 pages of background material, maps and details and drawings and everything... then whatever, do that. If you're like me, and that's 30 days of manical writing at top speed to produce over 100k and a nearly finished novel, hey. And if you need a background wiki, hey, that's fine too.

Find what works to keep you writing.

And then, tip number two.

FINISH IT.

Look, maybe you're writing a novel. Great. Finish it before you edit it. Maybe you're writing a script, as mentioned here. Finish it! You can work off an outline, or you can write the whole thing first. I have a single draft of my webcomic script, nearly finished, with an outline to the end. I'm editing it as I draw. It works for me. I wrote the thing in a month for ScriptFrenzy, it's surprisingly coherent for all that and where things need to be changed, I'm changing in the rough pencils and changing as necessary as I carry through the art.

The only preplanning I do now is generally in my head. I'll take NOTES, that's it. I have all these scribbled bits of notes and backgrounds, but nothing really 'readable'. I keep Notepad files on my desktop to drop these things in. For the original writing, I might start with a few pictures, and then write from there. Things can evolve as I go.

For comic writing, find a way that works. Maybe you'll want to write from narrative, maybe you'll want a TV script, whatever. Mine's formatted roughly like a movie script with excess description of emotions and blah. I would highly suggest finding what works best for you as an artist.

And then, if you're writing, write ahead! You don't need to finish, though I'd advocate it, just write ahead. Have an outline to the end, at least, so you're not bouncing around. Writing from the seat of your pants ONLY works in novel format... in comic, remember, you can't go back and edit once you've drawn, so you want all the plot devices planted ahead of time. If you hate outlines to death, at least have a list of plot things to plant and stuff.

For a gag a day strip, I suspect it'd work differently. I think for 'yay, serious stuff'. ;) No jokes in my brain, not so much.

And don't sacrifice characterization for jokes. I hate that. I think a lot of readers hate that.


And, as mentioned once before. LISTEN TO YOUR CHARACTERS, THEY ARE SMARTER THAN YOU SOMETIMES AND CAN DO AWESOMELY HORRIBLE THINGS.

Of course, you can always drop them into acid if their ideas are... ahem. Yeah. Let your characters come to life in your mind. It's nothing to be afraid of. Let it happen!

Meh, almost done rambling. I leave you with one more writing tip.

"WHO is doing WHAT to WHOM and WHY THE HELL SHOULD I CARE? What is it, and why should I care?"

It was the best description of a query letter (thank Miss Snark) I ever read, I wrote it out and stuck it on my whiteboard as well as a few notes on a couple other things.

And that's the base of a plot. It might come out to be more than that. Who might be more than one person. There might be several whats. In my case, I might go (omg spoiler) 'Mysada is haunting Dreshae, trying to use him to regain her body' for one of my lines of plot, which is one out of a few that interwind, but each one of these I can summarize into a sentence or two. You need to be able to summarize the motive of your characters, and what they're doing, in not that many words. If you can't, it's probably too complex--or lacking a plot, there's a difference between plot and concept. Concept is a WHAT.

Plot is a why or a how.

Concept is 'Elves are trying to take over the world'.

Plot is "The only way to stop them is to build a portal between worlds and drive them into the abyss!"

But yeah, basically...

1) Find a way that works for you.
2) WRITE!!! Don't get caught up outlining or editing to death!
3) Let your characters write for you.
4) Make sure you have a clear grasp of your plot and concept before you try to draw it.
5) Because these are what you're going to be using to hook readers. ;)

I consider myself a better writer than an artist.
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby Industrialpowersart on Mon Jul 07, 2008 10:46 am

I am not even a writer, but i want to chime in anyway. I am an artist. I am in on the plot creation of the comic that I draw, however. I am also aware that part of the storytelling involved in the webcomic is my job. If the art did not further the action in some way, this might as well be a novel. For instance, the writer does not have to tell the audience how a character feels at any given moment if i am doing my job, because you can see it on their face. The words and art should have a very close relationship. You should need both at all times.

Something I have noticed a lot of webcomickers doing that most non-hack professional writers know better than to do is something known as the "Mary Sue phenomenon". This is when the author writes themselves into a story, usually in idealised form. there are many reasons to avoid this trap. If anyone catches you at it, it's dead embarrassing. Ultimately, unless the story is based on your life, the character will become someone else as the story progresses, and if you're too tied into this character being "like you", it may be hard to let them advance as their own entities. If you have to kill them off, as was already mentioned once in this thread, it can be more emotionally involving than it should have been. Finally, this may make you focus on that character to the detriment of all others. (for professional examples of how this can go horribly, horribly wrong, check out recent books by Mercedes Lackey and Laurell K. Hamilton.)
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby Joel Fagin on Sat Jul 12, 2008 5:35 pm

Mary Sues do have occassional uses. The first novel-length work I wrote (I won't call it a novel) had a character who was based on me. I figured something novel-length would be hard enough and just inserted myself to make at least one part of it easy to do.

As it turned out, the guy mutated into someone else anyway but I didn't have to think about it, which was the point.

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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby Dreamaniaccomic on Sat Jul 12, 2008 6:04 pm

Look for inspiration wherever you feel like. My comics are 50% reality, and 50% totally made up. I find it best when I can draw from a variety of inspirations, since it gives me a variety of jokes.
I kind of alternate between planning and improv- sometimes I have a very clear idea of what joke I want to make, and the rest of the time I have no idea where a comic will end up.
But the best, always applicable advice?
Practice your rear end off.
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby Grimm on Sat Aug 30, 2008 5:39 pm

Note: I am only speaking in the context of writing something with an ensemble (more than 2 "main" characters) with a continuous or semi-continuous storyline of the "moderately serious" genre - "funny" comics or ones that are more contained (like traditional daily strips in the paper) will benefit little or none from this.

I've found for me personally that gaming has helped immensely with characters and plots. I've been playing various kinds of RPGs (tabletop and larp, not this imitation computer "it's kinda an rpg" nonsense) for most of my life (started playing D&D in 5th grade, back in 1989). I started LARPing (live action RP) in '97 and it's helped (despite being incredibly dorky) because:

1) As a Player, you only get one Character at a time. Final Fantasy and its clones aside, in most games (especially larps) you only get one character, who isn't actually you. Which means you have to practice developing a character, getting inside their head THEN playing the character and doing what you think the character would do in a given situation (and still trying to complete The Objective, whatever it happens to be). I've played literally hundreds of characters over the years, in various games and settings, and it helps you develop things. Several gamers in the LARP groups I've played in have even commented that when I'm playing a character, even if I've not done the costuming for it, they can tell who I'm playing just because I start to use the character's body language and such EVEN BEFORE I start talking. Words, dialect, etc help define the character as well.

2) As a Plot Person/GM/DM/etc: You have two major things to accomplish as Plot - You have to create a world that the Players can connect with (including environment, factions, other characters ranging from the mayor to the guy who sells fish on the street corner) AND provide A Challenge for the Players to overcome. On the outset this doesn't sound too difficult, but what you quickly find is that the Players, who have established identities and personalities, will usually not do things the way you thought they would, and you have to guide them to the right place without them feeling like you've done that (alternatively, you can just let them go in that other direction, but only VERY good Plot people can ad-lib new, interesting challenges completely on-the-fly).

From those two actions you get a few cool perks as practice: As a player your other players will usually provide pretty good feedback if you're making a "good" character (good in the sense that they're done well, not good like opposite of evil) and if you rotate characters between different games you rapidly learn some skills towards character building/design/etc (and don't think that character development in a medieval genre isn't useful for a sci-fi comic - generally speaking a personality is a personality no matter where/when it is).You also get to see what kinds of characters other people create, and if it's an area you have trouble with you can hang out with a more experienced gaming group and they can even help you learn to build more dynamic characters. Many of the characters in my stories are based off of not real people, but characters I either played or those of people I played with.

If you run a Plot, you get semi-instant feedback after (sometimes during) a game about your pacing, what they thought of your secondary characters, overall storyline, and dozens of other things so you can get a better grip on what your specific weaknesses are as a writer. You learn to plan effectively - where you know what you want and a general direction on how to get there, but how to also sit back and let the characters be the characters (and in gaming you don't have a choice since YOU don't get to control MY character). After you've been doing it a while you learn to set up scenarios in a manner that it's a bit easier to predict where the characters will go and what they'll do because you set things up to "bait" them into doing what you wanted them to anyways (For example, if for a Plot most of the characters want to storm the castle, but I'm not ready to let them do it, I know that I can toss out a scrap of information about some long-lost magical tome and two of my characters will drop EVERYTHING mid-sentence to go after it - and convince the others to go along - even if they think it means sacrificing the main goal... I got the stall I wanted and to the Players it's completely transparent).

Give it a try - in addition to building skills you also might find a fun new hobby (one that REALLY likes creative people like writers and artists).

Overall, my process is:

Develop characters - MOST of my prep time is spent here. There are some WONDERFUL character creation guides out there for gamers that are equally useful for writers. Just find a game that matches your genre and look for character creation guides for it. Even games that don't match your genre might be useful. Aside from basic personality, the things I like to know about my characters are: family background, religious beliefs, values, physical build and WHY - if you have a skinny character are they skinny because they work out? Metabolism? Eating disorder? Active lifestyle? - any one of those things could be a big deal. One of the characters in my book is super-skinny. Why? She's a mechanic who's borderline OCD and when she gets started on a project she forgets everything else - including eating - when she's "in the zone". Most fat people aren't just fat - they either have incredibly slow metabolisms, don't break down food properly, eat to much or aren't active enough. How does your ripply muscled studly warrior main character keep their build up? Adding minor injuries and a backstory for them can be invaluable. Limps, glasses, burns, scars, tattoos, etc can all be VERY effective for rounding out a character. How about faults? One of my main characters is the sister of the main warrior fighter type guy, she's basically the brains while he's the muscle but she REALLY wishes she was as cool in combat as some of the people they associate with. She started taking drugs like steroids and stuff to enhance her adrenaline and such (fictional futuristic world, so "combat drugs' are available) and part of the story dealt with her growing drug addiction. Everyone you know has advantages, disadvantages and skills that make them unique. Why did johnny become a doctor? You can go with the boring "'cuz daddy was" or maybe johnny watched someone die when he was little and wasn't able to help them 'cuz he didn't know how and so he spent his whole life learning so he'd never be put in that situation again.

During the development of the characters the antagonist emerges (or is created) depending on the type of conflict. In a normal action/adventure, the antagonist is usually a "bad guy" who is doing something bad and the heroes have to stop them. What are they doing and why? Stop trying to take over the world, come up with something more interesting. Or at least put a creative spin on it. Even in Star Wars, Darth Vader and the Emperor were just trying to quash a rebellion that threatened their empire, there wasn't the maniacal "destroy the world" slant EVEN THOUGH they had TWO space stations capable of ACTUALLY DESTROYING THE WORLD. In a more drama/relationship styled story, there's usually another suitor for the affection of pretty girl or soemthing of that nature, what does the antagonist do in order to get pretty girl? And in a crime style comic, what method does the killer use for their crimes and why do they choose their targets?

*I* find that scripting plot is usually somewhat backwards. I usually decide what the climax/ending is going to be and sometimes even go so far as to script it out, then figure out where the characters start, maybe script it out, figure out a few key points in the run (with loose scripting), then just go for it. ONCE you've identified your key scenes, let the characters do the driving and just put up some things to bump them back on track if they go too far off the path. Guide the characters from scene to scene (letting them sidetrack if need be) until they hit the end.

THEN revise.

There's no sense in revising over and over and over again as you go - because you might find you've written yourself in a corner, have to go back several scenes and have the characters go another way, and you may end up just simply throwing out entire chunks of the story. If you've invested a ton of time into editing, you've more than significantly upped your workload for what amounts to a negative gain (since all that time is now "lost"). After it's done and you feel like the story is solid (solid != perfect) THEN go back, revise/edit as many times as you need to before you feel it's good enough (and it's never going to be perfect, so figure out what your personal "good enough" line is and stop once you get there).

I do know some authors who like to do a REALLY loose script first to kinda make sure the characters are going to go where they want and events are going to happen a certain way, THEN they go back, add detail, the "filler" dialog, etc, and that seems to work well for them. For a webcomic that's pretty much what I'd do if I was starting over with a fresh story (my partner and I are doing ours based on novels that have already been written, so the plot, characters, etc are already done, we just have to bring them out on paper).

But seriously - try gaming. It's dorky/geeky/nerdy but immensely useful.
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby Tyler_james on Wed Oct 01, 2008 7:00 am

I would strongly suggest that any aspiring comics writers, or even pros who find themselves in a rut, consider seeking out comics writing class in their area. Comics and graphic novel writing are hot courses at continuing and adult education programs around the country. They're usually relatively inexpensive. Here are 5 reasons (from personal experience) why I think taking such a course is a good idea:

* You will get your scripts and works-in-progress actually read. It's no secret that it's tough out there for aspiring writers. There are tons of places on the net where you can post artwork and get praise or critiques. But it's a lot harder to get strangers to take the time to sift through scripts and WIPs and actually give you valuable feedback. During a recent comic writing course, I had the opportunity to have six short scripts read by several different eyes, and each of those projects was the better for it.

* Make Connections. Face it, creating comics is not the most social activity in the world. You log long hours in front of a computer screen typing away or sitting at your drawing table slugging away at page after page. It's largely a solo endeavor. So getting out there and meeting fellow creators face to face is a good thing. You might even find someone to collaborate with on projects in the future.

* You don't know everything, but you do have valuable knowledge to share. There's a great wide world of comics out there. Taking a course exposed me to a whole bunch of webcomics I never would have found. It also caused me to pick up the incredible Making Comics by Scott McCloud. I highly recommend this book for its practical suggestions that'll help improve your craft. I also found that, low and behold, the past three years of slugging away at creating comics has given me a lot of valuable experience to other creators just starting out. From learning digital coloring to my experience with using on-demand publishers, it turns out I'm not quite a neophyte at this comics game anymore.

* Promote yourself! If you are creating comics, chances are you're hoping someone or something will actually read them. When you're an aspiring creator, you really need to go grass roots to get people to follow your work, and that means trying to win over one fan at a time. A writing class is a good place to start. It just so happened that my webcomic Super Seed was competing at Zuda Comics the month the class began, so that was perfect timing for me, and scared me up a few extra votes.

* You'll actually write. (AKA homework is good!) I wrote a ton more than I would have had I not been meeting with my writer's class every Monday. There was one project in particular that I've been procrastinating on getting started, but this class forced me to put in the time and get it off to a good start. Sometimes we all need that bit of external motivation to keep at our craft, as there are plenty of other diversions out there in the world that keep us from creating comics. So a little enforced discipline is a good thing.

There are plenty of other reasons a taking a class is good. So, keep you eyes open for one near you.
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby Otama Sanshiro on Sun Oct 26, 2008 5:14 pm

My tip is, don't second guess what people want. It only leads to failure and hack dom. Write something only you, or the lot of you, know.
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby Joel Fagin on Sun Oct 26, 2008 6:24 pm

Otama Sanshiro wrote:My tip is, don't second guess what people want. It only leads to failure and hack dom. Write something only you, or the lot of you, know.


"Everything I’ve done over the years that’s worked out well—software, standards, writing — everything, without exception, was something I did for myself. I’ve done the other thing too: built things based on guesses about what people out there might want or need. Never worked, not once." - Tim Bray

- Joel Fagin
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Re: How to get better at writing comics?

Postby VinnieD on Thu Jan 29, 2009 11:04 pm

To start with characters are THE most important thing. Nothing happens without characters. Don't just give them your personality and mannerisms, make each one unique. That means they won't all talk like you. Some of them will be slow and contemplative, think about what they want to say then put it eloquently. Others will be stupid and say "Like" "uhm" and "You know" a lot. Some will be cynical, some will be casual, some will be upbeat, shy, or aggressive. Give that character a basis that they come off as, then think in reverse and ask WHY they act like that. Why do they behave the way they do? Asking yourself questions about a character is the best way to build them.

Don't just think of them in terms of things that happened to them. Ask yourself what they feel, how they view the world, and their method of problem solving. Once you have characters built you can start putting them together and watch how they react. If you have really well thought out characters they can write themselves and start moving the story on their own.

The next thing to do is plan a LOOSE story and be willing to change it. As you start actually composing this story you're going to realize some things will work, some won't, and some need to be different.

Here's a good example. Just last week I wrapped up the conflict with Wesson and Pooky in my own comic AntiBunny. The original plan was that Pooky picks up a gun (which was mentioned a while back) and says to Wesson "by the way, Piago told me about her mom." And shoots Wesson. That seemed badass in my head, but as I worked through the story I quickly realized that it was badass but it was NOT what Pooky would do, so the climax became vastly different.

You have to be willing to make changes like that.

Though that's general advice for any writing. For sequential art, I'm still learning myself, though I think the rule of being willing to change your plan as you go along still applies.
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