Pictures AND a Thousand Words: Five Tips for Writing Graphic Novels

The comic/ superhero genre has never been hotter and shows no sign up letting up, with both Marvel and DC expanding their universes. What better time to self-publish a comic or graphic novel? Today, AuthorHouse offers five tips for aspiring graphic novel authors and artists!

 

watchmen-cover1) Look to film for guidance: In some ways, graphic novels have more in common with movies than novels. How? The visual element. Graphic novels are expected to show, not just tell, and you should avoid simply using the script to express everything. Movies face the same restriction, unless they resort to voice-overs.

 

At the same time, the text portion of a graphic novel is one advantage that screenwriters don’t have. Internal monologues, emotions, and ideas might be difficult (or time-consuming) to show with pictures; a line or two of prose, however, can cut right to the chase and move the story along.

 

2) Include relevant details in the script, not just the drawings: While keeping #1 in mind, critical information should always be mentioned or pointed out in the script. Some readers will focus on the text while skimming over the artwork, and even just a brief mention of a key detail can help keep them from getting lost.

 

3) Stick figures and thumbnails: The script comes first, the art comes later. Period. You’ll likely be doing some heavy editing (see #5) and there’s no reason to create artwork that won’t make the finished book. In the meantime though, make use of stick figures and crude thumbnails; they’ll give you an idea of what drawings are needed, how you’ll distribute text, and allow you to receive feedback from test readers–again, before the final artwork is drawn.

 

Blankets_cover4) Great writing can’t prop up bad art, and vice versa: You’re probably better at one of the two skills (writing and drawing) than the other, but you have to be able to produce quality work in both. You can’t hope that stellar writing will compensate for lackluster artwork, or that Stan Lee-caliber art will make the reader overlook a weak story.

 

If your pencil lags behind your keyboard, so to speak, there’s nothing wrong with seeking the assistance of a more accomplished artist. This is another time those thumbnails can come in handy: they can clearly show what you’re looking for from your illustrator.

 

5) Edit! Graphic novels present unique challenges during the editing process. It’s not just a matter of trimming down the size of the project in general, you have to make sure that the words and pictures are balanced. While the occasional text-free sequence in a graphic novel is permissable, the other extreme (text-heavy pages with little artwork) is not.

 

The comic panel doesn’t have much space for words, and you’ll definitely have to tinker with your layout a bit until you achieve balance (there’s that word again) between the two elements.

 

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Remember, your graphic novel doesn’t have to be about caped heroes and Earth-threatening villains. Any type of story–including comedy, romance, horror, and science fiction—is fair game!

 

We look forward to seeing where your imagination takes you (and your readers!)

 

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