Writing Comics in 2023: Step-by-Step Guide for First-Time Writers

Comic books have captured the imagination of millions of people around the world. Talented comic book writers such as Alan Moore, Stan Lee, Frank Miller and Neil Gaiman have given the world these incredible works that offer readers a multi-layered experience, delving deeply into complex themes.

If you’ve ever got hooked on a comic series and thought, “I’d love to make my own comic book,” you’re in luck! You’ll be pleased to learn that creating your own comic book has never been easier. Use this guide as your go-to resource for making your very first comic book—we’ll cover everything from brainstorming ideas to comic printing and, finally, getting it into the hands of eager readers!

The Ideation and Planning Stage

So, you’ve decided that you want to create a comic book. But before you can start writing and drawing, it’s best to do your homework. 

Do your homework

This means re-reading a bunch of your favourite comic books for inspiration. Alan Moore, the esteemed comic book writer who created classics like Watchmen and V For Vendetta, has shared some valuable advice about how to get started. To stimulate comic book ideas, he recommends putting yourself in someone else’s shoes to empathise with others. Imagine what their hopes and fears are and try to see the world from their perspective, as it’ll help you write better characters.

Developing a story

If you’re struggling to develop a story, use writing prompts. Alan recommends looking for items that might spark creative ideas, such as old postcards or writing prompt cards. Once you’ve got a solid idea, you’ll need to decide whether your comic is a standalone publication or a series of comics. Deciding what you want your comic to look like long-term can help you better structure your work.

Next, you need to work out exactly how you will tell the story. A tried and tested way to plot out your narrative is to follow the three-act structure: set-up, conflict and then resolution. Show the protagonist going about their normal lie and introduce the world of your story.

After that, introduce some form of conflict for the protagonist that starts the main narrative. Finally, your story will reach a climax (such as a big battle with the antagonist), and a resolution will ultimately be reached. 

Create your characters

Your characters are the backbone of your story. They drive the narrative forward, so you need to have a really clear idea of who they are, what they’re like and what motivates them.

Strong-willed, memorable characters are often the focal point of comic book stories, but you should ensure that they feel like real people rather than caricatures. It’s a good idea to write a character bio for the main characters, giving them a backstory, description and purpose.

Comic Book Formatting 

After you’ve planned out your story and characters, it’s time to work on formatting. But before we delve too deeply into formatting, let’s define a few key comic book phrases you’ll need to know:

Panel: A single box with a drawing (and sometimes text).

Splash: A large drawing that takes up a whole page—perfect for the most dramatic moments of a comic!

Gutter: The space between each panel.

Word balloon: The bubbles display speech.

man wearing pink checkered shirt while sketching
Photo by Pietro Battistoni on Pexels.com

Now we’ve defined some key terms, let’s explore comic book formatting. In terms of layout, you can keep it simple with traditional grids or get creative with a range of shapes and sizes. Just make sure that whichever layout option you choose is easy for readers to follow.

Next, you’ve got to find the right balance of text and drawings. Too much text may overwhelm the reader, whereas too little may make your narrative challenging to follow. 

Hiring a comic book artist

If you’re the whole package, a talented wordsmith and an artist, you’re a born comic book writer! On the other hand, if you don’t feel up to drawing yourself, you can work with an artist. You’re probably thinking, “How do I find a comic book artist?”

Well, there are plenty of ways to find someone to illustrate your comic book. Browse websites like IllustrationX, put a job on a freelancer platform like Upwork, or connect with comic book artists on social media platforms like Facebook.

Publishing Options

Once your comic book is complete and you’re 100% happy with it, it’s time to think about publishing. You’ve got several options to consider here. Many comic book writers choose to self-publish, as this gives them full control over their work.

In other words, you won’t have to make creative concessions or share the money earned with a publisher. Plus, comic book printing has never been easier as there are plenty of affordable printing services out there. 

Another option is to seek out small independent comic publishers, as they are more likely to experiment with the type of content they publish than the bigger publishers.

If your comic is a little different, this might be a good option to consider. You could also approach medium-sized comic publishers if your comic has appeal to lots of readers. 

Whichever publishing option you choose, it’s best to do plenty of research. Most comic book writers focus on a particular genre, so it’s best to find out which publishing house deals with your chosen genre. Submitting your work to a publisher focusing on your genre will significantly increase your chances of getting published.

Once you’ve found publishers to approach, follow their submission guidelines closely. They may ask you to send a query letter and samples, so make sure to submit your very best work and let them know why they should work with you. 

Once you’ve sent everything off for review, all that’s left to do is wait. If you don’t get published this time, don’t lose heart. It takes time to get recognised, especially because publishers are often very busy! In the meantime, you may consider self-publishing some of your work to get it out there in front of comic book fans!

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