How To Be A Comic Book Writer

Essentials Needed To Be A Comic Book Writer



Job Description:

The writer of a comic book tells the story through words, which the artist then turns into pictures. It is the writer’s job to set things up like characters, plot, setting, dialog, and other elements like pacing, action, emotion, and closure. The writer is the visionary of the team, creating the basic world, who lives in it, and what they do.

Skills Needed:

The writer needs many skills to be successful.
  • Good communication skills – The writer needs to be able to tell things in a way that is too the point and clear.
  • A visionary mind – You need to be able to see where you are going. This could be as simple as a basic idea, “What would happen if a child found out they had superpowers.” Or it could be as complex as having the entire world, characters, and story built.
  • Strong grasp of grammar – In almost every interview I read with editors, it is interesting to see how many errors they come across in a pitch. Having a strong grasp on grammar will only help you in the long run. Use a dictionary, or spellcheck is even better, but be sure to proofread everything.
  • Flexible attitude – Things don’t always go like you plan. An editor might want you to do something different to your script and change a scene here or a bit of dialog there. Being flexible will allow you to keep your vision as well as being able to get your comic finished.
  • Professional behavior – Don’t be flaky. Do your best work. Get things done on time, especially if you said you would.

    Equipment Needed:

    Basic Equipment
    • Writing Utensil – Your writing utensil could be as simple as a pen and paper or as complex as a computer. Use what works best for you. The argument for pen and paper is pretty simple, it’s readily available, portable, and doesn’t take time to start up. Writer Neil Gaiman has written his latest work in a notebook all by hand. Having a computer will be a great asset for any writer. Not only does it have great programs like Spell Check, Word Processing Software, Email, and Internet, but it also has ways to store and back-up your information. You can make hard copies like a print out of your work, burn a CD, or even store information and files online. I would imagine that most writers nowadays use their computers extensively, not only for writing, but for research, connectivity, and promotion.
    • Dictionary – A dictionary of some sort is vital, knowing how to spell words correctly will only add to your professional appearance.
    • Thesaurus – Having a bank of words to choose from can be a great asset. It will keep your work from sounding repetitive and stale.
    • Spell Check/Editor – You must have some way of checking for grammatical errors. If you don’t have a computer with Spell Check, then either edit it yourself or have someone else do it for your. If you do use Spell Check, be sure not to rely solely on it. Spell Check will not often fix words that are spelled correctly, but used incorrectly. Proofread your work.

    Optional Equipment

    • Idea File/Notebook – Having a place to store those flashes of brilliance can be a lifesaver. Nothing’s worse than having a great idea one day and losing it the next. You can keep a file card system, a notebook, PDA, or whatever you like. Director Guillermo Del Toro keeps a notebook with him at all times, filling it with ideas, pictures, and thoughts about his latest projects.
    • Website – Having a website can be a very important part of the writers career. It can do many things including giving a way for fans to connect with you, promote your latest projects, and even keep your resume on file. There are many ways now to get a free website, with places like Myspace, Comicspace, and Wordpress to name a few.
    • Books – It has been said that good writers are also good readers. Knowing how others approach the craft of writing can give you insight into the process and give ideas as to trying something new. Don’t just read comic books, read any great writing that you can find.

    Some Comic Book Writers:

    Stan Lee
    Will Eisner
    Frank Miller
    Neil Gaiman
    Mark Millar
    Brian Michael Bendis
    Geoff Johns

    So You Want To Be A Writer?

    If you are serious about being a writer of any sort, the best thing to do now is to start writing. It can be summed up from Sci Fi great Robert A. Heinlein, “You must write.” Think, dream, envision, and then write it down.

    Page 2 - Comic Book Writer Quotes

    Quotes From Writers:

    From Stephen Grant – Column writer of Permanent Damage at CBR and writer of many comics such as Punisher, Dark Horse’s X, and Two Guns from Boom! Studios. The full article can be seen at the CBR website.

    About comic book script formats - “Comics, however, have no set format. I think it was Mark Evanier who once said that whatever you, your artist and your editor agree on is the right format.

    There are a handful of standards - plot format, which is basically a story outline with smatterings of dialog; full script, where the story is completely written out to include all dialog and descriptions of the desired action for every panel; screenplay format, which also includes all the visual descriptions and dialogue but doesn't break everything down so rigidly - but there are virtually infinite variations (when I was writing X-MAN with Warren Ellis, for instance, Warren provided plots broken down into page blocks, occasionally interrupted by bursts of dialog delineating exactly what he intended the ideas and characterizations to be, and while it shared aspects of both plot and screenplay formats, it wasn't either of them) and it doesn't pay to get too attached with any one of them.”

    From Joe Casey – Writer of comic books such as Gødland, from Image Comics, Uncanny X-Men for Marvel, and Youngblood, with Rob Liefeld.

    The full article can be seen at the Comics Reporter website.

    About freelance writing – “The fact is, freelancers are treated "poorly" only when they open themselves up for that treatment. I've done it in the past, and hopefully I've learned my lessons. If a publisher offers you a shitty deal, don't take it.

    After ten years of writing comics and getting my work out there... there's no one project that's make-or-break with me anymore. Sometimes people I work with don't quite get that, and have tried to somehow hold me hostage by what they think is my own burning desire -- that "I'll do anything"-desire" -- to see a project come to fruition. But I'm just not desperate like that, and I have no intention of bending over for anyone just to get any one project out there. Besides, I've worked long enough and hard enough that I have plenty of options for whatever I end up wanting to do. Right now Image has been a real home to me in the projects I've had a genuine desire to do. Couple that with the fact that they have the best deal in the industry and there ends up being no reason whatsoever for me to have to take shit from anybody.”