Where to Begin | How to Make a Comic Book

The last few weeks have been filled with getting my Kickstarter (think pins of Catwoman, Poison Ivy or Harley Quinn if they’d attended the Women’s March) off the ground and flying-high. Having surpassed 80% of the funding goal in the first few days, I’ve bought myself some time to get back to what I should be focused on… my comic book. (Though I do wholly suggest you check out the Kickstarter if you love comics books and pins.)

For those of you took the time to watch my vlog post detailing my goals for Q1 (I think it’s going to be the first vlog post ever nominated for a Razzie), or if you avidly follow me on Instagram, you’re aware I’m working on a new comic book, The Paranoia Projects. I’ve had a few people who know me as an artist reach out to me about the writing process and how you get from an idea to an actual product.

My first job out of college was an editorial internship at IDW Publishing. I’ve been writing since I was old enough to use it as an excuse to get out of socializing. And, again, if you’re following me on social media, you know at all times I’m drawing, painting, etc. But I myself have yet to sit down and make a comic book from beginning to end.

Until 2017. (That’s this year! Unless you’re reading this in the future. In which case, how’d the whole Trump presidency work out?)

My January goal was to complete the story. I’ve done that and begun handing it out to beta readers for feedback. As a writer and an editor, I’m aware of its initial flaws and am working them out now. You may notice it is formatted “the Marvel way” as it’s hard to be excited about traditional script formatting when I’m still rounding out dialogue and plot points. There may be a need for a bit of imagination as you read it but the core is there.

So, to begin addressing the “how to” question, I suppose a year from now (my target date for having the book released and available either digitally or in print) I can publish a long step-by-step explanation. But, today, that explanation begins here.

There are a few things you must do first before striking the keys, not the least of which is have an idea what you want to write about. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be a good idea. You see, your final draft, your finished product, has to be good. In fact, it’s better if it’s great. But shoot for at least “good”. But the idea itself just has to be an idea. It can be terrible. I’d daresay it’s dangerous to expect your idea to be good, in fact.

If you wait for a “good idea” or even an idea to be “good enough”, your worst critic is likely to be waiting for you the second you sit down at the computer (or typewriter if you’re writing a comic book in 1987). Have a bad idea. Have the worst idea. Just make sure you can write from beginning to end. Once you’ve done that, once you’ve created your first draft, editing begins. Therein lies true art.

So don’t beat yourself up if your idea is bad. Just write it.

The second thing you need is to have a concept of the tone. Now, that may sound like a tall order considering I just told you that quality isn’t even a requisite. How could you possibly have a concept of tone?

Tone is how you know you have an idea. Forgive me for saying, but if that idea doesn’t strike a chord, if you have no sense of tone, it’s not an idea but a series of flashes and maybe even a stroke. I’m not really qualified to inform if it is, in fact, a stroke. But if you feel amused, angered, frightened, if you know what you want this idea to make others feel, then you have a tone. Tone informs you when you realize “I’ve written two pages of dialogue and I have no idea of the setting”, it writes dialogue when your character says something important and you’re not really sure what the response will sound like. Find other things that evoke this tone in you.

I write horror. Mostly. So I have hours, and hours, and hours of playlists comprised of soundtracks from The Road, Eyes Wide Shut, The Thing, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I pick the music and I listen to it when I begin to write, when I’m in the car. Sometimes at night I go for walks on dark roads or canyon trails listening to music that seriously makes me regret the choices that have led to an unlit, rundown sidewalk on a still night where I (presumably) alone. I know that if I want to write horror, I need to be scared. So make a playlist, or do whatever it takes to feel what you want people to feel. It will inform you in situations you can’t imagine finding yourself in.

The third is this, and it’s important… don’t tell anyone about it. Tell people you’re writing but don’t talk about it. The energy that you give to telling people about it escapes as you do. That’s energy that should go into writing it! And here’s the painful truth… no one is going to react the way you want. Even if it’s the best idea in the world, do you think someone is going to react better having heard the premise of The Matrix or seeing it for the first time? Even if people like your story, you won’t get the satisfaction you deserve. So keep it to yourself. At least until you get a first draft finished.

These are the things you need to bring with you before you come to the computer or, again, an old typewriter set among cassette tapes and dusty cocaine trails. If you haven’t followed me already, now is the time to do so. I’m going to begin sharing sections of the first draft of The Paranoia Projects to give you the insight of what the formative stages look like this weekend. Then we can talk more about the initial stages.

Maybe then you’ll see what I mean when I say all you need is an idea!

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