I’ve read a lot of advice on making comics. I’ve spoken to several creators about making comics. I’ve bought various books on creative writing, I’ve even attended a writing course. I’ve thought about characters, sketched them in crude visualisations… crafted stories and concepts, and story arcs… but the best, and simplest advice about making your own comic?
Make your own comic.
I know that sounds like an over-simplification. It isn’t. If you want to make your own comic – get off your arse, and MAKE it. Don’t think about doing it. Do it.
If you’re hungry, you eat. You don’t think about eating, or procrastinate on it. You do it. If you’re tired, you sleep. If you want see your own story told, then TELL YOUR STORY.
There has never been a better time to affordably produce your own book. And if you’re not jazzed for actually physically printing the thing, again, it’s never been easier to produce your comic as a web-based effort.
Now yeah, you can’t just dive in and magic this thing out of thin air in one night. No, you’ll need to put in the graft for sure, but you need to organise your time and stick to the work.
First and foremost, you need to script it, or at the very least prepare your plot tightly. Few writers can just make up stuff as they go and have it resolve on the page into a fully realised, nuanced story (Simon Nye springs to mind). Write, rewrite, and rewrite. Allow yourself a few weeks to nail the story down, and then (and only then) start cracking on with the art.
The art will unquestionably be the hardest, most arduous and time consuming task. If your will and motivation to complete your comic isn’t totally destroyed at some point during the drawing process, then you’re probably doing it wrong. Assuming you’re doing a full 22-page story, allow yourself time to get the art done, but stay motivated, stay pushed. if you can get collaborators to help you, then all the better.
Once you’ve got your art done, you have to decide if you’re going to colour it or stay grayscale. Grayscale can look fantastic and is cheaper to print – but your average Joe is more willing to give a colour comic a chance. If you’re going web, then it’s obviously more an aesthetic choice than a cost choice. Whatever you decide, maybe try and stagger this alongside the art. If you’re drawing and colouring solely, drawing a page, then colouring, then back to drawing will break things up and add variety to your workload.
You’ve written it. You’ve drawn it. Maybe you’ve coloured it. Next you need to letter it. Lettering is under-rated – don’t cheap out on this. Bad lettering can ruin a comic just as well as bad art or bad colouring – take your time with it, research lettering processes, or collaborate with someone to do the lettering for you.
Before you hit the print stage. Proof it. Check it for errors, then proof it again. Get others to check it, and then double check it. The proof it again. I guarantee you’ll find something every time.
If you’re printing your book, here’s where you decide how elaborate you’re going to go. You could print it at home and just photocopy all your copies – lo-fi look, but effective. But if you want to try and emulate the glossier big publishers efforts, there are print companies out there now who can achieve this with you for a fairly reasonable outlay. Research pagination software, layout your books, or work with the printer to do this for you (usually for an extra fee).
Once you’ve your book back from the printers, or you’ve uploaded it online, you need to get people to notice it. Promote it on Facebook or Twitter, hit message boards and forums, try and arrange for local comic stores to stock it, just publicise it and build that word of mouth.
And while you’re doing all that, start your work on the next issue. If you want your book to be successful, you need to make sure you release books at a regular schedule, and be consistent.
Sound like hard work? Yes. It’s very hard work, especially around family and day jobs. Sound costly? Can be. So you have to be passionate about telling your story, and you must want to get it out there no matter what. If you’re doing this for money… forget it. If you’re doing it as a portfolio piece, to show what you can do? Well, you’ll get some mileage out of it. But if you’re passionate about getting your story out there… then there’s nothing more gratifying.
And if you still want to make your own book after reading all the above? Then go. And. DO IT.