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Help! Writer in need of advice...


#1

Hey all,

I’m new here, so please be gentle. I’m in the last month of uni and neck-deep in a dissertation about writers getting their initial break in comics. Anyway, 50% of the grade is creative, which I’ve written a 22 page script for (I’ve paired with an artist for this). I’ve also written a little four page indie comic strip I’ll be submitting to an indie anthology magazine once I’m paired up with a suitable artist.

Anyhoo, my question for you guys is this: where do I go from here if I seriously want to pursue a career as a writer in comics? I can’t draw worth a shit so my submissions are limited in that respect. I am quick to work when I have a project, and at the moment I’m working on 3 other pitches for submitting to publishers (2 genre, 1 social realism).
Any help or pointers would be much appreciated. Likewise, any artists looking to pair up, hit me up.

Thanks for reading

Neil


#2

My advice on artists is not to send out an appeal for them to hit you up. :smile:

We have seen in the creative section here over the years hundreds of posts from writers asking for a collaborator and almost nobody has ever replied. At the same time there are plenty of artists sharing their work and those same people almost never go in and see which of them may work well on their story and court them. So look through here and other places where budding artists go to share their work and contact them.

You are on the right track with short stories, they are much more likely to be completed and get eyes on them than trying to get a 300 page graphic novel opus off the ground.


#3

Ok, cool. So why would you say the main reason is people don’t reply to appeals from writers? I was at Mark’s signing on Saturday and his advice was that this might be an appropriate place where creatives can pair up and collaborate.
So are you saying the best approach, as a writer, is to see what artists are looking to team up on here and approach them? Genuine question. Right now I feel there is little guidance for people wanting to approach the industry from a writing angle (which is what my dissertation is discussing).


#4

I think it’s mainly because it’s just too general, there needs to be a more specific. There are also lot of budding writers out there so there’s little need for an artists to track one down.

To continue a bit with the dating analogy, if you put up an ad with ‘girlfriend wanted’ it’s generally not going to work very well, the usual wisdom would be to find someone with some shared interests, listen to them and build up a relationship.

Yes, I’m definitely not saying you can’t find a collaborator here, many have very successfully, just that’s the best way of going about it. It’s also better when it comes to your story, you may be doing a comic set in foggy Victorian London for example and big shiny superhero art isn’t really going to work even if it’s very good.


#5

Ah right, so there needs to be a more specific approach. I’ll keep that in mind. It can be a bit daunting approaching artists; especially if you’re unsure if they just want to share their work or if they are genuinely looking for a career going forward.
I’ve approached artists that I’ve already had dealings with before but some of their styles don’t jibe well with what I’m writing, as you pointed out, this happens. This is why I need a good platform to chat to others trying to break in :slight_smile:


#6

Hey Neil - welcome to the board! Hope you like it here, and that we can help some.

You should probably also think about which publishers to approach with what material. For social realism, someone like Top Shelf may be your best shot. I think that apart from the big two, though, pitching only really makes sense when you’re already coupled with an artist, so that really is your first step, yeah. I think pitching to the big two doesn’t make a lot of sense at the moment unless you’re an established writer - approaching them with a brilliant pitch as a no-name and becoming the next Alan Moore or whoever has, I think, gone from a million-in-one chance to pretty much being completely out of the question, these days.

As for the pitch itself, I like to point people to Warren Ellis’ Come in Alone column about that (which is a bit out-of-date at this point, but still pretty good in general principle, I think):

It’s part of his series on comics writing in general, all of which is well worth reading for someone looking to write comics.

Um, a word of warning, maybe, if you haven’t been observing the field a lot in recent years. There are a lot of people who want to write comic books. Like, an ocean of them. Most of them aren’t serious competition because they come from an angle of, “Oh, I know how to write Spider-Man the right way, I’ve got the ideas all figured out”, but without ever having bothered to do some actual writing. But there’s also a lot of good writers out there, in what is still a pretty narrow field. If you’re looking to make a living any time soon, your chances are better in traditional print, television, or whatever.

That being said, if you’ve got an actual 22-pages comic as a calling card, that puts you way ahead of most people. And as for finding artists, Gar is right - this isn’t a bad place to go looking, but it’s probably best to be specific and approach artists directly. You could also create a thread in which you describe the project and see if anyone’s interested, of course.


#7

Hi Christian,

Thanks so much for your detailed response - it’s above and beyond. This is the major issue I’m finding currently (finding an artist). I’ve worked up a 22 page script and synopsis with a friend (who has provided 6 pages of art so far). I’m loving seeing it all put together as a submission and have sent it off to Dark Horse - minus art as they are currently accepting writer only submissions - but, I’m unsure if he’s going to be able to stay the course with it as he has a job/commitments. The Big Two are not on my radar as far as submissions go - as you said, I’ve more chance of getting eaten by a shark.

That link you provided is excellent - I’ve had a quick look through but will probably ending up quoting from that in my dissertation!

I’ve been out of the loop with the comic industry for a couple of years. I used to read Wizard regularly (gone now, I think), but as a man of diminished means I’m generally picking up trades on good word of mouth (Image seems to be where the best writing is at the moment, but if you have any good suggestions for new books I’d love to hear them).

Where I stand at the moment with work I have written (in comic format) is this:

1 x 4 page short - Script complete and submitted to an artist to work up for an anthology.

1 x 22 Page full script that I’ve submitted to DHP and am waiting on a cover from my artist to complete a ‘submissions pack’ and send out to a few more places.

1 x 8 Pages of a genre story I’m working on (this one probably has the best chance being saleable, in my opinion). I’ve read a few publishers accept 8 pages of full script, coupled with art as submission standard.

I’ve got two more pitches, other than these I’m working on (one is the social realism that I’ve adapted from something else I was tinkering with). Since I’ve been at uni I’ve done articles for a few websites but I love scriptwriting, particularly comic script writing. My overarching plan is to go into teaching (those that can’t…) but I really want to see how far I can take this too.

That idea of putting a thread up is a great idea. I’m guessing bunging a script up would be too much? Maybe putting a synopsis up would be better/more appropriate?


#8

Or maybe a few pages of a script coupled with a synopsis? We’ve had people asking for general feedback now and then, too, if you’re interested in that. Like I said, artist reactions are a slim chance, as there are far more aspiring writers than artists out there… but if someone is interested, I actually think that a writing sample has a better shot than just a synopsis.

Overall, it sounds like you’re pretty well set up. Where do you study? The 50% creative thing is interesting; is this a creative writing programme like they have at East Anglia?


#9

Excellent. I’ll finish my 8 page rewrite and sling it up, see if I have anyone willing to work on it with me. Yeah, It’d be great to get some general feedback too.

I’m studying at Wolverhampton Uni, it’s a joint degree with English Lit. Basically, for your dissertation you get 10,000 words and 50% of that can go towards a creative project of your choosing. My lecturer asked me what field of writing I’d like to go into, which is why it’s about breaking into the industry.

Thanks for the help Christian, it’s much appreciated.


#10

Cheers, Neil. The joint degree sounds like a good opportunity; good luck with the dissertation, and with breaking in, obviously.


#11

The current recurring advice nowadays is get a comic completed, if a publisher doesn’t pick it up then put it up as a webcomic and see what the interest is. Just make comics.

Marvel and DC don’t accept any writer submissions and haven’t for several years. Image only generally take on writer and artist teams with a fully formed concept. Even 2000ad which was the last bastion of accepting unsolicited script submissions have closed them for a few months because the pile got too big.

Of course smaller publishers and anthologies take some scripts but really if you want the best way in it is completing comics with an artist nowadays. That undeniably makes it more difficult but the competition is fierce, they don’t need to chase you.


#12

Just make comics is the right approach. Keep writing scripts, jotting down ideas, reworking scripts and so on. While you can’t draw, you should learn some basic sketches, really fundamental stuff, just to lay things out. Most writers sketch their own stuff just to see how it works. If you can’t sketch get some graphics program that can do some of those things for you. Part of the learning process should be seeing things from an artists perspective. Here’s a list: http://comic-book-software-review.toptenreviews.com/. Just writing isn’t enough to make this a career.

If you want to work with an artist you’re going to have to do alot. You’ll have to give detailed descriptions on what it is you’re writing. Most writers want to protect their ideas but you’ll have to put lots out there to get someone interested. It’s a big time commitment for the artist so they’ll need lots of information to decide to work with you. You’ll also need to think of yourself as a business manager, putting together all the plans required to co-ordinate the launch of a book. The entire enterprise will rest in your hands.

Making pitches to publishers is really a tough slog. You’re up against guys who’ve been making pitches for 30+ years. And like any job no experience is held against you and you’re caught in that catch 22. You really need to just make your own book, pour your love and talent into it, make it as good as you can. And that means not just good enough that it would fit in with everything else on the market, you need to be alot better than the standard work-for-hire stuff. So if you pick a story to tell, tell the shit out of it.

Ultimately though, I’d recommend you write stories for yourself first and find peace there. There’s a certain selection of the population who just feel the constant need to create, it’s a really healthy thing that can lead to a very satisfied life. So just do that and worry about a career as if it’s a bonus. be patient with things. And create in lots of different ways, not just writing comics. Expand your range to creating all sorts of things and you’ll find yourself never bored and continually pleased with what you can do. There’s nothing more satisfying than looking back on something you wrote or created a decade ago and realizing it’s still really good.

If you want to find an artist here you need to start a thread and share as much as you can about your story, what it’s about where it might go and why you want to tell it. Limit your scope, you’re not telling a 50 issue epic, aim for maybe 60-80 pages to tell a satisfying tale. Don’t look at what the big publishers put out at 60-80 pages, look at what the exceptional books, the first things created by today’s superstars looked like. Like Nightly News or The Other Side or some of the 2000AD strips. They all have a unique idea and then it’s executed well. That should be your target.


#13

Thanks guys…

Jim, thanks for the heads up with this. There actually seems to be a package on there that isn’t 100% intimidating to me, so I’ll have a look into that.

I’ve been writing/submitting to various places since the start of uni - mainly articles for websites and some short story comps. I love seeing my stuff out their but you’re right, the reward’s the writing itself. Mainly I’m curious. I’ve not really been keeping a close eye on the comic scene, but it seems to me that there is significantly less writers from the UK breaking through, which is what I want to address with my dissertation.

I’m overwhelmed by the amount of help you guys have been. I’ll look at putting up my synopsis and opening pages of my genre piece - I think that might get the best reaction from artists reading it. Hopefully I get someone that’s interested in working up a pitch with me.

Thanks so much guys - forums can be intimidating places coming in, but you’ve been great.


#14

Hiya Hud!

Artists like to do art. Most of them are not “readers” as such. Actors, now, they read script upon script all the time when they’re not “working”. Nothing more difficult to do than to approach anyone and ask them to “read this”. It’s a recipe for failure.

Here’s what may work better. Take it as axiomatic that the shorter the story is, the harder it is to write. Then write ten 3-page stories. Then write ten more, using a different structure. Write a four-act play in four pages. Write short skits like on the old Carol Burnett Show. The key here is SHORT.

Likely you are not independently wealthy, or I’d say hire artists to illustrate the shorty-shorts. However, many artists might well be willing to trade favors for some short art. Vacuum their apartment! Wash their dishes! Do the laundry! (Laundry is usually good for ten pages.) Turn that fine creativity into a method to get your words drawn! Last resort, marry an artist!

We used to have Write-Offs around here, but it got too frustrating to work hard on a good piece and then have Ohara come along and - no! Stop that! work hard on a good piece and post it with ten other writers and then wait three or four months until a few people have read and commented. Folks who read our stories were typically quite entertained, as I do not think anyone who submitted was a schlub. It just shows even in a Creative Forum it is downright difficult to get people to read, moreso to get people to read and properly critique.

So I’m emphasizing the super-shorts. Maybe we should do something like that, maybe Summer would be a good time. For now, to get something drawn, keep talking about it here. Post in artist’s threads and ask them what they may need to get done to have the time to do some art for you!

That’s my big idea of the day, and I’m off to watch Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein!


#15

Hey Hud,

Welcome to the boards.(yeah, i’m original like that)

Thought i’d throw my 2 pence worth in with the other.
Jim really hit the nail on the head when he said, "just make comics"
Its like field of dreams if you make them, they will come.
I’ve heard that advice from a few creators over the years.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with quite a few artists from the MW board over the last few years and as Gar said a “request” thread for artists very rarely works.
Those chaps are busy, so you gotta hook those suckers.

You gotta be different, i did a ten page story a couple of years ago and i posted a thread on here asking for 10 artists, all to do a single page each.
It worked really well and it opens the doors with a lots of talented people that i now speak to regularly and have done small projects together.
On the negative side, i didn’t get all the pages form the 10 artists, but i met another artist who drew the whole thing.

Also, i know money is tight especially if you are a student, but if you can pay your artist.
If you have paying gig you will be inundated with responses.
BUT: don’t give them any B.S about paying them back end once you sell the comic.
It doesn’t have to be a huge amount, but the gesture of paying the artist, i’ve found goes a looooong way.
It shows how how committed you are to the book too, because you are putting YOUR money where your mouth is.
Agree a page rate or book rate, pay a small retainer up front, then drip feed them the money as and when pages come in.
I’ve started to do this and the guys i’m working with are so professional and the quality is exceptional!

Such as:

enter link description here

Hope that helps


#16

Hi Matt,

I’m absolutely blown away by the quality of your comic. Really nice work. My pitch that I’ve work up is pretty similar in that it’s about a punk band - It’s semi-autobiographical as I toured the States with one a few years back.

I love your idea about getting a comic worked up on here with a bunch of collaborators working together. At the moment I’m just pitching scripts alone - obviously that’s a little like banging my head against a wall. The only main publisher that’s looking at writing pitches (as far as I know) is Dark Horse. I’ve been working on some more genre focussed stuff, and I’m looking to have a few pitches complete by the end of the summer.

How much do you think would be reasonable to offer artists? I have a pitch I’m working on at the moment that I’m quite confident with, but I know that pitching it sans art is going to be detrimental to it getting read.


#17

Hi Miqque,

Thanks for your advice, and taking the time to get back to me! I’ve written some short work, but I’m planning on getting a few more done too. If you have any advice on where is looking for short comic works at the moment, that would be ace. That way I can tailor my submissions more appropriately.

Thanks


#18

Hey Hud,

DON’T STEAL MY IDEA!
only teasing, but seriously don’t! :smiley:

Thanks for the compliments, i’m over the moon with the quality of it too.
We have just wrapped #2 and we are starting #3 soon.
DM me your email and i’ll send you the full issue #1 is you like?

With regards to paying an artist, it’s all relative.
in your head, what is that particular artist’s art worth to you and what can you get away with paying them?
I know that sounds cold, but it’s true.

i hope you make it, mate i really do.
For me, i have no delusions of grandeur about my writing.
So, for me i’m funding a hobby, because I write for fun.
i have stories and jokes rattling around my head that i just need to get out there.
Ask the artist for their page rate, crunch some numbers and throw a figure at the artist that you CAN afford and they will either say yes or no.
But, don’t be insulting with a figure.
If they are between projects or able to fit it around another gig they are currently working on, you might get a bargain.

It is quite funny, because once you get used to conducting business like this (because it is business) you start quantifying your spending in regards to making comics.

Shall i go to the pub tonight?
Yes, because ive had a crappy week and i really need a pint.

If i don’t go out, i can afford to have a kick arse artist draw a page or two.

Or: the middle ground:
Get a couple of cans of larger in , get your mates round instead and get your comics made! :wink:

Gotta make Sacrifices, buddy.


#19

Hahaha, cool - I’ve just sent you a DM. :smile:


#20

Hi Neil, I read your post and I would like to help, Im a long time reader of comics, books an stuff. I always like to draw. However, for many time i was drawn to do other things. These days im trying to draw and write more. I working on some secuencial pages, but i have nothing finished to show at the moment. But im eager for the experience and to work with people and be creative. So, i know its weird, but if you want to give me something to draw i would like to give it a shot. A sketch, a cover or anything, i may be not fast, but i’ll give my best.

Sincerely
Francisco.