Earlier today, I got an ask, one of a gabillion that I get regularly, about breaking into comics, from a very nice poster with the handle of Greatdistractions, whom I will call GD here, for brevity, as I don’t know her real name.
She asked a question that is too big to answer without information, “I’m interested in becoming a comic writer and was wondering if you had any advice for someone wanting to enter the industry?”
In frustration, because I have written about this in such depth so many times for people, endlessly, really, trying to help aspiring creators, and partly because the question is so frustrating when phrased like this, I just said, URGH.
I admit, it’s not the most articulate answer.
But guys, writing is serious. Breaking in is hard, it’s serious. It takes research and commitment and making yourself informed. It’s not that pros don’t WANT to help (there are exceptions!), most of us do, but we CANNOT help if we don’t know the situation. And please, please, please, it’s just common courtesy, if a writer took the time to put out that information many times in the past, for free, just to help, it would be lovely if you could just do a quick google search, put in their name and “writing tips,” maybe. We might want to help, but the odds are, that information is out there in some form.
IF you don’t find the info is out there, you will do everyone much more benefit if you are very, very SPECIFIC in your questions. A pro can try to help if the question is very specific. Answering how to look for an artist or how to start a webcomic or how to format a script, these are all things I can help with, and I do and I will. But asking how to break in is just…for us, it’s like asking how to build a car. It’s just too big a question.
Stay specific, it will help!
GD, we have never met. But let me make this absolutely clear, you have NOTHING to be ashamed about, or embarrassed about, IN THE LEAST. I know your question was sincere and from the little I could see on your tumblr, you seem like a great person. I am sorry my ‘Urgh’ made you feel bad, I admit I just exhaled in frustration. Please do NOT think it reflects badly on you, you just asked a simple question.
I want to encourage you in your writing, I want you to succeed. Sometimes, there will be setbacks and obstacles, so if you are serious in your aspirations, and I believe you are, the number one tip I can give you is…
…don’t be deterred. Seriously, that’s it.
A lot of writers are piles of scrunched up anxiety, and they still produce good work. But most of the successes in this business, they are not easily dissuaded, they are never beaten by the things that make other people turn away.
I’m talking about not just superhero comics superstar writers, I’m talking about people like Robert Kirkman and Scott Kurtz and Terry Moore and Dave Sim and many others. If you read their stories, you will see they had bad days and they had missteps and they had people blocking their way.
And it didn’t matter, because they would not be turned away.
Be diligent, be studious, be hardworking, be bold, be mighty inside, and provide the encouragement for yourself even when others do not.
I came into comics in a weird way, I was almost drafted. But once I chose this path, I refused to take the path of least resistance, I still fight every week for the things I want to produce and believe in. And my story is relatively easygoing in comparison.
I have a friend working on a comic, he’s a writer and a painter, he is disabled, and has to paint with a paintbrush in his mouth. He worked endlessly to raise money for his comic, because he would not be deterred.
To break into almost any creative field, there will be doors that are closed. You have to find the chainsaw to cut your own entry. There will be naysayers, you have to find your own set of earplugs. There will be bad days, maybe more bad days than good days at first.
But, and I hate to say this, but it’s true…the way you handle those obstacles reflects how seriously you take this. If you are not turned away, if you get up, dust yourself off and try again, you absolutely ARE a writer, a creator, an artist, and people in the industry will immediately respect and encourage that. I’ve seen it time, and time again.
For practical advice, here’s a couple things.
First, decide what kind of work it is you want to do. Aim your efforts towards it. You may do other work to get there, but keep that goal in mind. If you have a chance to talk to a pro, let them know your goal first thing. They can’t help without it.
Second, do not think you will start at the ‘top,’ by which I mean not just writing Batman, but also a superstar artist on a hardcover edition…odds are you have to start more humbly in terms of production. This doesn’t mean don’t be ambitious and don’t aim high, it means there are probably steps on the way that you have to take to meet those loftier goals.
Third, take your principles with you. Seriously, I don’t think you can make a real impact in the industry if you have nothing to say that is important to you.
Fourth, do the research—there is a ton of information out there, on all facets of making comics. Every time I google it, I am amazed at what I find. Read that stuff, and then, if you have a SPECIFIC question, absolutely ask any pro you can find that seems even slightly open to it. The more specific the better, okay?
Fifth, all the stuff you probably learned in writing class…write, write, write, workshop with other writers, share your work with other aspiring pros, attend workshops when you can, but the POINT is to get to number 6…
Sixth, really, just sit down and figure out how to make a comic. Do a webcomic, do a mini-comic, do a comic strip, offer to do stories for anthologies, back-ups, go to cons and talk to publishers…ALL of that stuff. No one can stop you if this is really what you want to do.
I wish you every success, and again, I’m sorry for my momentary frustration. I want you to do something for me, though. I want you to take a moment, read what I’ve said, and narrow your focus down…send me a couple very SPECIFIC questions, I will answer them in private. Whatever helps you with the specific stage you are at, okay? Make sure that the questions are those which address your particular level of resources, experience and skills, and include your goals. I can try to help, can’t guarantee anything, but I can try. Just make it specific to you at this moment, okay?
Don’t feel bad, people get crabby and that’s not your fault. I want to see you succeed and become the writer you want to be.
You can do this.
Email me, I’ll respond in private. Deal?