Write Comic Books: 5 Steps for Beginners / by Frank Gogol

So, you want to learn how to write comic books, but don’t know where to start? You’re not alone. Many beginning comic book writers struggle with figuring out those first steps, but the truth is it’s not all that hard.

Learning to write comic books is a journey, and there’s a good chance you’re already taking some of the necessary steps to becoming a better comic book writer and you don’t even realize it. And the steps still ahead of you—they’re probably not as far off as you think. Regardless of how far along you are, these five steps will get you headed in the right directio

1.     Read

It may seem like a no-brainer, but if you want to write comic books, you have to read. A lot.

Chances are, you want to write comic books because you’re an avid comic book reader, but what else do you read? Have you been reading books on creative writing? Do you read non-fiction books on topics that interest you? Reading lots of different books and reading them often will expose you to new styles, ideas, and many other writing elements that you can draw on as you write comic books for yourself.

2.     Take a Class

If I asked you how accountants, doctors, and novelists learn their trade, you’d say “they go to school.” So why should learning to write comic books be any different?

More and more, classes on how to write comic books are becoming available. Marvel Comics writer Brian Michael Bendis has been teaching a course on writing comic books at Portland State University for a couple of years now. Similarly, former Marvel and IDW editor Andy Schmidt has been offering comics writing classes with the Comics Experience online writing courses for nearly a decade. And these are just the prominent offerings.

A large majority of people who want to write comic books never complete a single script. The best part about taking a class is that you usually walk away with a completed script in-hand, which gives you a leg up on most of your peers.  

3.     Write

The old, and oft-debated, cliché says that you must write one million words before you’ll achieve competency as a writer. Regardless of where you stand on validity of the benchmark, the spirit of the adage is true: practice is the only way to learn to write comic books.

As a beginning writer, famed horror author Stephen King was no stranger to rejection, and he would hang every rejection letter he received on a nail. In his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, he writes, “By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.” And though primarily a novelist, King has been known to write comic books now and then, so follow his lead and maybe you will too.

4.     Get Critiqued

One of the drawbacks of writing a comic is the closeness you feel to it as a writer. When you pour hours into crafting your comic script, it can be hard to be objective about where the script has room to improve. For these reasons, having your work critiqued is essential to honing your craft as a comic book writer.

In the internet age, there are dozens of ways to get your work in front of like-minded individuals for review. Comics Experience offers a paid forum where your work can be posted for peer critique as well as for review by industry professionals. Similarly, Reddit’s /r/comicscollabs subreddit is a place where you can post your work for feedback for free.   

5.     Repeat

That’s right, do it all over again. Read even more. Take new classes. Keep writing and getting critiqued. Writing comic books is like honing any other skill—it takes repetition.

Even the pros do it. Seasoned comic book writer Matt Fraction—who’s written blockbuster titles like Uncanny X-Men, The Immortal Iron Fist, and Invincible Iron Man for Marvel Comics—still makes time to read and study the works of other comics greats like Frank Miller. 

Learning how to write comic books is a journey, and heading down that road can seem daunting, but taking the right steps—reading, writing, revising, and repeating—can help you get where you’re going. All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other.