One Writer’s Journey

August 17, 2015

Writing a Graphic Novel

My current favorite graphic novel.

My current favorite graphic novel.

When I took the MOOC, or massive open online course, “The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture” from the Smithsonian through edX, I had to complete several assignments.  In addition to creating a hero (Shadow Walker), a villain (The Preacher) and mock-up three panels.  Goody-two-shoes that I was in school, I’d love to admit that I did all the work, but I had a book deadline and fizzled out when it came time to mock-up the panels.  I don’t illustrate.  I’m not going to use a program to create something clunky if I submit my story.

Fortunately, I like doing research.  For those of you interested in learning how to write and submit your own work, I’ll give a few resources below.

  • Graphic novels may look as long as novels but the text has to be much tighter.  Like a picture book, you don’t to hog all the space or write about something the illustrator can show even better.
  • Write it panel by panel.  Describe the visual, and write out the narrative, dialogue, and sound effects.
  • When you describe the visual, you are giving the illustrator the action.
  • Your description of the visual, though brief, has to include tone, mood and perspective.
  • The manuscript will be formatted much like a screen play.
  • In addition to the script you will need biographical sketches of your characters (we had to write these for Rise of Superheroes) and also a synopsis (ugh).

On this blog post, Shannon Hale gives a page of manuscript that you can compare to the finished book Rapunzel’s Revenge to see how the artist added to and changed the manuscript.  Writing a graphic novel is a lot like writing a picture book.  I need to keep reminding myself of that so you get to hear it too!

Robert Smedley has written a blog post on the ins and outs of writing a graphic novel.  He also includes a photo of a script page.  This post is jam-packed with useful information.

You can find a lot of information online.  Much of it assumes you also illustrate.  Other writeups assume you’ve never written a story and don’t know the basics.  These are the bits that I’ve found most useful as I noodle over the possibilities.  The most useful thing for me right now is reading graphic novels.  Some I like.  Some I just don’t get which makes them just like any other type of literature.  My current favorite?  Welcome to the Jungle.  

Time to get my class materials back out and start playing with them some more.




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