How to Write a Script For Your Comic—And Finish It
December 2, 2016
4 ½ years.
And in the end: a finished script—despite the heaping scraps and balls of paper.
I printed two copies of it that day—one for a final editing pass and another for the obligatory, pat-on-the-back social media post to let everyone know I had accomplished something really big.
A few weeks ago I shared with you the dangers of world building syndrome and what you needed to do to start writing your own comic script. This week I want to take you into the actual process of what I had to do to get a finished script and what will now be Issue #0 shipping December 2016.
You Have Role Models. Use Them.
Dwayne McDuffie was, by far, a creative genius and category 5 scribe.
If you don’t know who that is—SHAME.
But for real though, please go listen to the man.
He helped give you Static (Static Shock to those who just watched the cartoon series), Rocket and Icon in Young Justice, Ben 10, Justice League: Doom, Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited—simply put, McDuffie gave the industry that work.
And that’s just in the animation space.
I’m not even going to pull up the comics. You look those up on your own (and buy some while you’re at it).
He co-founded Milestone Media—a movement in the 90s that revolutionized and molly-whomped the industry with it’s insanely dope cast of characters, stories and business acumen. It was a glorious forging of comics and business (and diversity before it became the hottest trend in comics today—let’s be CLEAR on who got this movement started some 20 years ago), and Dwayne was a heavyweight along with the likes of Denys Cowan, Christopher Priest, Michael Davis and Derek T. Dingle. His influence still permeates the industry.
He’s the reason why myself and Arclight exists. And you can quote me on that.
I knew if I wanted to get even a fraction of being “the next” Dwayne McDuffie I had to study and perform due diligence on my part. So I turned to him and the rest of Milestone for guidance.
I repurchased the trades of my favorite titles and read them cover-to-cover like me and my cousin once did for an entire summer (Rest In Peace, Will! I’m keeping the dream alive!)
Go back to the source and the place that got you started on this journey and start learning. That’s what they’re there for. If they can’t mentor you directly, they can mentor you indirectly and you need to take the opportunity to start learning if you have strong influences like Dwayne/Milestone behind you like they are for me.
Learn from those who’ve come before you. Build a foundation of knowledge from what you’ve learned, then execute.
Once down this road there was no turning back. I felt it.
I felt the inspiration to keep pushing forward like nobody’s business, but let me highlight something. Don’t copy. They’re a source of knowledge, education and inspiration, not material for you to twist around a little bit and run with as your own.
Your job isn’t to take what exists and give it your own flavor. Your job as a creator is to do something different.
Once You Get Inspiration, Keep Moving. Don’t Keep Looking For It. Move On.
Much like world building, constantly seeking inspiration and motivation can delay your progress too.
Motivation is found in the doing. — Sean McCabe
When I used to be a full-time artist here I would collect poses and all kinds of reference material. Five minutes quickly turns into an hour if you’re not careful. Before you know it, you get more comfortable with the idea that you were going to draw and settle on that versus actually drawing.
And the same can be said when you keep hunting down and looking for inspiration to write.
Sean McCabe says it best, motivation is found in the doing.
But if you really need it to get going:
- Get it.
- Get hyped.
- Start writing.
This Is Not Going To Happen Overnight. You Know—Rome Wasn’t Built In Yada, Yada . . .
Let me break this down for you.
Your biggest test is going to be patience. Your biggest enemy is going to be perfection and your greatest allies are going to be your support system, family and friends.
I just saved you like…4 weeks of agony right there. Because you’re going to want to rush it. You’re going to want to perfect it and you’re going to need support to get through it.
If you know in advance you’re going to rush it, now you can prepare to take your time.
If you know perfection is going to be your biggest adversary, now you know not to aim for perfection—aim for execution and completion.
And if you know you’re going to need support, join the Arclight Community or find a small group of people who will be there to cheer you along. This last piece is important. It’ll give you that extra dose of ‘push through it’ when you need it the most.
I swear by this.
How to Get Started
Again—keep it organic and natural. Don’t rush or force the words to come out.
Too often do we want to hit perfection on the first try not understanding that even million dollar vases start their humble beginnings as a lump of clay.
I guarantee the dialogue will sound clunky, the story won’t flow naturally, and it may take time to understand how to write your characters, but in the next blog post I cover what fixes all of this.
But write a little at a time each day. You aren’t required to finish in an hour.
Start each session already understanding what you need to write and accomplish it for the day. If you know you have to get this character from point A to point B, you go into that day with ideas already curated so you can start writing.
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