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1. Write a freaking script! Don't get me wrong, I adore and The Blackblood Alliance. But Kay herself has admitted how much trouble she got herself into by starting the comic and not having a script. And when one of the top artists on DA admits to the pitfall, you had best sit up and take notice. It's called a graphic NOVEL, folks. And just because it has cute pictures doesn't mean you get to half-ass it. Considering how much work goes into making a graphic novel looks good, I am continually gobsmacked by the number of people who plunge into it without bothering with a contingency plan. You know exactly what the end result looks like. About ... oh, ten, twenty pages, maybe 30 if you're lucky. And then it ends, and you won't see updates for months and years. If ever. It's not often that I invoke prior planning prevents piss poor performance, but come, people. Why would you do that to yourselves? Why would you labor for hours over a single page without knowing what the hell is going to happen in the next ten? It's one thing about a webcomic (the incredible Gunnerkrigg Court has been running for years and while I doubt every inch of it has been scripted out, there's some truly spectacular scripting going on because there are too many call forwards for it not to be so), but I see a lot of graphic novels like Off-White, where it's pretty obvious somebody farted around for a long time before they figured out where the story was going and what the ending was going to be. When the plot starts on page 150, I'm wondering how the hell someone had the impetus to draw that much without a game plan in mind. Write a script. It will make your graphic novel a million times better for someone to read.
2. Decide on a font. Seriously. I know this is kind of dumb thing to invoke, but man, people on average know nothing about formatting or typesetting. Despite the fact that we, you know, depend on it for the whole reading thing. The people that design and websites and how your texts appear on your phone have been paid very, very good money to make it readable without you thinking twice. But in graphic novels, text is just this thing that gets slung all over the place. It's crowded out by the art or done in font that can't be read. Or the dreaded Comic Sans comes into play. Again, why put this much work into something without a little research? Other people have invented the lightbulb; you don't have to go out and do it yourself. For God's sake, make your text readable. There are plenty of crisp fonts out there that are simple and can even provide a little style. Choose it and stick to it. Don't Times New Roman me on one page and Arial me on the next. And please, PLEASE don't forget that text is a compositional element in your layout. If I can't read your comic, I don't want to read your comic.
3. Storyboard. Seriously. I wonder how many people do this. More experienced artists don't really have to so much, but I thumbnail my artwork all the time. Most decent artists do, and masters like James Gurney thumbnail up to fifty times before deciding on one to take to the final render. For the newbies: storyboard. Mostly for the sake of getting your speech bubbles to the point that they don't block art or confuse the hell out of your reader. Storyboarding is about establishing flow: how the eye will naturally move from frame to frame and down the page. It's not rocket science, but it sure is science. (It's called gestalt; Google is your friend.) I see so many graphic novels where you can just tell the artist painfully struggled with a pose, or how to render trees and rocks, or just didn't care about what order the dialogue was supposed to go in. I get that comic art can help with teaching somebody to draw consistently, and if that's what you want, go nuts. (Again, Gunnerkrigg Court has a totally different style now then it did when it started, and it actually really helps with the story as the characters grow up.) But just like a script helps you with one pass on the story, a storyboard helps you with one pass on the art. Even if it's crappy stick figures, you'll be amazed at what a difference it makes.
4. SPELLCHECK. I don't know what it is about pretty art that makes people think they can get away with spelling like a third grader, but holy cow. Your and you're. There and their. Where and were and we're. Lose and loose. If these are inscrutable and confusing mysteries to you, you need to brush up on your grammar right now. And please, for the love of God, do so. Incorrect spelling makes you come across as brain damaged, and that's honestly probably a real insult to the genuinely brain damaged struggling to spell correctly. You wouldn't read a typo written prose novel, so why do you expect people to read a graphic novel riddled with them? If you've written a script like you're supposed to, spellcheck comes with any and all basic word programs. This is the Information Age. You have no excuse whatsoever to misspell. And grammatical errors? So help you God if I find grammatical errors for a native English speaker. It should go without saying that I will not continue to read anything that has grammar issues, nor should anyone. Any graphic novel that has them is bad and should feel bad. That's right, I said it!
5. Don't depend on the comments section to tell your story. I love to pontificate about my artistic process just as much as the next person, but I don't try to compensate for my art's crappiness by bolstering it with words. I see way too many graphic novels that, since they can't tell you what's going on with the actual art piece, they'll spell it out for you in the description. "Now they've found so-and-so's tracks! Now they're talking to the bad guy!" Spare me. If a movie or a book needs someone whispering to you what's happening for the sheer sake of you being able to grasp what's going on as the audience, it has failed as a story. And the person behind it has failed as a storyteller. A graphic novel in physical form as an actual book does not have the benefit of an artist's comment section. You can embellish, share thoughts, even philosophize, but if the story can't stand by itself you're wasting your time and mine. (I'd also like to point out that prose novels suffer from this, too; any number of authors can get indignant that no amount of writing can seem to convey to the reader that the character is in a dungeon with magic and a dragon. But it's not their problem, it's yours because you just don't "get it.") Graphic novels are about communication; they just communicate differently than the exclusive written word. Don't get lazy. Graphic novels are not for the faint of heart. Just by planning just a little, you will save yourself some headaches in the future.