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Posted by inferiorego (21217 posts) - - Show Bio

The first story I ever wrote was called, "The Fox Who Became a Millionaire." It was actually more of a graphic novel than anything. This was back in 1987, and I was the brilliant age of 5. Soon after, I wrote and drew a series of comic strips called "The Adventures of Rad Car and Minus Man" (Rad... yep, it was the 80s) Fellow students and teachers loved my books, and I still have a few of them kicking around my place, and it's a really cool thing to look back on.

My whole life, I've wanted to be a writer of either films or comic books, and while I'm extremely proud to be a staff member of this site and write reviews and bizarre little pieces making fun of things in comics I loved as a kid, trying to become a comic book writer has been the most annoying endeavor I've ever embarked upon. Even though, at one time in my life, I was an award winning screenwriter, have a B.A. in screenwriting, had my first piece of writing published at 8 years old, and a writer for the best gosh darn comic book site on the web, trying to write comics sucks.

== TEASER ==

I have friends that are writers in the industry, close friends that I grew up with, and they seemingly had the same problems I have now. The problem is pretty simple. As a writer, you're expected to jump through hoops and go broke in order to get a book printed and more so to get it published.

So what set this all off? Last weekend, I went to Wizard World Chicago to visit some friends in town, and just to check out the con. As I walked through the immense Artist's Alley section, I saw a woman I used to work on comics with. Our last project together fizzled out after she told me she couldn't finish the 5 pages I gave her for my book Bunch of Capes. I walked to her table and greeted her. I asked if I could look at her portfolio because I wanted to see how her art was coming along, and as I looked down I noticed 2 pages where one of the characters look strangely familiar. In fact, he's the character I have tattooed on the back of my arm.

She had completed two of the pages and had them in her portfolio. I was pretty mad because I never got to see them. She apologized and asked me if I wanted her to take the pages out. I told her no because they looked really great, and I'm not going to try and hurt her passion because my feelings were a tad hurt. I feel like I keep running across the same problems as a writer, just trying to get something out.

1. No One Wants to Read Your Stuff

You could be the best writer in the world, but no one will ever know because no one wants to see your work unless you have an artist already on board. In the film world, almost anyone will read the first 2 or 3 pages of a screenplay. When I was first starting out, I was told by a few small companies that they do not accept writing without an artist attached. Ouch. They'll do it for artists alone but not writers. Companies don't give writers much of a chance on their own.

2. Everyone Says They're a Writer

This goes hand-in-hand with the first point. How many times have you come across someone who has said to you, "I'm a writer," but when you ask to see some of their writing they say something like, "Well, I don't have anything to show anyone" or "My piece isn't finished yet." A majority of the time, you'll never see any of their writing. Better yet, is the person who is a terrible writer who thinks they're a golden god of words who, in reality, is terrible at their so called craft. Comic book companies get hit up by these people quite a bit, so there's a bit of reasoning behind point #1. Still, it's tougher for those trying to get a job who aren't terrible and have no problem showing off their work.

3. Some Artists Want to be Paid Upfront

This is one of those things that really bums me out. As a writer, even as a good one, getting paid for your work is the impossible dream. No one really needs anyone else to write something up for them; however, when you're an artist, it's much easier to get work, so artists are used to being paid for their duties. As a writer of a comic, many artists want you to pay them up front. It is understandable because drawing a page of art takes a buttload of more time than writing a page, unless you're a really slow typist. So in order to get an artist, you already need some money, so you need a real job or a super-awesome paper route.

4. Some Artists Can be a Bit Flaky

What's the biggest disappointment I've had over the years of trying to do comics? The fact I've had numerous artists flake out on me, even after a few of them got paid. It's not just artists that can be flaky. Writers can be just as bad (like me), but when you have a project ready to go, and you have an artist who is just as enthused, seeing the artist fall behind deadlines and then stop answering your calls/e-mails/pounds on the door at 3A.M. is a kick to the crotch.

Here's where I get all uplifting and keep you enthusiastic. Not everyone has all these problems. Keep your mind on your goals and don't let these pesky problems get in your way. While I may sound like a bit of a pessimist here, I'm not. And just because I talked about why my experiences in this field sucked, that doesn't mean I've had some great experiences as well. I work for my favorite comic book website, and no, I'm not just saying that. I've won awards as a screenwriter, and I have had a couple short comics put onto paper.

When it comes down to it, if you REALLY want to be a writer, follow a few of these tips that no one else will tell you.

1. Network Like a Mofo

Save every e-mail and phone number you can with someone you like that appreciates something you do. Never throw a number away, unless in fact you hate the person in question. Don't bother with people you don't like. Keep in contact with the people you like, and maybe someday, they'll help you out.

2. Help Out the Little Guy

If you see someone with promise, give them advice, introduce them to someone, or work with them, critique each other's work. Never shun another person just because you're both writers. Again, ignore this if you personally don't get along. If you want people to help you, you have to help someone else. At least that's how I see it.

3. Higher Learning

It's just a piece of paper, but a college degree will open doors. What sounds better? Tim, a kid who lives in an apartment who loves to write or Tim, a kid who has a college degree in writing? A little knowledge never hurts, and that piece of $40,000+ paper looks good on your wall.

4. Don't Give Up

It's so cheesy, but so true. Keep working. Write everyday. Further your craft. Work with different people.

By the way, you know that story earlier about the artist who didn't tell me she finished the story? We had a long talk last week about where we were headed, as creators, and what we can do to get back on the right track. The next day, I got new character sketches for one of my books. So, while I may have been super-bummed about what went down, we're making things happen.

Staff
#1 Edited by Or35ti (1101 posts) - - Show Bio

This is a really nice article.

#2 Posted by entee (54 posts) - - Show Bio

Man,  I never knew being a writer was so hard. It's good to see though that you're enjoying your time on ComicVine.

#3 Posted by NightFang (9862 posts) - - Show Bio
@Or35ti said:
This is a really nice article.
And helpful.
#4 Posted by BKole (497 posts) - - Show Bio

'sfunny, I read and hear and read and write and see lots of variations on the same theme. Nobody breaks into comics the same way, which is wonderful, because it means you might do it in some way nobody else saw coming. Something that only happens to you because it only could. 
 
I start my Master in Creative Writing in a few weeks, and its nice to see the other end of the thought process. I read somewhere that people who have degrees etc in writing aren't writers. Or that it won't help because in writing its meaningless. I don't agree with that. I'm doing what I can to further myself, but part of this degree is Networking like a bad boy. 
 
One of my favourite things to do is to go to whatever Convention I can get too, mostly Birmingham and a few times Bristol, and buy up as much Indie stuff as I can humanely carry/afford. Unless theres something truly special from the big guns (Complete my Animal Man collection, or say, the first forty issues of Shade the changing man for a tenner) I'm going to support the little guys out there. Because their ideas are great. 
 
Sometimes, they're not my cup of tea. I speak of the Shark of Wisdom, or of a particular writer and artist because they were massively unfriendly the second time around, and sometimes I don't necessarily seem attracted to what the guys are putting out - but when they're friendly, and they talk to you. Take the chance to go through their work with them, show you the passion, the hours of work, the fact that their little boy is sitting with them, or their odd smelling Phillipino wife is there feeding their Baby, while he dazzles you with his amazing Waist coat, thats when you want to buy their comic. Their work and their life. 
 
So...Meandering. Becoming a writer is about becoming able to see the world from different perspectives and different vantages. So, might as well chat to some people what are already doing that, right?

#5 Posted by Or35ti (1101 posts) - - Show Bio
@NightFang: Yup. At first glance of the title it sounds incredibly pessimistic but it turns out to actually be realistic. The tips were the best part :)
#6 Posted by Ulviar (29 posts) - - Show Bio

The article is really interesting. Thanks, Mat. I think, even those who don't want to become a comic book writer can learn a couple of important things from these tips.

#7 Posted by CrimsonTempest (307 posts) - - Show Bio

This is really a very motivating article, dude. I thank you for these tips.

#8 Posted by haydenclaireheroes (8865 posts) - - Show Bio

great article 

#9 Posted by Omega Ray Jay (7566 posts) - - Show Bio

Very informative and honestly written, great article for the site. I'm on an art course at the moment and the prospects from that are looking pretty bleak atm though I need to start some thorough research when I start back I can imagine how bad it must be for comic book artists. 

#10 Posted by EdwardWindsor (14400 posts) - - Show Bio

cool stuff dude. I wish i had some people i could sounbaord off and work with lol

#11 Posted by VincSkar (5 posts) - - Show Bio

I found this article very helpful even through I'm an artist and still working on my degree.  Thank you for the tips. :) 
#12 Posted by Burnstar1230 (207 posts) - - Show Bio

 If I only had one thing to say about that article is this: motivated.

#13 Posted by Duo_forbidden (1161 posts) - - Show Bio

This is an article I can appreciate. Going into journalism, I can understand being a writer can be frustrating at times. Just gotta keep your head and think positive while staying motivated.

#14 Posted by lectriccolossus (436 posts) - - Show Bio

This was really helopful. I'm not a writer but i think that the same could apply to artists as well. Much thanks.
#15 Posted by MrUnknown (1700 posts) - - Show Bio

Good knowledgeable, helpful and insightful article!

#16 Posted by inferiorego (21217 posts) - - Show Bio

Thanks for all the kind words sirs and ma'ams.

Sorry, on my phone and can't reply to everyone right now.

Staff
#17 Posted by CellphoneGirl (18818 posts) - - Show Bio

This is really helpful :]

#18 Posted by cattlebattle (12579 posts) - - Show Bio

Good article, I like to write, nothing I'd make a career out of though. I have actually met the kind of people given in example # 2...I hate them

#19 Posted by Wattup (648 posts) - - Show Bio

Good stuff. I'm a repped screenwriter/novelist who has tried his hand at some graphic novel work in the past and the problems noted about artists are definitely an issue. I wish more of the smaller companies out there that are receptive to new writers (where you can build your skills) would help match up aspiring scribes with up-and-coming artists.
 
You know, part of the problems of the writer wannabes out there are similar with even screenwriters and film directors. Everyone wants to write/direct like Tarantino and it seems a large pool of aspiring comic writers want to go straight into writing Batman without paying their dues. So all they do is read comics when they should be reading EVERYTHING (no matter how obtuse) to develop their skills, whether it be pacing, dialogue or structure. Besides, it's not like Grant Morrison or Alan Moore jumped right into X-Men, Superman or whatever.  8 )

#20 Posted by damswedon (499 posts) - - Show Bio

I've been reading some art magazines and writing forums and the one thing that always comes up is criticism. Artists in many cases hate criticism because drawing is a deeply personal thing, they connect to the art spiritually. Writers on the other hand connect to their writing mostly mentally this means they love criticism of their work if it is more than, "this is crap".

One thing I really dislike about the user review system on whiskey sites is that you see x amount of people agree with this review, but is that because they agree with the score or because they think I wrote a good review. I'd rather have one person say they think I didn't explain part x well enough instead of ten upvotes.

#21 Posted by InnerVenom123 (29499 posts) - - Show Bio

Good article! 

#22 Posted by Jolt92 (174 posts) - - Show Bio

Great, now I'll have to give up that dream too.

#23 Posted by Meteorite (3351 posts) - - Show Bio

Really helpful, Inferiorego. I know exactly you mean by Point 1: I've had a comic series on the internet for over a year now, but aside from some of my friends, NO ONE reads it.

#24 Posted by The Poet (8291 posts) - - Show Bio

hmm...interesting...

Moderator
#25 Posted by JonesDeini (3620 posts) - - Show Bio

I'm working on a pitch and this was really helpful advice. 

#26 Edited by Decept-O (7274 posts) - - Show Bio

I've kept reading over the years how comic book publishers prefer to have story proposals pitched at Cons, as well as seeing artists' portfolios. Perhaps that is another key thing that plenty of talented creators are unable to do; attend a comic book convention. Which in a sense I understand but for those who are talented but can't afford to go to a Con I feel for them, must be challenging.

Self-publishing and Indie companies might be the best route for a lot of people; at least they can get a taste of what its like and decide whether or not their efforts are worth it. With the state of comics today, though, it might be a hard endeavor to pursue.

Just to add to the artist thing, perhaps paying someone a percentage up front instead of full pay would be a wise thing to do. Make the final payment when all is said and done. I've not done it but I know that tactic works for a number of people.

#27 Posted by blur1528 (1055 posts) - - Show Bio

Mat, I feel ya. I've been trying to put a book together all year. And I'll be damned if I don't send off pages by Dec. 31, 2011.

#28 Posted by Spiderslike (652 posts) - - Show Bio

Sigh I really wish I would have tried harder to be a writer but now I'm on a completely different path bummer man

#29 Posted by LordRequiem (1309 posts) - - Show Bio

I started trying to write my own comic book, but decided that it fit more in novel format, so now it's turning into a book, with my own illustrations of the characters. If I had the time, I'd do it as a comic book, but my drawings take so long usually. Pratice makes perfect I guess! One day I'll be able to say I wrote a book, cour'se I'll be the only one with the only copy but who cares.

#30 Posted by sj_esposito (457 posts) - - Show Bio

You see this type of rhetoric everywhere -- how hard it is to break into comics. In fact, almost every major publisher has a section on their websites dedicated to the topic, which in all honesty, is basically discouraging people from trying to break in. 
 
Who ever said becoming a writer was going to be easy? 
 
The fact of the matter is that writing for comics is not unlike any other discipline that requires specialization and is hobbled by relatively few positions (at least in the major market). I think to break into any field, one needs to recognize the odds that he's up against, weigh them, and then if he wants to proceed, buckle down and just do it the best that he can. And even then, there's no guarantee of success. There should be no sense of entitlement -- any of that is just misguided. Why would anyone expect other people to want to read their script or hear out their ideas? That's just  not how things work, unfortunately. 
 
I mean no nastiness and certainly have nothing against you, Mat, or anyone here at CV. But this article is a bit whiny. I'd like to read the follow up to this article one day if you 'get in' and see if it's a bit more realistic in it's approach. 
 
In the interest of full disclosure: I'm not a writer, nor have I ever tried to get any written, fictional material published. I'm speaking from other experiences that I think, in principal, can be applied to the situation. 

#31 Posted by Grimoire (529 posts) - - Show Bio

I love to write but get bogged down by the brick walls that turn up from time to time at certain parts of a story. I have these key note scenes that I write easily because I plan out the entire thing in my head before I start writing it but the stuff to join one scene to the other like further set up or including information that has to be known at that point and being natural about it gets me bored only a tiny bit until I get to the next set piece moment. lol 
I never thought writing was going to be easy but the hardest things in life are also the most worth doing.

#32 Posted by Grim (2079 posts) - - Show Bio

cool article. i always figured writing comics was way harder than writing books and tv, and so my taste for it is rather limited to a comicstrip series ive been writing. 
 thanks for the article. Its rare now days to get an internet article just about life instead of hints and leaks ans sneak peeks and stuff.

#33 Posted by QuantomMan (216 posts) - - Show Bio

For someone who's passion is to write his own comics stories and draw them, this was a great article 
 
Thanks man

#34 Posted by turoksonofstone (13199 posts) - - Show Bio

Slam Bang Article indeed.

#35 Posted by kenseven (54 posts) - - Show Bio

if this were a forum, this article would be a sticky. one of the best articles on ComicVine ever. thanks!

#36 Posted by AMP - Seeker of Lost Knowledge (1221 posts) - - Show Bio

Interesting tips. I should keeping them under advisement...because I really want to be a comic book writer/artist....once I'm done with college....

#37 Posted by zombietag (1488 posts) - - Show Bio

seriously my life story. sheesh.

#38 Posted by AirDave817 (807 posts) - - Show Bio

Excellent article!
#39 Posted by Agent Buttons (13479 posts) - - Show Bio

Good stuff IE.

#40 Edited by Danial79 (2333 posts) - - Show Bio

Great article. I can totally relate too, especially to points 3 and 4. I'm currently prepping a comic for submission and even though the artist I have attached is amazing, I am having to pay him up front and he's taking a week to do a single page, which is rather worrying seeing as if it gets picked up, he'll be having to do about 6 pages in that same time.

#41 Posted by randalmeister (84 posts) - - Show Bio

Great article! Although, I find the flakiness works both ways in some cases. I've been trying to get together with a writer friend of mine on adapting some of his work to comics but he tends to be very difficult to pin down on specifics. Oh, well... :/

#42 Posted by DoomDoomDoom (4212 posts) - - Show Bio

Thanks for the advice. Currently working on that B.A. now.

#43 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7686 posts) - - Show Bio

INSPIRATIONAL BLOG

#44 Posted by holysmokes (9 posts) - - Show Bio

Very interesting read. I had no idea how tough it would be

#45 Posted by RareCheshire (190 posts) - - Show Bio

Kudos to those who've made it and to those still striving! I wished I could work in comics!

#46 Posted by DarkShadows (742 posts) - - Show Bio

Wow. That was a very interesting article. I want to be a writer, publish my own book(s) one day. It is hard to write and think up of new ideas. I admit, it does hurt when no one appreciate your hard work and I sometime feel like giving up and move on to something else; I can't move jump to another because writing is fun and it is my passion. 
After reading article and the tips, it gave me more inspiration, you really encouraged me to keep going until I make it to the top of my goal. 
 
It will be difficult, but life is never easy.
 
Everyone should take this advice even if you're not planning to be a writer or an artist.

#47 Posted by Zomboid (740 posts) - - Show Bio

Great article. I'm an artist, but enjoy writing as well. It'd be great to make it in the world of comics, but who knows what the future holds for me. Good luck to you, and to all aspiring comics creators, in your future efforts and endeavors.

#48 Posted by slick23 (460 posts) - - Show Bio

I know writers had it really bad..but man, props to you bro, if you ever release a book near LA, hmu, Ill buy it!

#49 Posted by Omegalpha (61 posts) - - Show Bio

Good stuff, Matt. I definitely feel that frustration on the artist's side and in terms of the clutter of the "writers".
 
I'm just starting out and it is a daunting task and long road ahead. But I love it. So, I'm going to keep at it. Glad to hear things have worked out for you.

#50 Posted by CaptainCockblock (3672 posts) - - Show Bio

I've gone to panels at the last two Comic-Con's that have totally disillusioned me  about how the comics industry works. Still, not giving up. Thank god I'm mildly passable as an artist so I can make some effort to show my work beyond the script form. Also, I have writing and completed comics on Deviant Art here.