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.