Initial Steps to a Bold First Book
Updated: Aug 9
To go from only having one poem and one short story published in a writing contest from high school, to writing and illustrating a graphic novel is quite the leap. The process has been very long and winding, yet I've loved every step of the way. In this post, I will share my initial steps to starting this writing journey, and a few of the first resources that were extremely useful. (Interested in hearing about how I decided to write a book? Check out this blog post to learn more!)
The story came to me in images and snippets at first. The whole writing process of planning, drafting, revising, and publishing I learned very quickly is not that linear. With this project, I began mostly by sketching, imagining, and researching. At the time when I decided to write a graphic novel, I hadn't even actually read one before!
The first six months of my process involved reading a variety of graphic novels. Of course, I had to start with some classics, like Sandman (Neil Gaimon), Swamp Thing (Alan Moore), and The Watchmen (Alan Moore). These three are all so different from each other, which was a perfect place to start, as I learned quickly that there is no right or wrong way of doing things in the comic world. If anything, this is a great place to start for a new author and illustrator, because I could develop my own style that suits me, and have a wide range of professional stories and art to learn from.
I also wanted to read some comics written by females or with strong female leads, as I still had this idea in mind of comics consisting largely of male superheroes. For this, I turned to my favourite musician, LIGHTS, who had just released her first comic series months before. Thankfully, she released a vlog about her process and some of the resources she found helpful.
Within the video, not only are there many things she says that I found to be inspiring and give me confidence in myself, but she also recommended a few of her favourite comics, which I swiftly went out to purchase. They include Monstress (Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda), The Last Man (Brian K. Vaughan), and The Wicked & The Divine (Jamie McKelvie & Kieron Gillan). Monstress is by far my favourite graphic novel, and is the first I recommend to any adult I know who enjoys graphic novels. The Last Man I wasn't a huge fan of mostly because I love Will Forte's series The Last Man on Earth, which has the same story premise, and I wasn't interested in reading such a similar story. However, as I began to learn to draw, using pages from various graphic novel artists was very useful!
Of course, I then also had to check out Wonder Woman, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy, as these three ladies are so bold and intriguing! (My Wonder Woman comics are at school for my students, so I've included LIGHTS's comic in the photo below - another talented writer/artist and relatable female character)
Another recommendation by LIGHTS was to read the book entitled "Alan Moore's Writing for Comics". This resource, in addition to similar books I've purchased since then, and endless tutorials and articles online, have all become like bibles to me.
Another book that has become a main resource for me is "The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing Comics" by Comfort Love and Adam Withers. It walks you through the whole process, and is a great starting place for someone wanting to write or illustrate comics. It wouldn't be sufficient on its own, as it covers so many topics, but definitely has useful ideas and perspectives.
After these first six months of reading comics, researching about writing comics, and drawing from my favourite panels in purchased books, I was ready to start writing. My writing process will be a tale for another time, but I hope for all of those comic book nerds out there, that you've found a new graphic novel in this post to add to your reading list!
Looking for a sneak peak at my current writing process? You'll find that here!
Want to learn more about drawing comic characters? Click here.