What you MUST know before starting to write your graphic novel #nagranowrimo
It’s Day 2 of National Graphic Novel Writing Month– and we haven’t even started writing yet!
“Good?” I hear you cry. “How can that be good? I see all those novel writers who have started posting their word counts! Some of them are thousands of words ahead of us!”
Big deal. Writing a novel is easier. We have to know things first. Novel writers can just put one word after the other after the other, and keep going until they run out of steam or story. If it runs short, it’s a novella; if it runs long, it’s a trilogy. What if they had to write to an exact length?
I’m not just talking about the length of the novel. I mean writing to the exact length of each page– each page has a maximum 210 words, no more. And every scene has to end at the end of a page. And each chapter has to be exactly 22 pages long. And…
You get the idea. Even when a prose book is heavily reformatted, as with this new tiny book format, the text itself barely changes. With comics, that’s not going to be the case.
That’s why the most important thing to know before you start writing your graphic novel is the format– how your book will end up being initially published. Comics are a very regimented format— so much so that large comic book companies will produce art boards of a specific size for artists to use— and knowing those formats will inform how you create your work.
Take a look at these books.
Notice that every single one of these are a different page size than a “regular” comic book, and as a result, each one of them will have different storytelling challenges. Only so many words will fit on a page, only so many panels, only so much action and detail, and you’ll have to plan accordingly.
Length of the book matters too– is it 22 pages? 48? 120? 300? Are you reading it all at once, or is it spread out over months? Reintroducing your characters and setting in a monthly comic is one thing– it’s been a while between issues for your regular readers, and there’s a chance that this comic is the first issue a new reader may pick up, so it makes sense to introduce them. But if you read them in a collected omnibus format, being reminded every 22 pages or so that his claws cut through steel plate as easily as rice paper gets tired quick.
Similarly, if most people are going to be reading it in a collected format, you’ll have to accept that those 4-page digressions you put in the back of the monthly edition are going to be skipped over by a lot of people when they read it now.
Bear in mind that there are also technical and practical limitations to what you can actually print. If you decide that your graphic novel is going to be, say, 8″ by 9″, you’re going to be hard pressed to find a printer that can produce your books in that size and it’s likely to cost more. And while we’re talking about price, remember that every page you add is going to cost more to print, and unlike prose books you can’t use a smaller typeface to make it fit in fewer pages. In addition, your printer may be able to offer you a discount if your page count is a multiple of 16 or 32…
So that’s your first challenge: what do you think your graphic novel is going to look like? What’s your format?