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A fan of my work wrote and asked for advice about writing a graphic novel. Here's what I told her:

My first piece of advice is to completely give up on the idea of "totally new." Really. Let it go. Nothing is totally new. (A good thing to remember when people say "Kids these days!")
I wanted that totally new, too. It'll make your brain hurt. Instead, go for a fresh take on something that's already been done. (EVERYTHING'S already been done!) Take a story that didn't work for you because the idea was good but the execution was bosh, or had an unsatisfying ending. Take a page from your own life, take MANY pages. We've all had amazing days, and amazingly crap days. A favorite teacher, or not a single one. A friend who moved away or died, or was true to the end.
Only ONE time has a story just come to me BAM! and been all there. Every other one has been a lot of work. Fun, sometimes nail-biting work. But work. Hard work. Enjoy it while you're doing it, because you will almost inevitably look back on the time you spent writing your GN and feel a little wistful. Only once in my career did I loathe a job from beginning to bitter end. One year out of twenty-three.

Don't pull things out of your butt. Don't try to be mysteeeeerious. Remember that your story is a closed world. Put in nothing that is not essential. You CAN have interesting characters that you don't have to explain them. They are texture. That's fun. But somehow, they have to fit. A good way to close your world is to have a prologue (which you can toss later) which encapsulates the theme(s) of the whole story. I did that in both Cathedral Child and Clockwork Angels and Rumble Girls.
A wonderful piece of advice is start as late in the story as you can and end it as soon as you can.

Read things beside comics. Please. For your own good. Fiction, non-fiction, it's all good. If you want to avoid reading things in the genre you're writing in, do. I do. But that's me. I'm chicken that I'll see someone do exactly what I wated to do, and better, and pffft my energy is gone.

Have people read what you've written, and ask where they got lost, if they did. DON'T ask how they liked it. That/those answers will make you crazy. Just ask if they got it. If they didn't, DON'T defend it, FIX it. LISTEN to what they say.

GIVE UP PERFECTION. There will always be plot holes, awkward turn of phrase, characters who would sound like jackholes if a real person said their dialogue. The beauty of your readers if they have NO IDEA how it looked/read in your head. NO IDEA what you threw out, or how art and dialogue turned to hash. Remember that YOU know everything about your story and at the start your audience knows nothing about your story.Relax!

My good friend Jim Salicrup (he's the co-publisher at the graphic novel publisher Papercutz, and was also and editor at Marvel and Topps) says, "Do the best you can in the time you have." That is the most excellent advice.

NEVER EVER put your work down. "It's not my best work..." Then why are you showing it? If you're not ready, don't share. If it is ready and you're saying that, you're trying to deflect criticism. True story: *I* did it. It's obnoxious. If you need fresh readers tell them, "I need readers." Full stop. When you're pitching that minty-fresh gn, say "Thanks for looking." That's ALL.
(On the other hand, NEVER say, "I'm better than..." Law of horrible awkward. genital-shriveling, stomach in the basement coincidence says you just insulted their best friend and/or favorite artist. ASK ME HOW I KNOW. Oh god do I know.)

Finally, finish it, and do another. And another. And another.

I wish you nothing but good luck. It is delightful to see people succeed, and I hope you are one of them.


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roaring dragon, spore, monster friday
Lea Hernandez-DivaLea
Atelier DivaLea

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