Sunday, December 16, 2007

Graphic Novels without the "Graphic"

I’m an author and illustrator, and I’d like to tell my next story as a graphic novel. How are graphic novels presented to you — as pure text, like picture books, or as text with sketches, or in final form? Thanks for all your efforts to keep us writing, and laughing, and presenting ourselves professionally.
I don't see many of these; I think many writers aren't quite comfortable with the format yet. Basically you're writing a script—so I'd want you to include only as much of the action/stage direction as is needed to understand the dialogue and changes of scene. Of course writing scripts is a separate talent from writing stories... but as longer books get more visual (many thanks to Hugo Cabret), I'm hoping to see more manuscripts that experiment with visual elements in my slush pile. Good luck!


Anonymous said...

This is a great question, and as a writing teacher who is not pursuing this form in my own writing, I'd be very interested in a fuller discussion so I can help my students and just plain learn more. It sounds to me like the answer is mainly addressed to a writer who is NOT the illustrator, unless I'm misunderstanding. Could you elaborate, EA? IOW, can you give somewhat more specific "typical" publisher guidelines for submitting graphic novels?

Anonymous said...

Check out 'Persepolis and Persepolis II'. Granted they are non-fiction but they read like fiction. My friends and our daughters read these for middle-school mother/daughter book discussion, and they were BIG hits all around.

Anonymous said...

I'm a graphic novelist, and the pitch package I handed over to my agent included:

- a synopsis
- a complete script
- 9 contiguous comic pages

If you're pitching yourself as the artist, I definitely think you should have sample pages ready to send at the drop of a hat. If nothing else, you'll find out how quickly or slowly you work, and you'll be less likely to agree to an impossible deadline.

If you aren't pitching yourself as an artist it's more complicated. There isn't a standard format for comic scripts the way there is for film scripts. Personally, I would write in a format similar to a screenplay and let your artist worry about breaking the script down into pages and panels. You COULD break it down, but not only would you be likely to end up with weird pacing (unless you've written for comics before), the editing process would be unnecessarily painful. Think of how much repaginating you'd have to do!

Anonymous said...

I find I am having this problem now.

I have a 9K ms that is part picture book, part chapter book and part graphic novel. Several agents have requested the full ms and I am waiting to hear back.

But I worry that they cannot envision the book. I have been illustrating for a long time, so I can see the presentation in my mind's eye; the problem is that the format is not like anything else out there on the market now so I have nothing to compare it to.

So how do I sell this without dummying up the whole thing? Or do I have to bite the bullet and do that? Scripting it will not work. But creating the dummy is a heck of a lot of spec work, when I have paying and more salable projects in hand. Still, this one calls to me.

Ideas anyone?

Anonymous said...

Do you think Hugo Cabret may have broken ground enough that agents and editors may be better able to envision these projects now? That would be my hope. That, plus maybe increased interest in books like this. That, plus maybe EA and other eds who read this blog might chime in with what kind of package they'd like to see. :)

Mac McCool said...

Last November, with the Southern California SCBWI chapter, we organized a Children's Graphic Novel Day. Half the day dealt specifically with writing, and the other half with visual storytelling (relevant knowledge for graphic novel writers, even if they don't draw the final pages). The day ended with a panel of professionals (covered in 4 posts on my blog). One exercise I encourage would-be graphic novel writer to try is to reverse-write a few graphic novel pages. Additionally, Caleb Monroe has wonderful resources on his blog on writing for comics.

Anonymous said...

If you're writing a graphic novel, wouldn't it make sense to submit it to a publisher that publishes graphic novels? Most of those are going to have very specific submission guidelines for authors and for artists.

I would think that sending a graphic novel to a publisher that has never published one before is just asking for a rejection slip, but who knows?

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