11 Writing And Drawing Tips From Graphic Novelists

by Charlotte Ahlin

Comic books, graphic novels, sequential art narratives—call them what you want, but the words-and-pictures genre is here to stay. Slowly but surely, graphic novels are becoming more widely accepted as legitimate literature. Personally, I still love a good story about a super-powered person in tights fighting monsters from outer space, but even if superheroes aren't your cup of tea, there are so many comics and graphic novels out there to choose from. And now that more comics are being written by women, it's easy to find an author or artist you can identify with.

More people reading graphic novels means more opportunities for aspiring graphic novelists, too. If you want to write the kind of novels that don't have pictures, there's tons of advice for you floating around the Internet. It seems like every great author has at least one juicy quote on how to get better at writing. (Spoiler alert: the advice is usually along the lines of "write everyday and don't give up," and it's 100% true.) But if you're an aspiring graphic novelist, sometimes it can be hard to know where to start.

So here are some choice quotes from just a few of the brilliant graphic novelists and comic book authors out there, to inspire you to put pen to paper:

1. "There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you'll hear about them. To invent your own life's meaning is not easy, but it's still allowed, and I think you'll be happier for the trouble.”

— Bill Watterson, creator of Calvin and Hobbes.

2. "Graphic novels are not traditional literature, but that does not mean they are second-rate. Images are a way of writing. When you have the talent to be able to write and to draw, it seems a shame to choose one. I think it's better to do both."

— Marjane Satrapi, creator of Persepolis

3. "It's actually easier to do autobiographical stories. The story is already there. It's a matter of carving away what doesn't fit rather than building up from nothing."

— Craig Thompson, creator of Blankets and Habibi

4. "In 2010, I gave myself the assignment of drawing a comic in two weeks and I also decided that I was going to adapt a fairy tale so that I wouldn’t have to come up with an original concept or something like that. Once I finished it, I realized that I could actually finish something and had a finished product. It gave me the confidence to do it again."

— Emily Carroll, creator of Through the Woods.

5. "When I’m done drawing comics for the day, I just sit down and draw more comics."

— Fiona Staples, artist of Saga

6. "I start with something that makes me angry or confused, and then I write about it. It's a form of self-help."

— Brian K. Vaughn, author of Saga

7. "The secret subversive goal of my work is to show that women, not just lesbians, are regular human beings."

— Alison Bechdel, creator of Fun Home and Are You My Mother?

8. "A ‘cartoonist’ is often seen as the lowest rung on the artistic ladder – I mean, we just draw funny pictures! But the longer I’ve been doing Zen Pencils I’ve come to accept that I am expressing myself through my cartoons and influencing the way people see the world, which is what art is meant to do."

— Gavin Aung Than, creator of Zen Pencils

9. "I learned to write by writing. I tended to do anything as long as it felt like an adventure, and to stop when it felt like work, which meant that life did not feel like work."

— Neil Gaiman, author of Sandman

10. "Good writing is writing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting. Sometimes, it happens to work right away, and that's amazing. But most of the time, it happens to work, and then you rewrite and rewrite and rewrite, and maybe it even comes back to the thing it was in the first place, but then you know for sure that it is good, and it's what you wanted to do."

— Kate Beaton, creator of Hark! a Vagrant and Step Aside, Pops

11. "I always like to write where I'm at in real life into whatever I'm working on."

—Bryan Lee O'Malley, creator of the Scott Pilgrim series

Images: Thoth God of Knowledge/Flickr; Giphy; Steven Depolo/Flickr; hobvias sudoneighm/Flickr; Benrankel/Wikimedia Commons; Karen Mardahl/Flickr; Riccardo De Luca/Wikimedia Commons; MalenZeichnenGestalten/Pixabay; byronv2/Flickr; Hans Peters/Wikimedia Commons; Josh Crump/Flickr