If You Want To Make A Webcomic (Or, Things I Wish I Knew Two Years Ago)

Preliminary Advice That Sounds Cliched But Is Very True And Helpful:

Making art to be proud of is not a superpower confined to an Elect Few.

There is room in the world for your story, no matter how derivative you think it is.

There is no consistent Magic Bullet for recognition and success, but you will accrue people who genuinely like your work. (Also, scrutinizing daily visit stats is like scrying with bird entrails.)

Even if you have little confidence in your skills, half the fun of reading webcomics is seeing a fossil record of the creator’s artistic development, and pretty soon you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come.

Step Zero: Gather Your Tools.

Decide if you’ll work traditionally, digitally, or with a mix of the two. You might already have a strong preference, or a desire to break out of what you always work in. Free software or ordinary pencils-and-paper will work just fine, and there’s no right or wrong answer to this choice.

Step One: Consider Format.

Will it be ~ten pages? Gag-a-day? A single page? A grand saga? Jumping into a grand saga is tempting, but it really is best to try out short, self-contained pieces to get your bearings. (Then again, I jumped right into Parhelion, and although the beginning’s kinda shaky, things worked out okay.)

Short comics are a great way to talk about a fantastic/shitty day, have a surreal meandering tour that doesn’t outstay its welcome, or more.

Step Two: Find A Good Plot Spine (If Applicable).

If you’re doing any sort of story-driven comic, what’s driving the action? What’s a big thing that affects all your characters in some way? What ending will they all converge on? In Parhelion’s case, it’s the rush to Kiefer-161, and how a Tyrant making a power play has far-reaching consequences.

Also, resources permitting, it’s great to have interludes or plot threads with minimal connection to the main plot, if you want to fill out an obscure corner of the world.

Step Three: Populate The World.

If it’s a fictional setting, consider: Have the main characters known each other since childhood? Were they thrown together by happenstance? Have they ever even met in person? What circumstances did they grow up in, and what implicit views do they have? How do their desires converge or split? Dialogue-writing and characterization will improve with practice, but it’s very helpful to plot out the basic character frameworks in advance.

Step Four: Don’t Be Afraid To Pull Back.

It might turn out that your premise doesn’t have the legs you hoped for, or you lose interest, or you can’t produce pages as quickly as you want. There’s no shame in admitting that the comic doesn’t work for you, or slowing production, or taking a hiatus. Above all, look after your own health and satisfaction.

Step Five: Publish!

Tumblr is a good way to capitalize on social ties you probably have already, and one-off gags can spread far, but it’s innately bad for any kind of long-term narrative comic. Getting your own domain requires some money and technical prowess, but not a ton. Comparison-shop, and see what works best for your needs.

Steps Six Through Infinity: Network And Keep Growing

Twitter is probably the best place to meet other webcomics people, and even relatively-famous creators are rarely aloof and unapproachable. It can be hard to socialize without feeling like a human spambot, but as long as you’re affable and friendly- and don’t see other people as network vectors- you’ll have some success. Beyond Twitter, forums like ComicBookHour are great for socializing.

Visit local small-press expos as an exhibitor or patron, and take notice of your peers. Read other comics, web- and otherwise, and learn what you can. If a comic seems promising but just fails to grab you, try to pinpoint where and how it lost your interest.

I hope this serves you well! If you have more questions or comments, by all means, hit me up on Twitter.

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