Robot 6

How to write comics …

the title page to an Antony Johnston script

the title page to an Antony Johnston script

the Antony Johnston way! After all those aspiring-writer Don’ts from Sara Ryan, Ron Randall and Dylan Meconis we linked to yesterday, I figured a few Dos would be much appreciated. Fortunately, Wasteland and Daredevil writer Antony Johnston has posted a lengthy essay in which he walks us through his writing process, from his first scribbled notes through outlines and pitches to his final polished script.

Johnston’s quick to point out that the best way to write is to find out what works for you and then do that, rather than slavishly aping what someone else does. “But you have to start somewhere,” he accurately notes, and getting a good look at the soup-to-nuts process of a professional writer like Johnston is as good a place as any.

(via Andy Diggle)



Steven R. Stahl

March 16, 2010 at 10:58 am

I read the text of Johnston’s piece, but not the samples. The text was so vague and cute (?) that it could be considered insulting. Whatever works for a writer has to work for other readers and, if he intends to sell the piece, has to work for an editor. A writer can’t produce a genre piece without being familiar with the genre; he can’t have drama unless there’s conflict; a story will lack meaning without a plot — unless the writer has such a wonderful reputation as a master of dialogue that he can get away with slice of life stories.

I’m not sure what the point of Johnston’s text was. Perhaps he wants to discourage competition.


Sean T. Collins

March 16, 2010 at 11:59 am

Yes, I’m sure that was the point.

Steven, if you’d actually bothered to read the post, instead of just allowing your eyes to process the words while you thought up the best way to troll it, you’d have realized he was talking about process, not the actual creative act of writing. That’s what he meant by finding “what works best for you” — he didn’t mean (for example) that you can put Superman in your Marvel pitch or that you can make your story totally boring if you feel like it, he meant (for example) that you might find using actual index cards more useful than a computer program, or that you might prefer just to start typing rather than working everything out beforehand.

But by all means, continue to lecture everyone about how wrong things Johnston never actually said or implied are.

Steven R. Stahl

March 16, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Johnston wrote:

Q: What’s the best way to turn my idea into a story?

A: Whatever works for you.

Of course, that’s not what you want to hear. And you probably think it’s not very helpful.

Actually, it is. I wasn’t kidding about the guarantee. But that’s because it’s a tautology; of course you do whatever works for you. If it didn’t work for you, it wouldn’t… well… work. So when you hear a writer give that answer, cut them some slack, because it’s the right answer. However, what it’s missing is some expansion. Something writers often forget to mention, because it’s ancient history and as natural as breathing. So here’s the fuller answer:

Q: What’s the best way to turn my idea into a story?

A: You try out lots of different things until you find the ones that work for you.

But this only raises more inevitable questions. What are these different things? How will I know when one of them works? How will I know when one of them doesn’t work? What are the best things to try, the things that work for most writers?

The hard truth is that nobody really knows. What works for one writer may not work for another. There are as many methods as there are writers. Were you to live to a grand old age, you would still never have enough time to try them all.

Explain how that’s useful to anyone.


Speaking of aspiring-writers: are there any specific forums where young writers can go to trade idea’s or gather up talent?

Explain how that’s useful to anyone.

It’s useful to people who think that you must do a detailed outline before writing anything, for instance. There are books out there that will tell you the One True Way to write. Johnston is offering an antidote to them.

Steven, would you be willing to end all of your posts with the phrase “Explain how that’s useful to anyone”?

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