How do Authors Create Graphic Novels?

     Hi, it’s Maddie again! 😊 Have you ever been bored and started to flip open a graphic novel you’ve read a million times before? Or, finished a graphic novel in under an hour, only a day after you got it? Both these questions I could answer yes to. In fact, I have done these things many times before! I love graphic novels because of the way authors are able to tell a story with speech bubbles and eye catching illustrations. So, how are those drama filled stories and colorful illustrations created?  That’s exactly what I wondered.

Graphic Novels

        Making a graphic novel isn’t all about the illustrations and coloring though, in fact, lots of writing and editing is involved. Authors writing novels find inspiration, make a plan, and then start creating drafts which they revise and edit many times before becoming satisfied with a final product. Imagine having to complete all these steps plus six more! Yep, that’s the work of a graphic novelist! Below are the steps author Raina Telgemeier uses to create her graphic novels.


1. Finding Ideas! 💡
Ideas can come from practically anywhere! Just taking a walk can fill your head with a bunch of ideas. Maybe try watching a movie, or flipping through your favorite book. Authors even pull ideas from their own experiences in life.


2. Pitch 📝
The author’s goal is to get their book published. The first step to doing that is writing your pitch. Basically, your pitch is the idea you have for your book that you want to show your editor. Pitches are usually a short paragraph and they summarize the events in your book. They should probably explain the setting, characters, and conflict.


3. Outline 📄
Now remember that I said that graphic novelists have to do some writing. Well now that comes in! Most writers start by writing an outline. Raina Telgemeier writes a few page outline and explains what will happen in each scene.


4. Time to start drawing! 🖍 (Thumbnails)
Now’s time to start a draft! Authors will draw out each panel of their graphic novel one by one and build their story along the way. This can sometimes take forever if your editor doesn’t like your draft. If that happens, have fun going back and revising. 😜


5. Layouts 👩🏾‍🎨
Here comes time to bring out the nice paper and start really drawing your story! As author’s create layouts, they use their thumbnails as a guide. The purpose of layouts is to try and find out if everything your drawing works.


6. Pencils ✏️
After you finish your layout you pretty much know the big picture of what your graphic novel will likely look like in the end. Now comes time for those small details! Facial features, clothing, setting details, it’s time to add the little things using pencil!


7. Ink 🖊
I know: there are a bunch more steps to go! The next one is… ink! When inking graphic novelists can use ink brushes or technical pens. Ink brushes are used to ink the big picture while technical pens can ink the smaller parts of a panel, like the eyes and other small details.


8. Clean Up Time 🧹
Now, it’s time for the maybe not-so-fun part. Once all the graphic novel pages are finished, authors have to scan them onto the computer. Then comes the real clean up! On the computer graphic novelists have to clean up the little stray lines or mistakes that they may have made inking their pages. But don’t skip these parts, they still are super important!


9. Color 🌈
This would probably be my favorite part if I was a graphic novelist… until I learned that most graphic novelists don’t do this step themselves. If they were to spend time coloring their pages it would take a bunch more months! So, instead they turn to colorists. Authors work with their colorists to decide what colors work and which colors don’t. Once all the pages are approved it’s off to the publisher!


10. Lettering 🔤
After all this work, the dialogue still isn’t in yet! Wow, right? After the thumbnails were passed by the author’s editor the author probably made a manuscript. Basically, a script of all the characters’ dialogue. Now’s the time to add those speech bubbles in!


11. Cover Design 🖼
Only two more steps! I told you this was a long process! This steps fun though, create a cover for your amazing new book! Authors usually create a few sketches and decide which one they like best… unless, the author has someone make a cover for them. There you have it, a cover!


12. Getting Your Book Ready 🖨 🎉
Yep, now comes the printing process. But, for the author it’s time to celebrate!

Wow, isn’t this a lot of work?All of it must pay off, but imagine the months, possibly even years to get there! At the same time, imagine the fun! Designing your own book cover? Yes!!! When I first thought about how authors write graphic novels I thought they basically did the same exact thing all other authors do, just with pictures. But, now I realize no! There is so much more work involved. I would have never thought that pencils were a specific part of the process or that lettering was its own step. If I was a graphic novelist, I’d need to be super patient and probably very artistic. (I wouldn’t say I am!) The next time I pick up a graphic novel, I am definitely going to think about the ginormous process the book sitting in my hands had to go through to eventually reach me. You should too! If you’d like to learn more, visit Raina Telgemeier’s website,! Keep reading and I’ll see you soon.

– Maddie 


3 thoughts on “How do Authors Create Graphic Novels?

  1. 27summerw says:

    I’ve always wanted to know how authors create such beautfiul and interesting graphic novels! Thank you so much for making such a great blog post about it!

  2. 27ameliah says:

    Wow! That was a lot of detail and I learned a lot I did not know. This definitely helps me appreciate graphic novels way more!

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