You’ve just completed your master script for Alien Fuzz Force #1 and you’re ready to find an artist to get the comic going. But you’re forgetting a crucial step so your comic doesn’t feel like an amateur wrote it. And for that, you need an editor. I’m amazed at how many of the self-published comics I see that don’t list editors. Either they’re not using editors or they aren’t giving them credit. If you don’t have an editor, best start thinking about it. Editing can turn a problematic comic into a good one and a decent comic into an outstanding one. It’s a key part of writing and thus a critical part of making good comics. Having editors is what turns writers into great writers. I learned the most about writing from my editors, not from a college class. The same could be said for bloggers. I read a lot of great websites and the writers have mad skills. However, I also read a fair amount of comic or other blogs that could use editors. Having someone review your work and edit it before you publish can greatly improve it and make you a better writer.
Journalism is one of the best ways to meet editors and hone your writing skills. George Orwell, Neil Gaiman, Marilyn Manson, Hunter S. Thompson and Dirk Manning all started out as journalists. It doesn’t matter where, just find a place and write for it: school paper, local entertainment rag, or an internet site. The key though is to find a place with a good editor. I wrote an article for a local indie newspaper about traveling in Nicaragua after I lived there a couple years. That got parlayed into a gig at a city newspaper writing a political satire column for their entertainment mag. And it was there where I had my face metaphorically smashed repeatedly into the curb by my editor and good friend, Geoff. He didn’t let our friendship get in the way of being an editor. And he wasn’t even my formal editor either. He just volunteered to review my work and give me feedback, which ranged from “What the fuck is this? Cut all this out, redo, and quit wasting my time” to more nuanced critiques on my presentation, humor, and style. He was right in all those instances. My writing ability went up ten power levels because of that experience. Geoff went on to write hundreds of thousands of words on music for papers including the Kansas City Star and the Chicago Red Eye. He also had his excellent book on underground hip hop, Chicago Hustle and Flow, published with the esteemed University of Minnesota press. In short, he’s a great fucking writer and I clearly benefited from his advice.
When I first started working on the Satanic Hell script, I joined a local writing workshop, which gave me the perspective of peers and our teacher, who functioned as an editor of sorts. My brother Chris was and still is the chief editor for Satanic Hell, having pushed me on the early drafts of the script, memorably telling me to junk the whole second half and rewrite it (which I did). You don’t become a better writer by writing alone. You need experienced eyes with a critical mind reading it and cutting it up. So get that journalism gig now. It doesn’t pay, but neither does making comics, so what’s the difference if you want to be a great writer.