The Arvon Graphic Novel course was great!

On the week beginning the 20th September, I went on an Arvon Foundation Graphic Novel course ( at their Shropshire centre. It was very good. The tutors - Bryan Talbot and Hannah Berry - were encouraging, knowledgeable and lots of fun to be with. The emphasis of the course was on the writing side (since Arvon is for writers) and so we explored story structure, editing, setting, dialogue and character. I think what impressed me most about the course was the atmosphere of the graphic novel and comic world. It seemed far more down-to-earth, relaxed and a collection of enthusiasts than other creative areas.

We also talked at length about publishing opportunities for graphic novels. From what I learned, I think the graphic novel market is a much better market for me to aim at than television/film script writing or novels. There are an enormous number of people trying to get their novels and scripts published. I entered a contest in the summer to pitch a television story and the first ten pages of a script (the Kudos film competition). The organisers informed me later that they had received 1500 entries. Fifteen hundred! For a television script competition that was only advertised on a few web sites!

By comparison, the number of people who are submitting completed graphic novels of good quality is relatively small. At the same time, publishers (I think) are keen on graphic novels. They're ideal for a younger audience and for a public that may be perceived as being willing to read an adult comic rather than a book. They're also ideal to be made into films. They can be sold digitally in a series of chapters for someone to read on their iPad. It's a lively medium.

I've therefore decided to embark on producing a graphic novel soon. It's going to be a thriller using the research I conducted when I was putting together The Golden Web - an investigation into ancient mysteries. Although I failed to write a thriller novel using that research, I'm much happier with the idea of making a graphic novel. The first stage will be to write a detailed plot description. I'll then write the script. After that, I'll put together a pencil sketch version of the story. Finally, when all that's done, I'll produce the artwork.

At the moment, I'm thinking of doing the artwork in a flat colour style, called 'ligne claire' or clear line. It's the same style that Herge used with Tintin. It's also been used more recently in the excellent graphic novel 'Logicomix' about Bertrand Russell. Here's some notes I made on how to do ligne claire with a modern setup:

The clear line approach is particularly suited to a modern computer. I can ink in the lines by hand, then scan them into the computer. I can then add the shading in Photoshop (or the very impressive Pixelmator). Backgrounds, people, inking and shading can all occupy their own layer in Photoshop, making the process of completing the artwork much easier.

But that's got to wait for now. The first thing to do is to produce a good story! :)