So I'm no good at coming up with titles of things, so this will probably change over time. Anyways welcome to the first part of what will be a series of advice/tips on writing comics and just writing in general. Granted I have no idea what I'm doing, but then again neither does anyone else. There's no key or short cut to being a writer. There's no one book or piece of advice that you can read that will suddenly unlock your inner (insert favorite writer here). But by reading those books and seeing how other people's processes work, you can start to piece together your own methods and find what works for you.
What works for you.
That's key, because what works for Neil Gaiman may not work for you. Our brains are all different. Some people are more visual, some more abstract. The only way to figure it out is to try out different things until you find something that makes writing an enjoyable experience or for some people at least a bearable one.
With that said, let's get into where every story starts, and that's with an idea.
For me, I usually get my ideas due to my inability to concentrate on things for a long period of time (I think there's a name for that). This means I usually just start to daydream and bam! My mind starts making connections and a story starts to form. Are they good ideas? Of course not, a lot of it is just non-sense that comes and goes. But sometimes there's something good in there. A good practice is to make a folder on your computer and write down any idea you think might lead to something. Every once in a while come back and look at it, and if something just seems crazy or dumb, delete it.
But what if you don't have the gift of ADD or are just having a hard time coming up with something? There's a conception out there that ideas have to somehow be original. Not true. We've been telling the same stories for a long, long time now. The trick is finding a way to tweak them to make them seem more original than they really are. The story of an alien sent from his planet to ours (or another one) and becoming it's protector is a pretty well worn one (Superman). But what about the story of a human kid going to an alien planet, and then coming back home only to find that he and the world he remembered had changed drastically? That's a bit of a different story, and that's how you separate yours from the myriad of other stories that are just Superman clones in disguise (Death of Superman pun not intended) (or you know what, sure, very much intended).
Hive Mind was me basically looking at the zombie genre, which is definitely over saturated at the moment, and saying what could I do to make this different. I settled on making them smarter/able to learn because I found this more frightening than just dead bodies shambling around. What if they could plan, communicate, trick us? Kane Maverick was me looking at a genre I love in pulp comics/adventures and digging just below the surface to see what was there. What if beneath all the square jawed handsomeness and scientific know-how was an emotionally and social stunted, insecure man-child? What if underneath the mustache twirling and evil plans was a guy who really preferred creating to destroying? Sometimes it just takes taking a well worn idea and pushing it slightly to the left to make it appear brand new.
Another tip is to pull things from your real life. Did your friend just tell you about this crazy mountain climbing trip where they got stuck in a cave for three days? That's a story. Find a trunk full of love letters your grandparents wrote in the attic? That's a story. There's plenty of ideas to be mined from ancient mythology and folklore ( Amazon has plenty of Folklore books for free on Kindle). Comb through local newspapers, and you'll often find bizarre or amazing true stories that can easily be used as inspiration for your own. Again, there's no such thing as cheating when it comes to story telling. The best writers have stolen and stolen brazenly. As long as you don't literally copy and paste someone else's work and claim it for your own (like this idiot) or change a few names and think no one will notice you'll be fine.
Closing this out, watch lots of movies, read lots of comics and books, go to museums, sit in the park and people watch. You never know where an idea will come from and which ones will be good or bad. We all know how long it took J.K. Rowling to convince someone to publish Harry Potter, so never get too down on an idea. Sometimes you have bad ones, and guess what, no one will ever know because you can always let them go. Just make sure the idea you settle on is one that speaks to you, since you know you will eventually have to write about it. Scott Snyder often writes about his own fears. It's a way for him to face them and overcome them, at least in the story. Maybe you have your own fears that could be used as inspiration, or maybe it's dreams, or anxieties. Whatever it is, writing can be your way of tapping into them and taking control.
Once you've settled on an idea, there's still a ways to go before you put pen to paper (fingers to keyboard?) For me those steps usually include research, character building, and world building. I'll touch on that first one next time, until then, go out into the world and find something you want to write about.