San Diego Comic Con is spectacular, from the word “spectacle”. Herein lies the danger for you: the pro or almost-a-pro. In the nooks and crannies of this vast event are opportunities for you to develop your craft and make useful contacts. Yes, we all want to see Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill run around on stage with plastic lightsabers, but believe me, all the big spectacles will show up on Youtube and all the big announcements will trickle out within minutes. Don’t get poppy-fielded by the hype. Have fun, of course – but balance it with opportunities that could move you closer to being on one of those stages.
Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of very practical panels/workshops that I think could be useful for writers. I have not included all the names of the folks running the programs OR the locations, because (as you may know) these things can change. Make sure you double-check details against the actual Comic Con schedule.
BEFORE we get into the doodads, do NOT neglect the Blood Drive. If you get nothing else accomplished at Comic Con, you could at least save a person’s life.
Dynamic Story Creation in Plain English – 10am
Maxwell Alexander Drake gets technical with the moving parts of fiction: arcs, plots, themes. It’s like, advanced fundamentals.
Drake’s other workshops: Fri 10am “Point of View, What’s the Point?”, Sat 10am “Show Your Story, Don’t Tell It”
The Writer’s Danger Room – 12pm
X Men fans, you know exactly what this is. What do you have to do to be a good writer? You have to write. Take an hour out of your Comic Con splandango in this workshop with short, sharp writing assignments. You know who waits for inspiration? Amateurs. Brought to you by the gang behind Epic Win! The Geek’s Guide to the Journey from Fan to Creator.
It’s a Funny Story: Writing Humor – 3pm
Humor is indispensable, but notoriously difficult. Learn where, when and how with this panel of 6 writers.
Writing 101: What to Think About Before You Start Writing – 3pm
For a lot of folks, the hardest thing is knowing where to start. This workshop is for the less-experienced. Get those good habits going now, before you have to unlearn a bunch of useless nonsense.
Writing from Life: Turning Personal Experience into Relatable Stories – 3pm
Just because it happened to you doesn’t make it interesting. BUT. With some technique and effort, you can absolutely draw on your own life to create stories that work.
The Secrets of Immersive Worlds – 5pm
Though this focuses on comic books, surely it’s applicable to all storytelling. This is a panel all about the value of details and specificity in world-building. Most importantly, Roxane Gay is on this panel. Why would you miss this one?
Writing for the Computer Gaming Industry – 6pm
Just as with the artists, one of the key factors in working as a professional will be your flexibility. Avoid being a one-trick pony by being skilled in a variety of mediums. Games are pretty much the biggest thing out there, and knowing how to write stories for them could be your path to glory.
Simulated Worlds: Writing for Virtual Reality and Games – 7pm
See above, but more. This is the wave on the wave.
damn, that’s just Thursday – let’s keep going
Intro to TV Writing: From First Draft to Getting Staffed – 10am
Currently working genre TV folks answer your questions about breaking into the biz and having a career as a TV writer.
Image Comics: Excellence in Storytelling – 11am
Luminaries such as Marjorie Liu and Dustin Nguyen lay out the fine and essential art of storytelling. Nothing is more important. Except maybe flossing.
Writing About Comics: From Fan to Pro – 11am
Maybe you don’t wanna write any kinda fiction. Or maybe you do, but you wanna sneak in a side door. Either way, if you dig comic books and wanna write about them and maybe even get paid for it, then this is your panel.
Writers: Get Published! Get Greenlit! Get Working! – 3:30pm
Whether it’s a novel or a screenplay, you need a way in, right? Here’s how, from folks on all sides of the equation. They expressly say “No pitches, please”, so… don’t be lame and pitch them. Just soak up all that insider info and put it to use.
The Writer’s Journey: Breaking in and Managing a Career in Hollywood – 6pm
You know your stuff is good, and you’ve got lots of it — but what the hell are you supposed to do with it? This is the panel to answer that question, from marketing to technological developments that have changed the way things get done.
Writing the Wrong – 8pm
Pitfalls to avoid, straight from a panel of Hollywood writers, including for those who are applying for network fellowships/programs. Also, tips for boosting inclusivity and social change in your work.
Inside the Writers’ Room: From Script to Screen and Beyond – 10am
I went to this one at Wondercon. It’s basically a bunch of TV writers talking about what it’s like to be part of a writing staff. Very interesting, and it’ll be packed. You’ll prob walk away with a few good notes.
Genre-Blending: How and Why? – 1pm
You’ve got a couple genre-spanning ideas and you’re thinking, “Wow, this is chocolate and peanut butter – oh… but what if it’s toothpaste and orange juice..?” And now you’re worried. This panel, with folks like Charlie Jane Anders and Pierce Brown and others, might help you sort that out. It’s when, why and how to mix those genres so they taste like a cocktail, not like barf.
Writing for Television, Film, and Comics with J. Michael Straczynski – 2pm
Not a lecture, this is a Q&A with a hugely prolific writer of both shows and comics. Find out what you need to do to get your career going, and bring questions.
Women and Writers of Color Breaking Barriers – 4pm
Working writers mostly from the UCLA Extension staff discuss their roads to success, the ongoing difficulties in the industry, and strategies for change.
Everyone’s a Critic: Becoming and Being a Journalist in the Online Age – 5pm
Again, maybe you’re a writer, but you don’t do fiction. I feel ya. Well, how have things changed from a time when a newspaper employee could be in serious trouble for getting his facts wrong to a time when a non-pants-wearing hack with an Acer Chromebook 14 can spout inanities about world events (or maybe books) he obviously doesn’t understand? What does it mean to be a pro?
BAM! SPIFF! Writing for Comics – 6pm
It goes without saying that each medium has its own nuances. This is a panel that will walk you through the special needs of the comic book: panel descriptions, using the images, etc. It’s embarrassing to show up to your comic book writing team with all your scenes set up like a screenplay. Trust me.
How to Create Your Own Novel: From the First Idea to Publishing and What You Need to Sell Your Work to TV and Film – 10:30am
The Winner twins and other panelists (including Dragonriders of Pern‘s Todd Mcaffrey) walk thru the entire process from deeply personal epiphanic inspiration to commercial sellout – kidding! I’m kidding. I meant to say, from pained artíste to working professional with an adult income. I suspect this one will be packed.
Comic Con How-To: Making Magic Believable – 2pm
Let’s get granular. If you write fiction with magic (say, fantasy, for example, or maybe… no, guess that would be it), how do you make it not seem totally lame-o? When we read about Gandalf or Hermione Granger doing something magical, we buy into it, don’t we? Because we believe in magic? Well… no. In this workshop, Maxwell Alexander Drake offers tips for designing magic systems that help your story, rather than undermine it.
Make sure you check out the tags on the Comic Con website schedule for things I may have missed.
Here are programs that could be great for both writers and artists.
Comic Book Law School – 10:30am – Thurs, Fri and Sat
Perhaps you don’t write/draw comic books specifically, but I bet this 3-part intro to intellectual property rights could save you a ton of heartache down the line. By following a fictitious case study, learn how to protect yourself and your work, how to commercialize your work and more.
Disney Animation Studios: The Art of Story – 2pm
Whether you’re an artist or a writer, story is everything. Learn from the best.
Artists Who Write: The Art and Craft of Comics – 12pm
This is for double-threats who do the sketching and the scribbling. Word and picture synergy, from idea to story.
Building a Geek Brand (and Getting Paid to Do It!) – 12pm
A bit broad maybe, but if you’re a writer or artist looking to do more than work for someone else, you might check this one out. Hard to imagine there won’t be some universally relevant ideas here.
So You Want to Edit Comics? – 2:30pm
Neither drawing nor writing, editing is possibly the true behind-the-scenes creative force. (It is in film, anyway.) May be an avenue for you to explore.
Maker of Worlds: The Art (and Writing) of World Building – 3pm
How do you build a thing with structure and flexibility that is the background and sandbox of all your storytelling? This panel is presented by both a writer (Andy Schmidt) and an artist (Reilly Brown).
Comic Pitch Review #1 – 5pm
EVEN IF you don’t have a comic book, I think this could be an important opportunity. Douglas Neff, in 5 minute slots, will hear your pitch and give you pointers on how to improve. Look, the best idea in the world ain’t going anywhere if you can’t explain it to other people clearly and compellingly. Other than the ability to do your particular craft, this might be the most important skill. It might even be more important, judging from the amount of garbage that gets made.
Comic Creator Connection #1 – 7pm
The Shit. Artists and writers mingle looking for a meeting of the minds. If you’re one in search of the other, go here and be well-groomed. You might find the missing link. It’s organized kinda like speed-dating, so there’s no awkward bumbling into other people’s conversations or forced networking. In other words, it’s safe for us introverts.
(Connection #2 is Sunday at 12pm)
If You Love Something, Make a Book of It – 7:30pm
If your fandom has you bursting at the seams, and you just… wannna…. DOOOO something about it – then April Whitney of Chronicle Books and her pals (including Jeffrey Brown, et al) can point you in the right direction. Who says you can’t riff off your favorite fandoms and maybe even get paid for it? No one. (within reason, of course – note I said “riff” not “rip”)
From Fandom to Creator – 10am
Another take on the “You love this, so why not create your own ____”, this one presented by Black Girls Create, Black Girl Nerds and their pals.
Comics Entrepreneur Secrets – 5pm
Maybe you actually want to step back and be the one in charge. How about starting your own comic book publishing house? Where would you even begin? Right here, at this panel.
Comic Con How-To: How to Make a Comic – 10am
The comic book creation process from start to finish, with an in-class demonstration, with long-time Disney comic book makers Patrick and Shelly Block
Discover Creating Comics With Kids: An Interactive Workshop – 11am
You and your school-age kid make a comic together, with the gang from BOOM! Studios. Be a good parent and do this with your kid.
Comic Con How-To: Proper Pitching and Self Promotion – 12:30pm
Everyone should probably go to this: interviewing, elevator pitches, body language, opportunity creation – most of us suck at all this. And pretty handy stuff if you’re trying to get someone to greenlight your project.
I know this post is billed for pros or almost-pros, but I’m really stoked there’s so much great stuff for kids. WHO’D THINK THEY’D HAVE STUFF FOR KIDS AT A COMIC BOOK CONVENTION?
Manga Tutorials for Kids – 2pm
eigoManga pros Mino Miyabi and Austin Osueke lead this tutorial for youngsters about storytelling and illustrating manga. What a great way for you to get your kid to put down the Xbox controller for 5 minutes.
Where Do Ideas Come From? – 3pm
Staring at a blank screen/sketch pad is all well and good, but you gotta make a mark at some point. Barbara Randall Kesel shares some ideas for levering your imagination into gear. It’s ok to get stuck; it’s not ok to stay stuck.
Full-Time Creative Work on a Part-Time Schedule – 4pm
All the practicals of time management, working with other human beings (urrf), networking, and so on – especially when it’s not your day-in/day-out gig. This is a great panel with folks who are in the hunt, not just sitting on top of the pile talking about what it used to be like.
So, if you can strike a balance between goofing off and going pro, you can make the most of Comic Con. Excelsior!