My biggest struggle with writing comics (well, second biggest, after actually coming up with a story) is that I am a very wordy writer. I always want to shove giant chunks of dialog into whatever I’m writing. I can’t help it– I’m a very texty sort of guy, and I do a lot of my expression of character through dialog. Take for instance, this interchange from the piece I’m working on now:
Tanya: It was a shantak. C’mon, we need to move before the surprise wears off and it just gets mad.
Verity: But… I need to stay put, they’ll be looking for me…
Tanya: Ha! You bet it will! And you don’t want to be here when it does.
That’s all in one panel! Granted, the panel takes up a quarter of the page, but still, it’s a lot of dialog to fit into one comic panel, but in the scope of my writing, it’s a tiny little piece.
The panel size limitation is probably a very healthy thing for me as a writer, as it forces me to economy. Of any given script I write, when I have acres of blank screen to write on, probably a good 10-20% of the words get chopped as I do layouts by simple virtue of having to force the story into pages and panels.
The problem comes when I get to a passage that I just don’t think can be chopped without losing an important piece. In that situation, I end up having to break chunks of dialog up into multiple panels, or squeezing a ton of exposition into a tiny space because I’ve run out of room.
The main thing I’ve got to remember as I go is to be prepared for things to take more panels (and therefore more pages) than I expect as I’m writing them, and plan accordingly. I can’t expect to tell a full story in an 8-page teaser, for instance, and I certainly can’t expect a single page to cover more than one plot point.