Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Writing for the cartoon market

An August Blog Event - Leicester Writers

This week my guest is a writing friend who has been a constant support through all the ups and downs of this crazy writing business. We have a critique group meeting every fortnight and, together with several other local writers, we not only crit, we eat, chat and share our life problems too. So please give the warmest of welcomes to Debbie White:

I’d had two teen fiction novels published. Did I want to write another? A publisher was looking for series fiction for 7-9 year olds. Maybe I’d go back to writing for that age group. Much easier.

It started off well. The publisher loved the idea of a James Bond pigeon called Agent Blue. They even wanted two stories, to be published in cartoon format. Great, something new and I only had to write the stories, didn’t I? If only. OK, I wouldn’t have to do the artwork, just... 
  • give the illustrator minutely detailed instructions for each page...right down to a character’s body language. 
  • Say how many ‘panels’ I needed on each page (a panel contains a segment of action. Some pages might have two panels, others three etc.) 
  • Detail how speech bubbles should be drawn to express emotions. 
  • Explain what was going on in the background to the action.  
A tight page count meant spreading the text out carefully. A prescriptive ‘words per page’
count drove me to distraction.  Help! For every line of text I now had more than 20 lines of instructions. The texts went off to the editor. The cartoon roughs came back. Changes had to be made to text and illustration. Agent Blue’s code name was changed from Troy Trojan (Trojan’s the brand name for condoms in Australia.) A female Chief of S.P.I.E.S was better. RoboDove needed to look bigger and scarier. So many tiny changes, I was beginning to lose the plot! But somehow it worked. A final e-mail from the editor, “It’s been really lovely working with you. Hopefully they’ll take off and we’ll have a whole series of them to do in the future.”  Would I? You bet.

About Debbie White: Everything you might want to know about Debbie/Deborah is on her author website Deborah White It has some very nice (and highly misleading) pictures of the author. It lists her previous titles for OUP, Random House and Templar. It also explains why for some titles she is 'Debbie White' and for others 'Deborah White'. Basically 'Deborah' sounds more serious and definitely more appropriate for dark and scary novels like Wickedness' and 'Deceit'. 

She just needs to add that her latest titles for OUP, under the name Debbie White, are:
'Agent Blue and the Super Smelly Goo'
'Agent Blue and the Big Swirly Whirly'
Both titles will be out in September, in comic book form.

Farhana Shaikh will be my next Leicester Writer Visitor.


  1. Congrats to Debbie (alias Deborah when being wicked). Very interesting post. Who knew that "write for cartoon form" would entail so much work, outside of the actual story writing? I like the look of the finished product and the Agent Blue titles are very fun.

  2. I am in awe - anyone who can write and draw and put it together in cartoon-form is truly talented. Thank you for this.

  3. Wow! That sounds like a heap more work than writing a normal book. I am hugely impressed! Well done!! I've learnt something here...never write for a cartoon book! Good luck, Debbie!

  4. Hi Ros and Debbie (I don't like being frightened!) ... gosh what an amazing process and what a joy to have the opportunity to produce Agent Blue ... love the idea ... and as Joanne says the book looks amazing ... such fun and the kids will love it. Good luck ... cheers Hilary

  5. Debbie has had a bit of trouble commenting on my blog. I know she's not the only one and I have apologised before for having to knock out OpenID comments. If the spammers stopped targeting me then I'd happily reintroduce it. In the meantime Debbie has asked me to say the following:

    Thank you to Hilary, Vallypee, Jo and Joanne for posting comments on my blog. Please do not be put off writing your own comic books! It was a privilege to have my brain stretched by trying something new. Hopefully it will keep brain fade away. Probably. Will let you know...


  6. How interesting, I love the name, Agent Blue, and the idea is a really good one! Wishing Debbie lots of success.


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