Comics for Writers with Tom Hart

Comics & Visual Storytelling for Writers

Ready to make the jump from prose to graphic novels? This course teaches you how you can turn your written ideas into sequential art ideas. | taught by Tom Hart
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How to think in the medium, and how to translate your written work to graphic storytelling.

Do you have good work waiting to be adapted to comics? Do you know how to write and want to understand what makes comics so different, direct and appealing?

Scholars, historians, journalists, memoirists, storytellers, writers of all kinds, Comics for Writers will help you make the transition!

In comics, there are so many worries and things to think about.

  • Do I show but not tell?
  • How many words should I use?
  • Every sequence seems to take so long!

It takes a little work but with some training, you can do it, you can learn to think like a cartoonist/graphic novelist. Not just transferring words and plot into pictures, but using the dynamic interchange of words and pictures in sequence and design to enliven your story.


  1. Introduction, We'll quickly learn basic comic terms, and other simple vocabulary.
  2. Assessment - We'll adapt a simple piece of visual prose, by author Jenny Offill.
  3. Simple Actions, Simple Text - We'll create silent comics with simple actions, using Lewis Trondheim's Mr. O as an example. Then we'll add text to replace the images to see what effect it creates.
  4. Cause And Effect - We'll look at a lot more silent comics, then the concept of communicating cause and effect using the Frank comics of Jim Woodring as an example. We'll add text from a character's point of view to create sort of proto-captions.
  5. Panels Through Time - We'll look at how comics moves us through time and space. We'll assemble a comic from time jumps, and then add new panels to that to pad out the disconnects.
  6. Discord and Rhyme - We'll push words and pictures farther and farther apart and examine how they can still work together. We'll look at Chris Ware's I Guess as an example. Then we'll re-imagine our piece with a strengthening visual metaphor to carry the visual weight.
  7. Thinking With Your Artist - We'll examine some main principles of visual narrative communication and create a simple script with panel directions.
  8. Designing The Page - We'll examine the complexity of the page design, looking at lots of examples. We'll take our script and design it in page unit(s).
  9. You Can't Do This in the Movies - We'll be introduced to a few tricks to pull you past prose and into exciting, vivid comics. We'll adapt a good piece of non-visual prose and try to make it lively and visually exciting.
  10. Culmination - We'll adapt our Jenny Offill piece again. Wait til you see what you've learned! Extra credit is to create your own piece from your own writing and post it in our Facebook Group.

My Comics For Writers Workshop is a complete curriculum designed for scholars, historians, memoirists, journalists, storytellers and writers of all kinds looking to expand into graphic novels or short-form comics.

We'll adapt some prose to start, then we'll create mini-stories from silent pictures. We'll examine the myriad of ways to depict action in time. We'll mix in text in a variety of unique ways to explore the potential of comics.

And we'll use what you're good at (writing) to make good, well-written comics.

We'll assess our progress by adapting more prose, including our own, and then reflect in a SAW Online Facebook Group.

I won't teach you to draw, but I'll teach you to plan the drawings, (whether those will be finished by you or someone else), to think about the visuals and to craft your story. series of presentations and exercises designed to help you find your way and your voice with comics.

About Me.

I'm Tom Hart, a New York Times #1 Bestselling graphic novelist and I've been making work tirelessly since about 1993.

Despite my decades of drawing silly pictures, I relate more to the writing side than drawing side of comics (it took me years to figure that out!)

In fact, every work I create now starts with a large amount of notes, and pages and pages of free-writing. So I know where you're coming from.

I spent the 90s and early 2000s writing and drawing the best stories I could, trying to understand the connection between the process, and the person. In 2001, I began teaching at The School of Visual Arts. In 2012, I founded a school on the belief that anyone can access their imagination and empower their artistic lives.

I helped birth these two fabulous books:

The Odyssey of Sergeant Jack Brennan by Bryan Doerries (Pantheon, 2016)
and Perpetua's Journey by Jennifer Rea (Oxford University Press, coming in 2017)

"I was fortunate to discover SAW as a resource for working on my graphic history, Perpetua's Journey. Tom Hart was an incredible teacher and our lessons discussed how to make my project, a prison diary, come to life in sequential art. Tom has said that creating comics is all about "writing, drawing, thinking, history, and responding," and we discussed all of these topics during my lessons." - Dr. Jennifer Rea; author of Legendary Rome and Perpetua's Journey (coming in 2017)

Words and Pictures, Images and Thinking

Some of my favorite graphic novels and memoirs succeed on the power of their writing, with the images serving the ideas and story. Alison Bechdel's Fun Home and Are You My Mother? Art Spiegelman's Maus come to mind.

My own memoir, Rosalie Lightning succeeds (if it does at all) on the power of the thought and emotion behind it, not on skillful drawings.

These books use words and pictures together, but are also examples where thinking, writing and structure lead the way.

With just a little help, you can make great work like this too.

From the SAW In-Person Comics for Writers Class:

It’s been many years since [this story] made me sad, but there, in class, as I transformed the words into visual images, I sobbed. - Sandra Gail Lambert

From Tom Hart's Storytelling Flow Online Class:

For the first time ever, I have the storyline for a comic! I feel like I'm just starting to hear my own voice. Yay!!! - Charl Elias

I have never really written a comic in this way, and I think it is really helping to get me "unstuck"…this class is doing a number on me, so thanks! - Robert Stephens

New ideas and details keep jumping out that I wasn't expecting and I feel like I am really intimately getting to know this character... - Paul Jeffrey

And a one more from our course-end reflection...

Really, Tom, this was an amazing course. You opened up whole lot of creative possibilities for me. I am really looking forward to more courses!

You need help, we all need help!

Comics is a wild medium. Very flexible and malleable. It’s not at all what it looks like from the supermarket shelves and the superhero movies. It has elements of writing of course, and drawing, but also graphic design and acting and just about any task you can imagine you’d need for a play or film you’ll need to at least consider when making a comic. And that’s in addition to well written plot, character and text.

This course will set you on your way to understanding the medium but also finding your voice in it.

NOTE: 2% of the revenue will got to Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, per the recommendation of Sky and Scott McCloud-


Is this a self-guided course or is there a community aspect?
This course is self-guided but will include access to a Facebook group of people working on this and other courses.

The Facebook group is here:

Tom Hart is very active there and will respond to all relevant Comics for Writers posts through 2017.

How much does it cost?
I've just lowered the price from $300 to $275 because I believe so much in the product! It's also $350 for the course plus a hour-long consultation with me.

Where will the community be contained?
A newly minted SAW Online FaceBook group, here:

Can I get a refund?
Before 1 week, yes, please contact me at

What materials will I need?
Pens, pencils, whatever you’re comfortable with. Printer paper or sketchbook. You'll need at least one page of your own prose, or something you'd like to adapt anyway.

What's the final outcome of the course?
You will have adapted in rough form, a single page of prose twice (from my friend Jenny Offill) and one of your own pieces of work into script, then panels and then a page. Additionally, we will have completed at least four other substantial exercises.

You'll be amazed at how much you learned!

Is this similar to classes you run at SAW?
I ran this in person at SAW in Feb-March 2017 and it went awesomely. Here we are at culmination celebration!

Any more questions, email

Course Contents

24 Videos
22 Texts
28 PDFs
1 Audio
8.0 hrs

Course Curriculum

Tom Hart
Tom Hart
Executive Director of The Sequential Artists Workshop

About the Instructor

Tom Hart is a cartoonist has been the Executive Director of The Sequential Artists Workshop, a school and arts organization in Gainesville, Florida since 2012.

His 2016 memoir, Rosalie Lightning, debuted at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List and was featured on many Best-Of-2016 lists.

His Hutch Owen series of graphic novels and books, were nominated for all the major industry awards. His The Collected Hutch Owenwas nominated for best graphic novel in 2000. He was an early recipient of a Xeric Grant for self-publishing cartoonists, and has been on many best-of lists in the Comics Journal and other comix publications. He has been called “One of the great underrated cartoonists of our time” by Eddie Campbell and “One of my favorite cartoonists of the decade” by Scott McCloud. His daily Hutch Owen comic strip ran for 2 years in newspapers in New York and Boston, and his “Ali’s House”, co-created with Margo Dabaie was picked up by King Features Syndicate.

He was a core instructor at New York City’s School of Visual Arts for 10 years, teaching cartooning to undergraduates, working adults and teens alike. Among his students were Dash Shaw, Sarah Glidden Box Brown and other published cartoonists like Leslie Stein, Jessica Fink,Josh Bayer, Brendan Leach and many others. He has taught comix and sequential art at schools and institutions all around New York City for more than 10 years, and has conducted week-long workshops from Maine to Hawaii. He also teaches sequential art in the School of Art and Art History at UF.

A couple other recent books:
Daddy Lightning
Let’s Get Furious
The Sequential Artists Workshop Guide to Making Professional Comic Strips

His website is