Graphic Novel Manuscript Format

Hey gang,

I was over at Tara Lazar’s blog during the tour yesterday, and a great question came up from another writer.

“How do you format a graphic novel manuscript? Is it different from a novel or picture book manuscript?”

The answer is that I actually write something that looks more like a script for a play or a screenplay. It has all the dialogue and captions assigned, but also contains “stage directions” in the form of action, description and the like. Not “illustration notes” per se, but crucial information to help the illustrator (and editor) visualize the story.

This is actually a question I hear quite a bit from other writers wondering if the graphic novel medium is something they’d like to explore. So, I thought I’d put an example here for all to see.

Below is an example from my manuscript of Joey Fly, Private Eye 2: Big Hairy Drama. This is what it looks like when I write it. If you want to compare it to the actual book, you’ll see that this short manuscript example actually makes up pages 28-31 in the finished book.

Don’t have a copy of the book to compare? I’m here to serve! Buy one HERE. 🙂

(Manuscript excerpt from Joey Fly, Private Eye 2: Big Hairy Drama)


(Joey and Sammy arrive at their office.)

Joey:  All right, side dish.  Here’s our stop.


Sammy:  Are you hungry, or is it just me?

Joey:  You just had lunch.


Sammy:  My lunch was interrupted!

Caption:  For such a little guy, the kid can pack in the junk food.  And yet, he still manages to maintain that girlish figure.


Joey:  Give me a break.  You just ate half the pepperoni in the city.


Sammy:  I have a high metabolism.  Oh look!  Gum! (Sammy picks part of a human sized wad of gum off the floor and eats it.)


(Joey is looking at Sammy, disgusted.)

Caption:  I eat poop, ok?  So, I’m not exactly what you’d call a discriminating eater.  But there are still some things that should go uneaten.  I’m just saying.


Joey:  All right, kid, let’s go.

(Joey goes into the office.)


(Sammy is still outside.)


(After a minute, Joey comes back out.)


Joey:  What are you waiting for, cracker jack?  An invitation?


Sammy:  (Sammy’s feet are stuck in the gum.) I’m stuck.


Joey:  You just had to have dessert…


(Joey tugs Sammy, but Sammy trips, pulling Joey into the gum too.)


(They tussle trying to get out, but pretty soon are hogtied together in the gum.)


Caption:  And there we were…all gummed up and nowhere to go.


Caption:  To make matters worse, that stupid stinger of his was dangling inches over our heads, like a poisonous piñata on Cinco de Mayo.

Caption:  And me without a stick.


3 responses to “Graphic Novel Manuscript Format

  • katswhiskers

    Aaron, thanks so much for responding to my Qs on Tara’s blog, and then leaving this great example here. I guess I’d never considered the possibility of a graphic novel … but now you’ve got me thinking … 🙂

    I am also responding to your email in relation to #pblitchat. Thanks!


  • tara

    Terrific example, Aaron. Thanks for showing us what a graphic novel looks like before graphics!

  • Helen

    Thank you Aaron. There are very few concrete examples out there!

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