The process of creating a graphic novel involves numerous stages, with thumbnailing being one of the most challenging yet crucial steps. This stage shapes the direction of the story and sets the foundation for the visual narrative.

Initial Approval and Draft Request

Creating a graphic novel begins when a publisher shows interest in the initial pitch and requests a full draft of the story. This sets the stage for the in-depth development that follows.

Challenge of Thumbnailing

Thumbnailing is perceived as the most challenging part because it is during this phase that the story’s direction becomes clear. Thumbnails serve as a visual draft, combining the written outline with the visual representation of the narrative.

Importance of Thumbnails

Thumbnails are a critical part of the author’s writing process, acting not just as a preliminary draft but as a tool for “writing” the comic. This includes outlining dialogue and pacing through visual means.

Writing Through Visuals

Dialogue and narrative pacing are established during thumbnailing. Some panels and pages may even be devoid of dialogue, relying on visuals to convey the story’s essence.

“Graphic Novels – closeup view” by Enokson is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Economical and Editable Nature

One of the advantages of thumbnails is that they are easier and more economical to revise than finished artwork. This stage allows for adjustments to be made efficiently before finalizing the artwork.

Editorial Review

Once the thumbnailed draft is ready, it is reviewed by the publisher to assess the story’s strength and identify necessary changes. Feedback on revisions, expansions, or contractions is provided during this critical stage.

Predictive Aspect of Thumbnails

Thumbnails offer the author a fairly accurate prediction of the graphic novel’s length and overall look. Although the drawings are not final, they provide a comprehensive preview of the layout and narrative.

Essential Considerations

Detailing the Connection Between Thumbnailing and Writing

The author uses thumbnailing as an integral part of the writing process, diverging from traditional storytelling methods. This technique emphasizes the fusion of written and visual storytelling.

Emphasizing Visual Storytelling Techniques

Visuals are paramount in conveying the story, sometimes taking precedence over text. Panels without dialogue can significantly contribute to the narrative through imagery alone.

Role of the Editorial Team

The publisher’s role in reviewing and suggesting changes at the thumbnail stage is crucial. This ensures the story is on the right track and allows for collaborative refinement.


Making changes at the thumbnail stage is more cost-effective compared to revising completed artwork. This efficiency is beneficial for both the author and the publisher.

Personal Perspectives on the Process

Authors often find thumbnailing both challenging and essential to their creative process. It allows them to conceptualize the entire narrative before diving into detailed artwork, making it a vital component of graphic novel creation.

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