El Deafo Extras: From outline to finished product

28 Aug

When I first started working on the outline for El Deafo, I called it EL DEAFO: A Semi-Autobiographical Superheroic Love Story (with Hearing Aids!). I’m glad I shortened the title. Who needs all those extra words? Not you, Dear Reader.

I thought you might like to see a bit of my process. It took me a long time to find my groove on this project. It was my first graphic novel, after all, and the learning curve for me was steep. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, the graphic novelists out there who do more than one of these puppies are amazing people with a seriously keen work ethic. Whew. Anyway, I might share some of my frighteningly overdone earlier attempts later, but here’s an example of how I was working once I did find my groove.

I’m going to focus on Chapter 15 in the book, which was about my not-so-great experiences in Physical Education class.

Here’s the paragraph for the P.E. chapter from one of the early outlines that I submitted to my editor (the lovely Susan Van Metre) in the early days of this project :

Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 8.17.51 PMNext, I figured out the whole chapter mostly in writing:


Then, I started drawing these little itty bitty pages. Small is good because it keeps me looser. (I’m going to focus on two pages from this chapter (5 and 6), otherwise you would be bored out of your mind.) I like using lined paper because it doesn’t threaten me the way beautiful clean sheets of unlined white paper do.


Then, I recited “I must, I must, I must remember my bust” before moving on to the more detailed drawings. (I’m sure there’s more in between what’s above and what’s below, but I can’t find it! LOTS of back-and-forth with Susan) Here’s page 5 and 6 again. You can see that there’s stuff highlighted and circled—edits and suggestions and corrections from Susan and her helpful staff at Abrams.


Once the pages were approved, I inked ’em (actually, I didn’t start inking until ALL the pages of the book were approved, and then I did it all in one fell swoop). I also made sure the fonts were changed to the ones that I created just for this project.

Page 5:



Page 6:

Chapter09VERSION4Then superheroic Eisner-winning graphic novelist and pal from college David Lasky colored the pages and added shadows (and I got all persnickety sometimes and color-corrected David’s colors):



And then I wept tears of joy. If you get the book, you could compare what it says in the outline to the final chapter! That might be kinda cool.

Only 5 more days to go! Thank you for reading all this stuff. I hope it’s been interesting to you!

Also…Tom and I will be at the Decatur Book Festival this weekend. Stop by if you’re in the area!



7 Responses to “El Deafo Extras: From outline to finished product”

  1. hamsterjp August 29, 2014 at 2:03 am #

    I’m buying it 🙂

    • Cece Bell September 1, 2014 at 11:06 am #

      Well, thank you, hamsterjp!!!

  2. bookseedstudio August 29, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

    Thank you for this nifty behind-the-scenes look at the cooking up of what sounds like a GREAT book. I’m so glad you wrote it. I’ve been to the festival you mention & it is quite
    wunnerful. Hot, tempwise, but wunnerful. They are smart to book you into it CeCe.

    Decatur’s Little Shop of Stories rocks on.

    • Cece Bell September 1, 2014 at 11:04 am #

      Thank you, Book Seed Studio! We had a great time at the Decatur Book Festival. You were right, it was HOT HOT HOT. Holy moly. But fun! Little Shop is so cool! Many good wishes to you!

  3. Jess Stork Glicoes September 2, 2014 at 8:45 pm #

    This is so cool! I’ve always wanted to see the stages of how a Graphic novel develops. I had thought you just start drawing panels off the top of your head, but it looks like there’s more of a process on getting the ideas developed first.If you do another graphic novel, do you think you’ll use this same process if you make another graphic novel or do something different?

    • Cece Bell September 2, 2014 at 9:23 pm #

      Probably the same process, with a few more shortcuts, hopefully! I can’t wait to spend some time with you soon! xoxoxoxo


  1. Crafting a graphic novel-memoir | A. B. Westrick - September 18, 2014

    […] CB: Initially, the words come first. I try to map it all out in words (this happened, then this, and then this, etc.), as much as I can. Then I rough out each page in comic book form, and new or different words might develop. I keep on tightening up the drawings and the words until I have something good. To read a detailed post I wrote about my process, “El Deafo Extras: from outline to finished product,” click here. […]

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