Well, we had that big article on portfolios for artists, so let’s take a moment to discuss a technique for writers. I call this my “conversational” portfolio technique because it’s designed to enhance a writer’s discussions with fans, editors, other creators, passersby, kittens, sushi, or whatever else they feel like talking to at the time. It is NOT a portfolio designed to be brought up to someone to request an analysis of your writing. It is just a sampling of your published or finished work.

If you don’t have any kind of finished work…get some! Volunteer to write some portfolio stories for some artists in exchange for copies of the artwork to letter and show off to editors (the “I’ll be a walking advertisement for you” technique), collaborate with an artist to help bring his or her stories to life (the “I’ll help you if you’ll let me ride your coattails” technique), or just hire someone to pencil some pages from your own stories (the “I’m light-headed from my ramen noodle diet and constant plasma donations” technique). There are a lot more options than that out there–you’re a writer…just be creative and have some fun.

Now, you have some artwork to put into your portfolio. What else can you add to it? Let’s see…I’m thinking of something… it’s on the tip of my tongue now… oh yeah, writing! Articles, reviews, flash fiction, tutorials, interviews, short scenes from screenplays, excerpts from a novel. The key is to make sure the writing is something simple, creative, and concise enough for them to digest in a quick glance. Or it could be something that you can just point them to for reading at a later time.

“Here’s a scene from my screenplay, I have the rest of it available at my website.”

“I wrote an article on that very subject. Here’s a sample of one of my articles from my column at the so-and-so website. I’d be happy to email you a link to the article after the convention.”

For my online articles, I like to print out a copy from the actual website to show off the site logo (which also gives the person glancing through it a feel for all the different places you’ve dealt with in the past). If you don’t have any articles or reviews or anything like that out there… just write some up! Find some place looking for some help and jump on in, or just write up some more content for your website (which makes a good marketing tool for your work anyways).

Artwork and samples of your writing… anything else? I threw in copies of letters from screenwriting contests I entered to show where my writing placed in the competitions. If you have similar writing accomplishments, throw them in the stack (we’ll sort it all out later). You can also put together a list of quotes from reviews of your work. You can write up a page with a listing of your published credits. You could toss a page in there with nothing more than “Damn you, four-layer chocolate cheesecakes! Damn you and your accursed, tasty calories!” in super-large, bold font. Well, you should find your own phrase for that… but just think of a quick attention-getter that causes them to pause and think about the portfolio for a second (and maybe get a good chuckle out of them).

We have some material and we’re ready to jam on that portfolio now. The biggest thing to remember here is that you want a single item that you can carry around easily with you and show off samples anytime anyone asks about them (or refer to at opportune moments in a conversation). For my portfolio, I use a single three-ring binder with plastic sheet protectors to hold the pages (and to ward off coke, queso, and chocolate).

As you work out the placement of your portfolio pieces, keep in mind a very basic principle used in your craft… hook them from the beginning, keep them moving forward, and then finish big. Since this is for comic book work, you should start right off with comic book work. Use some sample pages from one of your finished stories or a short story and make sure it’s something that will grab the viewers attention right away. Continue with the comic pages and throw in some of your other writing here and there. Here’s a sample of what my binder looks like:

Outside of binder: Color cover by Ryan Ottley from my Arazel & Xarenia submission
… 10 pages from Jim Valentino’s Task Force 1
… 10 pages from the Brat-halla webcomic
… a quick mock interview–the Devil interviewing me as we barter for my soul
… 5 pages from the published Dungeon Bears story
… 5 pages from the published Bob the Battleship story
… a Breaking Out! article
… 5 pages from Spook’d (webcomic and published pieces)
… letter from the Nicholl Fellowship stating that my Arazel & Xarenia screenplay placed in the top 6%
… letter from the Austin Film Festival stating my screenplay made it to the quarterfinals
… opening pages of my screenplay
… published Arazel & Xarenia comic short stories

And that’s all I take around with me. I use the binder to refer to my works during a conversation. It also helps when I’m talking with someone that’s familiar with a project I’ve contributed to, so I can easily point out what I worked on. In essence, it’s a tool to help out when you meet new people and also provides a way to promote yourself and your work. You’ll still need to be proficient in public speaking to make an impression, but you’ll at least have a visual aid to give people you meet an extra little something to remember you by. “Oh yeah, you’re that parody Care Bears guy!”