Portrait of a Young Writer as a Young Woman

Writing is  a lot like drawing. As I learn the craft of creative writing, I find that I’m going through the same learning curve I went through with drawing.

Here’s a visual demonstration of what I’m talking about:

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This is how I used to start a drawing before I learned the proper technique. Yes, it’s a pretty eye but it exists in a vacuum. I tend to start my writing the same way: I have an idea for a scene and I develop that scene without thinking about the whole story.

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As I continue drawing and shading it becomes obvious that the features are disproportionate. Like in my writing, I mistakenly thought if I kept working hard, it would come together eventually; however, if the basic structure isn’t working, all the shading and detail in the world won’t make it better.

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Coming close to the end, the eyes are asymmetrical, the proportions are all wrong and there’s no life in the face. Besides for it being quirky, it doesn’t say anything. This is the point where I start to get fed up with my writing because I’ve been working so hard but it’s not coming together.

Now here’s a second drawing using better technique:

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First I mapped out the general structure of the face just like creating an outline for a story. It’s much easier to make changes at this stage because it’s just simple lines.

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Then I started mapping out the highlights and shadows just like mapping out the tension and turning points in a story.

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I started adding the features, but realized that the eyes were too small. Since I hadn’t spent much time on the shape it was easy to erase them and make them bigger. In my old approach toward writing, it was hard to delete scenes that weren’t working because I spent so much time on them, but if I had mapped out the scenes first, I would have known right away what was working and what needed to be deleted.

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I took an eraser and focused on the highlights. In writing this would be similar to the editing process; figuring out what’s significant and taking out the parts that cloud the plot.

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In the end, notice how the second technique has much more depth, style, and nuance. It’ not perfect but it’s interesting and has a lot more life than the drawing on the right. I used to resist outlining, but now I realize that it allows for more creativity and style. ALSO, the second drawing took only a quarter of the time the first drawing took.

8 comments

  1. Interesting how writers have to find their way through this plotter vs pantser thing. So much of it depends on what I’m doing, and I’ve never tackled a long book-length project. Yet. 😉 All the best to you– love your art work too. You are talented in so many ways.

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    1. I never heard of plotter vs. pantser before, but after looking up the definition I’m definitely more of a pantser who’s learning to plot. I don’t regret the years I spent writing without structure, however. I’m confident it will serve a purpose one day. Thanks!

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