Thursday, September 2, 2010

Painting, Plotting & Sliding by the Seat of Your Pants

While submitting my completed novel, I'm working sporadically on another. They're different in more ways than one.

The novel under submission is a carefully plotted, quiet and sweet women's fiction. It tugs at the heartstrings, dealing with issues some might not find comfortable. I had been working on this book for a few years, sharpening my writing skills before attempting to finish it.

My work in progress is a fast paced mystery with a diverse cast of characters. I have a vague idea where the plot is going, but I'm basically closing my eyes and seeing where it takes me. Some characters jump into the spotlight, screaming for attention and others wait behind the curtain, hesitant to be revealed. Who will be the bad guy? Who will save the day? I dunno...

Compare writing to painting. You have your living room that needs to be prepped before you paint. Carefully fill in and sand all the nail holes, prime the surface and then choose your colour. Test it in all lighting to make sure it's not going to look like puke in the morning light. Tape off the edges and paint the edges in a straight line before using the roller for the middle areas. Roll in a W shape to prevent thin spots.

Excruciating, huh? But the end result will keep you satisfied for years to come. With the right accessories and window treatments, you'll have a serene haven in which to sip your green tea and contemplate the finer aspects of life.

Then there's the other kind of painting. Fill your palette with colours and stand before a blank canvas. You see something in your mind's eye, and you let fly the paint. Use brushes, spatulas and sponges to mix texture and colour in a way that brings out an image that only a few can see.

You step back and study the painting. Yes, there's something there. But a few elements are missing. You can't put your finger on it, but you lovingly add a tweak and a dash here and there. 

Eventually, you have a work of art that brings some to tears and others to question your sanity. But it's yours and you love it.

If you had to compare your novel to a painting, what would it be?

Sandra Cormier is the author of Bad Ice, a pantster novel.


Jude Johnson said...

Interesting analogy, Sandra.
Like painting, sculpting, and other creative works, sometimes the public finds a novel incomprehensible or outrageous. Often when a new and daring technique comes onto the scene (such as pointillism - or ebooks), a great outcry arises that the end of civilization is surely near!

In that vein, I think my writing style is like a Monet - tiny dots of detail added here and there that make a lot more sense when you step back at completion.
(Though sometimes my writing might be more of a Picasso - what the hell was I drinking when I wrote that? ha ha)

Allison Knight said...

My DH used to paint NY apartments with his father. He can cut a line - a painting term - without a bit of tape. I think we've painted nearly every room of every house we lived in at least once.

I'm an extremely messy painter, but I'd say my gothics were like a Rembrandt, dark, detailed. My historical - like my painting, messy, - so you tell me.

Big Mike said...

I too have multiple WIPs which is different than my first novel. Just so many scene ideas floating around when I'm trying to fall asleep or driving or what ever, so I flip back and forth, until I have a rough draft. Then I focus on one to improve consistency checking. I think many authors with a couple novels under their belt work multiples at one time.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year, (2008 and 2009)