Writing a novel…with every brushstroke

Hey guys,

This morning I was reflecting on the process of writing a novel. I remembered how when I was young I used to be so intimidated by writing a novel. I felt in awe of how writers could include all of the characters physicality, their memories, speech, backstory, description of place, original plot lines, twists and turns and surprises and also the phenomenal voice, inventive imagery and metaphor that some authors employ.

All of this still impresses me and blows me away all the time. How some authors can do this in their novels so expertly! I still stand in admiration for these amazing artists.

However, now at least after writing two complete novels and now onto my third I have a different perspective on the writing process. I am not saying I am completely over this but now I can see the journey of writing a novel in a much more manageable and realistic manner. When I was younger maybe I felt that all of this magic came together for the writer in one go and they produced a phenomenally detailed and nuanced character driven plot with little work, stress or time. This was where I had no way of knowing then I was 11 or 12 years old what it is like to write a novel.

Now, I realise it is like painting. When I was young I wanted to be a visual artist or even a cartoonist. I would draw all the time when I was a kid practicing drawing faces, trees, landscapes, my favourite band members (haha) and I took painting lessons outside of school. I loved visual art. I have been reflecting on the process of writing a novel lately and realised it is a lot like painting. When you you create the whole piece by working on small parts gradually, so it could be the shading under the nose or eyes, or the neck, it could be the shading on the tree trunk, but nevertheless you work on small parts at a time. You also layer colours on top of one another and you put a foundation colour and then paint something lighter on top. You gradually create the whole picture/painting and when you stand back you can see the person’s face or the landscape forming, but when you are close up you can only see the colour and the brushstrokes.

So it is with writing. Each day I sit down and write the next part of the narrative and gradually I am building up the whole novel, creating each integral part that will necessarily fit together to make the whole picture, the whole world. You are layering colours upon colours, you are shading and creating fine detail. This is done gradually. Then with a novel you go back and you work on each chapter again to put more detail in, to fill in more colour and make it come alive even more. This is also what you do with painting at times, you will come back later and add some shading or light or additional colour.

So, the process of writing a novel – we should remember is gradual, it is writing down your first draft and not being worried that you will have to come back and put more detail in. That is a given. All authors need to do this. It is the gradual creation of the characters, the world, the sensory details and these all come together gradually to create your work. So this encourages me, it allows me to relax because the first draft is that, it is a skeleton where you can build the flesh of your story, and fill out their muscles and ligaments, skin and finger nails. All of this comes later.

Be encouraged just start writing and keep going. Once you have finished your first full draft then go back and examine every chapter and add detail and colour and characterisation or setting if you need. Then get another person to read it, then do another revision, and you will have to do this a few times. But each time your book will become what it was always meant to be. Be patient and kind with yourself. Enjoy the creation process, though the critiquing can be hard in the end you will be proud of your work.

But know that writing a novel is completed through those little faithful steps of writing every day or every second day and building and building and building on the bones of the narrative. Go well, happy writing!


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