NaNo Prep–Broad Strokes

I saw this video on my Facebook News Feed today, and as I watched it, I couldn’t help but think of the WIP that I’m brewing. Watch the whole thing if you have time. At least watch the first three minutes and then the last thirty seconds.

Amazing drawing by an amazing artist <3

Posted by Alon Gabbay on Thursday, June 4, 2015

I’ve said it before with my own artwork: the difference between a professional’s work and an amateur’s is often time.

By about the halfway point in the above video, I was thinking, “Wow! What an awesome picture! It looks so realistic!” Then I saw the end result.

As September starts and I get geared up for another year of NaNoWriMo, this video was a perfect object lesson for me. Paint in broad strokes first. As this artist works, he gives a general outline of the face, then fills in the dark spots in various colors. Very early on, you get a sense of the hair, the eyes, the nose, and the mouth–and he hasn’t done anything but paint in the shadows.

The book I want to write for NaNo is slowly taking shape in my mind. I have four of the main characters, a few snippets of scenes I want to write, and a few themes and symbols I’m playing around with. This video was an excellent reminder that I don’t need to worry about details yet. The book will start to look like a book much sooner if I work on getting down the gist of the conflict and the ways the various subplots will build on each other.

If I just stick with the scenes I’ve decided on already, there’s a chance the “finished product” (i.e., my NaNo draft) will look much more like this:

than like the finished painting in the video.

Who cares if the scenes you’ve written have beautiful language and excellent symbolism if they don’t fit in seamlessly to the story as a whole?


  1. Wow, that was crazy amazing! I had no idea paintings that good started out looking like that. And at one point she had some green hair going on! Who knew all the layering of color had to go in to producing the end result? And very smart of you to compare this to ‘noveling’- so spot on! =)

    • Isn’t it insane? No wonder budding artists don’t do well when comparing their work to the “professionals.”

      And thank you! The layering process is definitely similar, especially for me since I tend to work bare-bones and add in subplots and details in later drafts. 🙂

    • Thanks! I need to let an idea marinate for a long time before I’m ready to write it. My last NaNo novel I had planned to write for NaNo 2013 but couldn’t, so I wrote it a year later instead. I envy your ability to pants so well!

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