A Digression on StoneDragon Art

I try to talk more about writing than art on the site, although as you can probably tell, I like to make the site pretty and put lots of scraps of drawings and paintings here and there, limited mostly by time. As I’ve mentioned before, I wasn’t sure how much time I wanted to put in the art of StoneDragon. I knew I wanted a detailed cover (done, although not yet revealed on this site in all its glory), a map (also now done, also still to be revealed, sorry!), and I knew I wanted some art inside the chapters, although I struggled with how much, as a detailed piece of art per chapter would be a massive time investment and only having a couple of pieces would make the book somewhat lumpy in its art offerings. I was leaning toward the latter anyway, when I came across a compromise that I like: doing some simple black and white images as part of each chapter heading. The software program that I’m using to compile the book (Vellum) makes that an easy thing to do, which I’ve had loads of fun with. So as a bit of a treat, and to celebrate how close it’s starting to get to release day of StoneDragon (I think the latest it will be is December, and very likely earlier), I thought I would share some of this style of drawing. The featured images is one, and there are three more below (completed: 12, ultimate total: 53, yikes!).

These are early drafts and I may or may not polish them up further–or even rotate them out entirely, no promises on final content at all, he he. But I quite like the style in general, and how it looks in the book. Hopefully you will as well!

Best of writing and reading as we creep into the end of the summer. Hopefully it’s been good for you.

PS, the images are pen on paper, and actually intended to appear smaller than they appear here, so they may look a little rougher in this post than in the final book (I couldn’t manage to shrink them further in wordpress, sorry).

 

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To ‘Art’ or Not

Let’s put that title statement in context, as I struggle with a question on my work in progress. The following are facts:

  • I have written a book. I think it will be well received by some portion of the people who would read it, but those people don’t yet know it exists.
  • I don’t have a pre-existing reading audience.
  • People like art.
  • I am a strong artist.
  • Implication: Adding art to the book might strengthen its appeal and lead to more people giving it a chance (after which, the merits of the book will lead to its success, whatever that may be).

Now, some counterpoints,

  • This will require a considerable time investment. (Luckily, I like to do art).
  • Some people WON’T find it a positive. They will say they don’t like art with their books, as they prefer to imagine the things in their head. That is what the words should accomplish, they say. This is similar to the distaste readers sometimes have with movies, as the images don’t match their imagining.
  • I would argue that this is less of a concern if the art and words are put forward together, as the images are then shaped early and are less rigidly formed.
  • Science fiction and fantasy short stories usually have art tied to them, for some reason. Similarly superhero comics.

I think that art broadens the audience, although with longer books maybe less so than with graphic novels. I believe that some people simply have less concrete imaginations than others. I have had some people tell me that they can’t actually visualize images in their head (not saying this is most people, just some). People think differently.

So, my plan is to bring more art into my work, and at least some into this new novel. The biggest drawback for me is really the time investment, as I have very limited amounts of time for all my hobbies (which includes writing, art, sports, and—certainly not least—my family).

We’ll see if the response and return on investment justified doing it more than once. :)

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This is one of the rough sketches for StoneDragon. I think the pose is off slightly and I haven’t had time to figure out why, but this is just a bit of art that will eventually work through, become more polished, and grace the pages of my work in progress. I’m hoping to have it out on Amazon by the end of the year, but we’ll see how the art goes. 😀

Early Manuscripts, Depressing is Thy Name…

I am on my third manuscript, beyond dozens of picture book stories and poems that I worked on prior to that. Hundreds and hundreds of hours of work, over multiple years (my SCBWI membership shows me joining in 2006, although I didn’t start writing novel-length manuscripts until 2012). I think that my first three novel-length manuscript all had solid pieces to them, more than solid even. Humor in the first, atmosphere and world-building in the second, premise and magic system in the third. And yet, the struggle remains: are early manuscripts from a writer to be seen or hidden? It is becoming a more significant question, with the rise of self-publishing.

I am not complaining about the time invested, I love writing, although rejections have been hard. But the question is: when is the work worth showing to potential readers, even if a traditional publisher doesn’t want it? When do you decide that self-publishing is a good marketing tool, instead of a bad one? Because there is the risk of showing your work too early, before you have all your skills and polish in place, and scaring off readers that might have otherwise loved your books, and aren’t likely to give you a second chance.

I don’t know the answer to these questions. I have heard ten books in some places, a million words in others (this is a common one). Brandon Sanderson noted that his sixth book sold, similar to another author that he knew. Others have mentioned earlier. But Jay Yasher, author of the top selling Thirteen Reasons Why put in twelve years, if I remember correctly, before rocking the YA world with his break-through effort. Not to mention the fact that those people probably started off in different places in their writing skill sets, making it even harder to judge ‘when’ is right.

The reason that I’m asking this question is that I think that my writing is getting close to a point where it might be half-decent, and the topic or premise of a book the marginal factor in whether an agent or editor gets excited. Not that my skills won’t improve further. Of course they will, as long as I stick to it. But I think that I’m closer to the point where I might catch hold of readers with my writing, rather than scare them away. At least I hope so!

In any event, I think it’s interesting to consider what a thankless job it is, being a writer early in their journey. Even the three books I’ve written (still shy of a million words, just for the record) have been an enormous task, with little external reward. Writing is different than other performing arts, like drawing or piano, where people enjoy a few minutes of exposure and often give positive feedback. Not many people want to read a 80,000-word early manuscript from an amateur writer.

Early Manuscripts, depressing is thy name. But without them, we wouldn’t get the later ones. The ones that readers see and love. The ones that make it all worthwhile. Hopefully.

Here’s to hoping we all make it through. Happy writing!

Adrian.

Cover Sketch for Dead Dragon Cowboy

I am starting to revamp my older novel, buy which I am now calling “Dead Dragon Cowboy”, there my first fantasy manuscript, with the current intention to self-publish it (as I’ve mentioned before, it did the agent rounds, and didn’t attract much interest). One major step for that endeavor is the cover, a step that I can obviously do myself, given my art skills, and should enjoy. So I did a charcoal sketch of one image that I had in mind for the cover, which is the featured image of this post. I’ve also showed a progression shot here, from an even earlier sketch:

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I kind of like the charcoal look, even for the actual cover, but I know that many of the fantasy books are done in water-colour or ink, so I may do a second, more polished version in water-colour, see what it looks like. I want my book to come across as professional as a traditional publisher’s, and there is a line between originality and confusing reader expectations. So we’ll see what that version looks like, and if this rougher sketch still has some appeal.

To give an idea of what the actual novel is about, I’ve redone a short blurb, below:

In a world nothing like his own, a dark-spirited gunfighter must battle devils and gods to reclaim the girl who looked to him for protection. He won’t fail twice. Even if he triggers a battle that threatens to rip the world apart…

I hope that you enjoy the journey and at least some of you enjoy the book! At the moment, I’m thinking I might be done all the required steps by the end of 2015, but we’ll see how things go….