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I've often thought of the similarities and differences between a visual artist and a word artist, or author. Some art, like some writing is very realistic and difficult to differentiate from real life accounts. Some writing/art is very detailed and carefully described, while some is more symbolic, emotional or abstract. Both are often reflections of the culture in which they have arisen, or the culture of the artist, and can tell us something of the time period in which they were created. Some artists concentrate on their composition just like some writers concentrate on their plots, and others might prefer portraits or character developments. Some paintings, like some books are large and take a very long time to create and some are more simple or shorter.


Some artists will do a lot of planning. They will sketch out where they want the different elements to go and make tables of the colours they want to mix to create their piece. They will do some preliminary pictures and experiment with the placement of some key aspects of the painting. In exactly the same way, a writer will consider the whole piece, the plot and the characters and how they will be placed in relation to each other. A writer will constantly be editing their work and just as some painters might paint out an aspect of their piece and repaint it differently elsewhere, a writer might completely rewrite parts of their book or of a character to make the piece more harmonious.


So, there are many similarities. But there are also many differences. One of the key differences is that it is probably easier to look at a picture when it is part way through and be able to imagine what it will look like when it is finished. Artists often post pictures as they are part way through their pictures, and people understandably love to see the work evolve and change. And yet, if you did the same thing with a book and showed small parts of your book with a vague word description of how things might turn out in the end, readers would not generally be impressed. Also, people can tell in a very short time whether visual art is going to be something which they enjoy, or which they respond to whereas a book demands a considerable investment of time. A person can look at a piece of art and will, usually, know if they like it straight away, but until they spend hours and hours reading your book, they won't know if it is something which resonates with them.

An artist thinks carefully about their art and places their brush strokes carefully, layering the strokes. A word artist (writer) thinks carefully about their art and chooses and places their words carefully, too, layering the story and the character development. I wish that I could present you with a sort of visual picture of how my book is progressing. I can't but I can try to describe it in a word sketch. I'm about 20,000 words into it. My books are usually around 120,000 words so there is a long way to go. Some of the key characters have become even more detailed, and some are presenting a slightly different profile to what you have read before. There have been some unexpected twists and shocking events already. It has been the kind of writing which has taken a lot out of me because it has already contained some complex issues which have required a lot of mental untangling. If you saw this as a picture, you would be able to see one little corner of it that is quite detailed and quite surprising, but you wouldn't be able to tell what the whole finished picture would be like at all yet!

I hope that when you read my books that you see lots of interesting pictures in your mind that stay with you. That you see character portraits which are realistic and give you an accurate impression of the characters without drawing every single hair. That you can feel yourself in a landscape, whether its a scene under a Paradox tree in Oramia or looking out over the shifting sands of Kashiq. Or perhaps its one of those paintings which seems to have a puzzle in it which you might spend some time looking at, trying to figure out what it means. I am lucky that I have a wonderful artist, Amy Yeager, for my book covers who is really good at understanding what needs to be included in the picture and what needs to be suggested, and who works closely with me to achieve the picture I want for each book.





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