Thursday, August 18, 2011

Aspiring Advice: Painting Your Manuscript

I have to tell you a horrible, dirty little secret. I haven't written or edited anything this last week (commence screams of terror!)! Okay, okay. That's not completely true. I posted a query and the first 250 words of this and that at WriteOnCon and edited them as suggestions rolled in (today's the last day, just so you know--a full rundown of what I learned will be up Monday). This is because of the state of my house. Still renovating, with all our stuff piled here and there. It's messing with our feng shui. So we've been painting, and painting . . .

Is this going somewhere, Mr. Paintbrush-For-Hands?

I hope so. Bear with me.

A thought crossed my find. The painting process. The drafting process. They really aren't so different!

For a proper paint job, you start with an unfinished surface. The first thing you do is put on a coat of primer. This protects the surface of whatever you're working on. But let me tell you what. It sticks. Seriously! It's like something crawled into a vat of paint thinner under the porch, soaked it up like a sponge, and died (the brand I used, at least--not this brand, but the name suits)!

(Warning: This Product is Killer!)

It doesn't look all that great when the surface is covered, either (I'm not a professional painter, mind you--but it's cheap). It leaves uneven spots and, again, makes the place reek (if you don't inhale too deeply, you'll be fine).Wait for it to dry. Then you put on a coat of paint. Hey. It smells better. Looks much better, too. However, there's still some spots I can see, after all those hours of toil and strain. I wait for it to dry, then put on a second coat. Fix a few things, do some interior decorating, believe in myself, and I can turn this...

Into this...

(I wish that was my dining room...)

It doesn't matter who you are. You may have a great, original idea, but your finished draft (primer) will always stink. It can't be avoided. Wait for a week or two (dry) and go over your manuscript again (first coat of paint). This will improve your rough draft, but you might still find holes or areas that you're still not satisfied with. Wait a while again (dry) and go through it again (second coat). Tweak sentences, add some description where needed, believe in yourself, and you can turn this...

Into this...

(Insert jacket/cover art/title of choice)
This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. Writing is a job. It takes work. The more you do it, the more proficient you will be. Ginger Clark, a literary agent for Curtis Brown, LTD., wrote this post as part of the WriteOnCon lineup. She stressed heavily the importance of proofreading and revising in the submissions process, even before you begin to even think about querying!

This is truly great advice, my friends. I recommend you click it, read it, believe in yourself, and put on a coat.

I'm David, and my hands are multi-colored! 


  1. What a great post. Because my WIP #1 has been my learning project (and I'm on edit #10) I feel like I'm never going to ready to query. Sometimes I don't care, but sometimes ...

  2. The secret pro-tip of DYI painters (like my parents) is sand and wash the walls first. Then the primer will go on better, evenly and dry faster (weather permitting). Also check the quality of your primer, it should not stink. It should smell like paint and not leave bleed through spots of the paint underneath.

    But it's true, writing is like painting with how DYI it's become with editing, polishing and practice.

  3. They may be similar but I'm darn sure I'd rather write a novel than paint a room :)

  4. This is great David. I love the painting metaphor and I think it fits well and is very true. I need to remember this as I do my work. So hard to be patient and keep going over and over it, but if you want the finished product to be THAT awesome, you just gotta do it!

  5. Donna - I know what you mean. My WiP #1 was at edit #9 when I finally decided to write something else. You'll get to the query. I have no doubts about that.

    Steph - Hey! Good ideas. Thank you! Maybe I don't have the best primer. Man, it's noxious.

    Sarah - Me too! :)

    Abby - Exactly. I haven't figured out if I'm better at patience or perseverance. Once that's figured out, who know what'll happen!

    Kristin - Thank you! :)

  6. I was expecting before and after pictures like I see on You know the kind where there's some fat hairy dude in one and then in the next he's all ripped with like 4% bodyfat. And all it takes is $19.99! and protein drinks!

  7. Your pics made me laugh! I wish my dining room looked like that, too. You writing/painting comparison was dead on. I need to get back to editing as well. Thanks!

  8. I love the analogy to painting. :) My WIP is currently a lot like primer . . . I'm already ooking forward to finishing it and being able to put on the next coat.

  9. Weird question... how do you put the "work in progress" things over in your side bar? They are cool. I want to do something like that. :)

  10. Michael - Sorry, man. Protein shakes. To think I drank those during my atheistic years.

    E.R., Eagle - I thought the comparison matched well (there's a painting joke there somewhere).

    Abby - I set up a "text" tab on the side and paste in the code that I got from this place ( that helps.

  11. David, great, great analogy. With awesome photos to illustrate it... and to top it all off... it was funny as heck.

    "It's like something crawled into a vat of paint thinner under the porch, soaked it up like a sponge, and died..." "if you don't inhale too deeply, you'll be fine" Ha! I love those lines! And the images... spot on perfect timing.

    (Oh, and, we use Kilz. It is a killer.)

    Your place looks great, btw. Congrats.

  12. Oh, this post just made my day! I've just begun writing a sequel and, well, it's depressing. You get so used to working on a ms that's been revised and revised and revised and now I'm at ground zero, staring at miles of nothing. I walk ahead, trudging forward, and it's dry, bare to the bones...tumbleweed blows by.

    You forget (at least I do) the beginnings are never beautiful. They stink (glad it's figurative and not really like primer. *EW!*) This helps me remember all the layers I've yet to add that will turn my rough, stinky foundation into something beautiful. Hopefully :D

  13. Thanks so much David! I will try it :)

  14. Doralynn - Thank you! I'm trying to warm up my MG voice. Don't know if it's working. Knowing I'm making some laughs is encouraging :)

    Barbara - Yes. It will be beautiful. Sequels are awesome. You can do it!

    Abby - Anytime! :)

  15. Love this metaphor. Glad you found me at WriteOnCon!

    For me it's hard to prevent myself from writing a new story during the revision process. I need to focus. Haha! Great blog! Can't wait to read more.

  16. Awesome post!

    THis was a GREAT hook! You may want to use it in a novel of yours LOL.
    I have to tell you a horrible, dirty little secret
    Also painting your manuscript was an awesome title. I always thought it to be like cars being painted and buffed. First primer then coats, etc. Funny how writers think alike sometimes:)
    Best of luck on WriteOn Con. So nice to connect with other writers.
    NIce blog!

  17. Great post :)
    I'm putting the final touches on my ms, and it's nice to be reminded of how I got to this point. I whine all the time about rewrites and editing, but I love my characters and their story; it's sad that my journey with them will end soon, but 'painting' with them has been a blast!

  18. I, too, now have dining room envy. Good analogy, and I love the theatrics. The terror??!??!!! Ahhhhh. I haven't written much either this week.

    <3 from a newbie follower

  19. Great post and analogy! Good to meet you, David. Found you via a comment you made on WriteOnCon. Good to meet another fellow writer!

  20. Good luck with the painting and the writing/editing:)

  21. This was a great post! One I could totally relate to. Awesome blog - my eyes are popping all over the place. Very pleased I met you on WriteOnCon -- writers helping writers. :)

  22. I just finished painting most of my kitchen, so I totally agree with the waiting until it's dried. Great analogy. Hopefully you'll get that paint off your hands. It took me two full days. ;)