How Drawing a Duck Can Help You Start Writing a Book

Sep 15, 2021

You may wonder how drawing a duck can help you start writing a book, and in today's blog I want to show you the similarities between starting to draw a picture and outlining your book. Check out this short, quirky video for a bit of fun. 

My 15-year-old daughter asked me to go to art classes with her for some moral support, so being the good Mum, I went along. I was a bit worried about my artistic skills, though.

I was surprised by the similarities between starting to draw and starting to write. 

1) Choose a picture and draw a border around it

This was to contain the picture and measure it so I could easily translate it to a blank page.

In writing, we need to frame our story and know the scope of our story. When writing life story - it's good to know how much of your story you are going to tell. For example, autobiographies usually tell a whole life in chronological order whereas a memoir can focus on one aspect of your life. 

2) Draw an X from one corner of your frame to the other, to find the centre of your picture

Now this is interesting because I always ask my clients to think about what is at the centre or the "heart" of their story. This gives your story perspective and helps you to decide what to leave in or edit out as you write. 

3) Find shapes - Draw rough outline of your picture using lines

Wow, what a great tip for artists. I was going to just draw the duck head but my art teacher encouraged me to get the angles or outlines right because this would create the right size and not distort anything. The head wouldn't be too small or the feet too big because I'd be following the lines.

When it comes to writing, this is SO valuable. Some people like to just go for it and write what comes to mind. This is called discovery writing where you don't plan anything. You let the story take you along a journey. Now this is a wonderful approach and if you like writing like this, go for it. 

I find having a rough outline, like the angles around the duck can really help me decide what to write. I do some brain storming and Mindmap an outline so I can see visually what goes where in my story. I do this for blogs and even trying to make decisions about things.  

Doing an outline doesn't mean that it's set in stone. In fact, your story may change during the process, but it's a great way to start if you're having trouble starting. 

We had to rub out the rough outlines on the duck drawing and just like writing, you rub out, re-arrange and edit your story at the end too.

4) Start filling in the detail with lighter colours first

I loved this technique because it allowed for the light colours to shine through and not be overtaken by the dark colours. (Wow, a lot of metaphors for writing here). 

In writing, especially memoir, you write what you know, what you remember initially. You get all the ideas out and down first in your first draft. If you can shape it into a story arc then that's wonderful because a life story isn't just a series of events. You have to create the plot, the rising action and add the conflict that will take the reader on a journey. 

5) Start adding darker colours and more detail

This is where my duck started to look like a real duck. I couldn't believe it. As I added more colour and more feathered strokes my two dimensional picture started to look real. Amazing!

In writing, you bring your writing to life by using narrative elements of plot, conflict, characterisation, setting and dialogue to turn real events into a story. Then you add other techniques such as the use of senses, details, and metaphors to add even more dimension to your story. To give it more depth. 

6) Finish the drawing

I didn't finish the drawing in art class because it took me so long to get the angles right, and I still haven't finished the drawing. 

So that's a good lesson for writers - finish the damn story. I have so many stories or manuscripts that I've started and not finished. Enjoy where the muse takes you and keep going with your story otherwise you can lose momentum. You can lose enthusiasm if you let your ideas drag on for too long. Plus you want to share your duck drawing and your books with others. 

This may sound simplistic but I really loved what I learnt from one of my first art classes. You can definitely apply the lessons to writing a book.

If you'd like more details on how to start writing your book or your memoir, I have created a Memoir Masterclass. It's a mini workshop to show you step-by-step, how to start writing your life story. 

 Click here to learn more...


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