When I was young, I had the opportunity to travel to France on a school trip. At the time I was heavily interested in art. It was my high school major. The technique behind art never interested me, it was always the passion, and the meaning put into the pieces that interested me more.
While in Paris one day, we were booked in for a tour of Notre Dame. Our coach let us off at about 11:30 in the morning. We stood in front of it admiring the scenery while our teacher went to find the tour guide that was meant to be taking us around that day. Sat on a tiny folding stool with nothing else but an easel and some watercolours was an artist who was just beginning to paint their scene. I stood back and watched as they got out their fattest brush and began flooding the top half of the paper very lightly in blue and the bottom half in a very light reddish brown. Ten more minutes passed the breeze had blown the majority of the paper dry so they then added in the general shape of Notre Dame. That was all I could watch because the tour of the outside of the cathedral was starting.
About thirty minutes later we made our way back around to the front again. The artist had added details the building, trees gently appeared, buildings in the surrounding area had been roughly painted. It was starting to look like the scene in front of me. We were given thirty minutes to have our lunch before we were to reassemble and have a tour of the inside. I went off in search of bread and cheese, the only two things I ate the entire time I was in France aside from crepes and coffee ice cream.
With a full belly, I returned to the artist. His painting had nearly been completed. There were people mulling around in the area and he had roughly captured some of them. The trees were more detailed and the stain glass window had its colour added to it. Unfortunately, our indoor tour last nearly an hour and by the time we returned to the street the artist was gone so I did not get to see the finished work.
Writers are artists. Our work can be built in layers too. The painter had captured Notre Dame by layering in the visual scenes slowly until the picture was a good representation of what was going on around the cathedral that day. Writers do it with words.
Blogging has help to evolve my writing and the way I write over the past year. I have learned much from the community we have here. I started out as a total pantser, writing only from the heart, to becoming a plotter. This is still evolving but each time it does I become happier with my writing results.
My first layer of a novel is the bones of the story, it starts with the idea and builds out to become the who and the where kind of stuff. It takes the form of loose chapter outlines with some scene planning. I put dabbles of research or links to research in and it sounds more like a work of non fiction when I read it. For me this layer of novel writing is averaging between 5k to 10k words in whole. Much of which becomes eaten up in the next layer of writing itself. It is drab and boring but is the central layer in which the entire rest of the novel will expand from.
The next layers are where I build on the scenes. They get description. It is very sensory for me. I can see, hear, taste, smell and feel the scenes. Each scene leads on to the next building on and adding to the story. This is my favourite part of novel writing. I can get into the writing zone and the words flow freely. I do not worry about spelling, grammar or punctuation during this layer building process. I just write. My word counts grow and I have a large amount of material to work with.
The last layers are the packaging layers. They are the things that are added to make it sound nicer, those little details and finishing touches. This is done during the editing sweeps. The first sweep is for fixing those errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation. The next sweep adds in the furniture, other people who are not in the scene but in the background of it, and the characters personality begins to come through in more detail. I clean up the dialogue adding actions to it where needed. These sweeps both add and take away words. This is the hardest stage for me, it is the one in which I never feel is completely done.
So there you have it like in Shrek, ogres have layers and novel writing does too.
What about you? How do you build your layers?