Four Unusual Tips For Writing A Novel Very Quickly

WARNING - Writing a novel THIS quickly may melt your brain...

WARNING – Writing a novel THIS quickly may melt your brain…

We’ve all heard stories about authors writing at superhuman speed – Jack Kerouac apparently wrote “On The Road” in just three weeks and I think that Shaun Hutson once apparently wrote a World War Two novel in a single weekend or something like that (I can’t remember where I read about this though).

So, how do they do it?

Well, whilst I’ve never actually written a full-length novel at top speed, I’ve done the next best thing. Twice.

Back in 2009, I was fascinated by a competition called “The 3 Day Novel“. Since I’d missed the start date for it and was kind of impatient, I decided to have a bit of unofficial practice and I ended up producing two 19,000-21,000 word novellas (not at the same time obviously – the first one was in summer 2009 and the second one was in autmun 2009).

Although it actually took me about four days for one of my attempts, it gave me at least a small amount of insight into how to write at ultra-fast speeds.

As the name suggests, “The 3 Day Novel” is a competition where people try to write a “novel” in just three days. I’ve put “novel” in inverted commas because what most people (myself included) can produce in that amount of time is closer in length to a novella (eg: 14,000- 50,000 words) than a full-length novel. Still, writing something of this length in three days is quite an achievement.

Anyway, since “The 3 Day Novel” contest already has a ‘Survival Guide’ page on it’s site which gives you some basic advice about how to achieve this superhuman feat (eg: don’t edit when you’re writing, write in solitude etc…), I thought that I’d give you some more unusual tips about how to write a novel quickly…….

1)Begin well: On my first unofficial attempt at the “3 Day Novel” challenge, I was excited and ready to go. So, on the first day, I ended up writing something like 10,000 words in the space of about eight hours. This was, at the time, the longest thing that I’d ever written and I was amazed!

In fact, I thought that if I kept this up then I’d have a 30,000 word novella by the end of the challenge.

I didn’t.

On the other days, I was only able to produce about 5,000 words a day.

Anyway, why am I mentioning this? Well, the reason I’m mentioning it is because you need to take full advantage of the first day of your project.

This will be the day when you are at your most energetic and enthusiastic because you haven’t been worn out by writing an unnaturally large amount of fiction yet. So, don’t take it easy on the first day.

Don’t ease yourself into your project gently. Use that first burst of curiosity and enthusiasm to your advantage and throw yourself into your project whilst you still have the energy to do so.

In other words, see your first day as the day when you can give yourself a giant head-start that will be useful a day or two later when you’re at the point when you can still see words even when you close your eyes.

2) Genre and plot structure: If you are going to pull off the gruelling feat of writing a novel in a shockingly short amount of time, then not only do you need to be enthusiastic (if not obsessed) about it but you also need a plot structure which keeps the risk of getting writer’s block to an absolute minimum.

In order to get enthusiastic about your story, it needs to be in one of your absolute favourite genres. It has to be in a genre that you absolutely love.

Because you’ll be writing at a superhuman speed, you’ll need motivation and the best motivation you can get is to be doing something that you love. So, don’t even attempt to write a novel quickly unless it’s in a genre that you genuinely love.

Secondly, you want to keep your story fairly open-ended in order to keep the risk of both writer’s block and of “writing yourself into a corner” to a minimum.

Whilst I’ve already written another article this subject , your story needs to be something that you can easily “make up as you go along” and it also needs to be the type of story where, if you get stuck, you can just throw something completely random into your story without confusing your readers.

For example, if you’re writing a horror story – then it would be better to write a story about a mysterious monster that attacks unsuspecting people at random (eg: whenever you get writer’s block) or a story about a haunted house where all manner of strange and bizarre things can happen (again, whenever you get writer’s block) than it would be to write an intricately-plotted story with detailed plot twists.

3) Sugar and Caffeine are your friends: Normally, I don’t really like energy drinks. Most of them taste pretty horrible and I don’t really like the whole frat-like culture that surrounds them.

But, if you’re writing a novel at superhuman speed (and it’s safe for you to drink energy drinks), then they’re a much more efficient way to stay awake and motivated than getting up (and away from your computer) and making a cup of coffee.

So, before you start your marathon writing session, make sure that you have some energy drinks handy. But, for obvious safety reasons, just make sure that you don’t drink too many of them though (I think that the general rule is that you should only drink about one can of energy drink per day.)

4) Obsession: If you devote a huge amount of time to doing nothing but writing a novel, then you’re probably going to start to think about it almost all of the time – even when you’re not writing.

On the few occasions that you meet other people during your writing binge, you’re going to want to talk about nothing other than the novel that you’re working on.

Although this might make you fear that you’re losing your mind, it’s actually a good sign. It means that you’re devoting almost all of your mental energy to your novel. As long as you don’t keep it up for more than a few days and you find a way to relax afterwards, then a total and all-consuming obsession about your novel is a good thing.

After all, who would even attempt to write a novel in a ridiculously short amount of time if they weren’t obsessed about it?


Anyway, I hope that this was useful :) Again, be sure to check out the “Survival Guide” on the “3 Day Novel” website for some more practical advice.

Today’s Art (27th November 2014)

Today’s painting is based on one of the later parts of a rather long dream I had a few weeks ago.

Whilst I won’t write an account of the entire dream here, the last part of it was set in this bizarre dystopic sci-fi factory/spaceship/prison, where you could tell someone’s social status by looking at what colour dress they were wearing (eg: someone in a blue dress was a wealthy scholar etc..).

This was also one of the few dreams I’ve had where I was actually a character in the dream (I was one of the lowly people wearing green in the background of this painting) rather than just a neutral observer or a carbon copy of my waking self.

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Dreamt Dystopia" By C. A. Brown

“Dreamt Dystopia” By C. A. Brown

Some Very Basic Tips For Realistic Lighting In Paintings (And a “Never-Seen-Before” Painting Too)

2014 Artwork Realistic lighting failed painting article sketch

Well, I made a cheesy sci-fi/horror painting called “Horde” recently and I completely messed up the lighting in it. So, I thought that I’d quickly dissect it here and see if we can learn anything from it.

I’m not sure whether I’ll also post it on here tomorrow in my daily art post or if I’ll replace it with something else (I’ll probably do the latter of these two things).

But, nonetheless, it provides a few good examples of how NOT to paint and/or draw realistic lighting. It also doesn’t include any shadows either, which allows us to focus on just looking at basic lighting in this article.

So, let’s take a look at it:

"Horde" By C. A. Brown

“Horde” By C. A. Brown

As a general rule, when you’re painting something – you should imagine rays of light coming out of the light sources in your picture (eg: in this picture, it would be the two guns) in every direction and not stopping until they hit something solid.

The side of anything that one of these light rays hits should be lighter than the side of it that it doesn’t. Yes, things often cast shadows too – but, again, since this is a fairly basic guide, I won’t be covering how to paint realistic shadows here.

In case this was confusing, here’s a version of my picture with the imaginary “light rays” (shown in white and light blue) added to it:

Light rays, shown in white and blue, emerging from both light sources and stopping when they hit something solid.

Light rays, shown in white and blue, emerging from both light sources and stopping when they hit something solid.

The first mistake that you’ll probably notice is the fact that the bottom half of the archway in the background is completely covered in darkness. Initially, I did this to save time but – as we all know, light doesn’t work this way.

If there is a bright light in the middle of a painting (eg: the muzzle flash of a futuristic hand-held shotgun) and nothing gets in it’s way, then it should light up everything above and below it.

 THIS area should NOT be dark!

THIS area should NOT be dark!

This is especially incongruous, since I’ve also made sure that the edges of the archway in the background at the bottom of the picture have been lit properly. Seriously, if there’s one thing worse than badly-painted lighting, it’s inconsistent lighting. Don’t make this mistake!

The second major mistake that you might not notice is the fact that the far edge of character’s right arm isn’t lighter than the rest of the picture. It’s right next to a light source, and yet only the middle part of it is lit up.

If you think about the “rays of light” that I mentioned earlier, it should be obvious that this area should be lighter. Again, here’s the part of the picture that I’m talking about:

This area should be lighter than it is.

This area should be lighter than it is.

There are, of course, lots of other smaller mistakes with the lighting in this picture that I could talk about. But, to be honest, I don’t really have time to do so at the moment – so I’ll leave it up to you to see how many you can spot.


Sorry for such a short and basic article, but I hope that it was useful :)

Art And Dreams

...Don't you just hate it when this happens.

…Don’t you just hate it when this happens.

When it comes to sources of artistic inspiration, we can often overlook our dreams. After all, we don’t always remember our dreams and most people aren’t interested in hearing about them (for some bizarre reason I’ve never quite understood). But, if you are an artist, your dreams can be an absolute goldmine.

Even though I’ve already written an article about writing and dreams, I’ve recently realised that dreams are actually much more useful to artists than they are to writers.

Why? Because although the average dream might have a nonsensical “story” of some kind or another, the parts of dreams that we really remember are the things that we see.

Whether it’s a strange new location made out of a hodge-podge of familiar locations, a nightmarish creature, a surreal image or even just the general atmosphere of the dream – our dreams are absolutely crammed with fascinating images that we can put down onto paper or canvas.

Not only is this a quick (if somewhat unpredictable and unreliable) way of coming up with interesting and surreal ideas for paintings, but it also allows us to tell other people about our dreams in a way that won’t bore or confuse them.

Of course, the really interesting thing about dream paintings is that they rarely look exactly like the dreams that they’re based on. This might just be a reflection of my own artistic skills, but I think that it’s more due to the fact that you’re adapting something from one format to another entirely from memory (since you can’t exactly film your dreams). Not only that, you’ll probably have to change the composition of your painting in order to make it look more visually appealing too.

But, another satisfying thing about making art based on your dreams is that you will end up with a drawing or a painting that is almost like a souvenier. It’s almost like you have ventured into the unknown wilderness of your own subconscious mind and have actually brought something tangible back into the real world.

The reason why I’m writing about all of this stuff is because, a few weeks ago, I had a series of really fascinating dreams over the space of about two nights. If you’re the kind of person who falls asleep when you hear other people talk about their dreams, then you might want to skip the next two paragraphs.

This series of dreams included things like a visiting a cinema from hell and solving a gory Agatha-Christie style murder mystery in a creepy deserted house in France (the victim was someone called “Miqquebard” and the culprit was a man with a beard, if I remember rightly).

They also involved things like visiting a swanky party (and briefly meeting Suzanne Vega and Barack Obama there), trying to escape from a fortified council estate (whilst filming a documentary – there was also a brief cameo appearance by Aleks Krotoski in this dream too) and visiting a dystopic sci-fi factory/prison/spaceship.

When I woke up, I frantically wrote these dreams down and filled about eight A5 sketchbook pages with descriptions of them (as well as small sketches of the most important parts of the dreams) and I didn’t really think that much of it until a while later when it came to doing my daily art practice. I was feeling uninspired and I couldn’t think of a single decent idea of my own, so I reached for my dream accounts and painted this:

"Cinema Diabolique" By C. A. Brown

“Cinema Diabolique” By C. A. Brown

I also painted this other dream painting that will probably be posted on here tomorrow evening (along with a description of the dream). Although the full version of it is probably on DeviantART by now, here’s a preview of part of it:

"Dreamt Dystopia [PREVIEW]" By C. A. Brown

“Dreamt Dystopia [PREVIEW]” By C. A. Brown

So, yes, never underestimate your own dreams when you’re short of artistic ideas…


Anyway, I hope that this was useful :)

Today’s Art (25th November 2014)

Today’s painting is based on a scene from a very strange dream that I had a few weeks ago. Annoyingly, this painting also required quite a bit of digital editing and traditional editing (with pencils) too.

I won’t recount the whole dream here – since it took up about four pages of my A5 sketchbook when I originally wrote it out after I woke up. But, one part of the dream involved visiting “a cinema from hell – where the grim reaper would be waiting..“.

Of course, after I walked into the cinema and sat down, the grim reaper (who was wearing a trenchcoat rather than his traditional black robes for some reason) walked in and promptly sat on a seat in front of me, blocking my view of the screen. Hellish indeed….

As usual, this painting is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

"Cinema Diabolique" By C. A. Brown

“Cinema Diabolique” By C. A. Brown

Five Ways To Make Quick Last-Minute Artwork

2014 Artwork Last minute art article sketch

So, you’re uninspired and you’ve got a deadline looming? It doesn’t matter if you’re an art student, if you post art online to a regular schedule or if you just need to demonstrate your art skills quickly, knowing how to come up with a piece of artwork in a hurry is a skill that is worth learning.

Before I go any further, I should point out that this article is aimed at very slightly experienced artists and not absolute beginners. Not only that, there’s a good chance that any art that you produce this quickly probably won’t be your best work.

Still, if you absolutely have to make some art and you’ve only got 20-30 minutes to do it, then making something is better than making nothing.

In addition to this, I would also recommend that you work in one of the five art mediums that I mention in this article.

If you don’t have time to read it – the five mediums are ink, coloured pencils, digital, watercolour pencils and/or pastels, since these are all formats that require little to no drying time. There’s no point rushing through a work of art only to have to wait hours for it to dry.

Anyway, I’ll stop wasting your time and get on with the list.

1) Landscapes: Let’s face it, people are one of the most difficult things for most artists to draw and/or paint. You have to add expressions, think of clothing designs, work out what hairstyle they’re going to have, get the proportions vaguely right etc.. All of this stuff takes time – time that you might not have.

So, you can speed things up by not including any people in your picture and just sticking to landscapes.

Generally speaking, natural landscapes – especially ones that mostly consist of mountains and seas (rather than trees or buildings)- are some of the easiest types of landscapes to draw and/or paint if you’re in a hurry. After all, all you need to do is to draw a few quick lines and add some colour and… hey presto! A mountain valley:

"Valley" By C. A. Brown

“Valley” By C. A. Brown

2) Go With What You Know (And Love): Although artists should experiment with different things and try new stuff from time to time, this isn’t something that you should do if you have a deadline looming.

If possible, you should make the type of art that you know and love – not only will this take some of the stress out of drawing or painting something quickly, but it is probably also the type of art that you’ve had the most practice with. In other words, there’s at least some chance that your rushed artwork will look at least vaguely good.

Likewise, if you’ve been working on a webcomic in your spare time, then just draw the characters from it with a few modifications. After all, you’ve probably already drawn them numerous times before – so, it should be almost second-nature to you.

3) Old Stuff: If you’ve been making art for a while, then you’ve probably got quite a few old paintings or drawings that you haven’t really shown anyone.

If you can’t pass one of these off as something that you’ve just made (eg: if the quality of your art has improved significantly since you made your old picture), then just draw or paint a new version of it from scratch.

Not only will this save you having to come up with a new idea for a picture in less than an hour, you can also simplify your copy of your original picture too in order to save time (eg: you can change the background, remove the background altogether, use solid colours instead of detailed patterns etc…).

4) Darkness And/ Or Snow: This trick relies on at least a very basic understanding of lighting in art but, if in doubt, make your picture as gloomy as you can.

If you are working digitally, or if you have access to a scanner, then you can add even more gloom to your pictures by adjusting the brightness/contrast levels (eg: lower the brightness and increase the contrast) in virtually any graphics editing program.

Likewise, you can use other digital effects (like inverting the colours) to make something ultra-quickly, like this:

"Lost Planet" By C. A. Brown [I made this in less than 15 minutes, by inverting the colours digitally]

“Lost Planet” By C. A. Brown [I made this in less than 15 minutes, by inverting the colours digitally]

Anyway, not only will having a lot of darkness areas in your picture mean that you’ll only have to add detail to the few brighter areas of your picture (eg: you can use silhouettes and outlines for the rest), it can also be a good way of tricking your audience into thinking that your picture is more detailed than it actually is.

After all, when your audience are presented with only a few parts of a scene, their imaginations tend to “fill in the gaps” and imagine the rest of it.

For example, take a look at this slightly rushed (and heavily darkened digitally) coastal landscape painting I posted on here a few weeks ago. Not how only the left-hand side of the painting actually has any real detail in it:

"Mountain Bridge" By C. A. Brown

“Mountain Bridge” By C. A. Brown

Likewise, you can also take the opposite approach and paint or draw a scene that is almost entirely covered in snow. This way, you only have to paint or draw a few key details (as well as the sky) and you can leave most of the page blank.

But, unless you’ve already had some practice, I wouldn’t recommend this, since even vaguely realistic-looking snow is harder to draw than you might think if you haven’t had any practice.

5) Abstractions, Collages and Surrealism: If you’re seriously short of time, then just make something random. Start doodling, start painting random shapes, sketch out silhouettes against a solid-colour background etc… and, if anyone asks, it’s abstract and/or surreal art.

Seriously, just make something totally random, like this

"Luminous Bridge" By C. A. Brown

“Luminous Bridge” By C. A. Brown

Likewise, if you’ve got magazines, a glue stick and scissors handy – then just make a random collage. It might also be a good idea scribble a few random shapes on it and/or scrawl a few pretentious-sounding words onto it (eg: “angst”, “penumbra”, “existence”, “late capitalism” etc…) to make it look more “artistic” too.

Hell, even defacing a picture in a magazine or newspaper in an imaginative way can work if you’ve only got a few minutes – I mean, just look at Duchamp’s “L.H.O.O.Q” for a famous example of this.

Yes, this probably isn’t a good idea if you want to seriously impress anyone who knows anything about art. But, if you need something that looks “modern”, “experimental” or “edgy” in a hurry and you can come up with a suitably pretentious-sounding explanation of it’s “meaning”, then you might just get away with it…..


Anyway, I hope that this was useful :)