Sketching: How Extensive Do I Outline?

One of my favorite things to draw are sketches.  They’re fun, and they can be as quick as you want them to be.  A sketch can be drawn as fast as thirty seconds—or it can take you up to five to ten minutes.

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There is only one rule about how to sketch properly.  Use your pencil lightly. You never want to draw a hard line while sketching—because what’s the goal of a sketch? To be erased.  And trust me when I tell you that hard lines do not erase.

Okay, Shim, you’re thinking.  What’s the point in drawing something only to erase it?

I counter that with another question.  What’s the point in writing a first draft if it’s basically a universal truth that all first drafts suck royally and it will have to be edited/rewritten to pieces?  By which I mean, you have to start somewhere.  Sketches aren’t really like first drafts, though.

Sketches are like outlines.

What do outlines do?

Generally, outlines give you an idea of where you’re going.  They also might give you an idea of what won’t work.  They might help you prevent some gaping plot holes, or show you that letting this character do that thing this early in the book might make it hard for that other character to be introduced.

What is the first rule of outlines?  They are not set in stone.

Hmm, does that remind you of anything? Oh yeah, sketches! Sketches aren’t set in stone, either.  In fact, sketches need to be drawn lightly so they can be erased later!

Both sketches and outlines are a guide.  They can be changed, tweaked, or completely thrown out the window.  In fact, they don’t even have to be used in the first place if you don’t want to use them. (I guess it’s possible to draw by the seat of your pants.  Heheh.)

Sketches should be simple.

How does one draw a sketch?  Is there a right way to sketch?

Nope.  A sketch is basically a series of lightly-draw lines that are placed to portray a vague image that can be expanded upon later.  You can sketch in different styles.  You can sketch really fast.  You can take a littler longer and add a few important details to your sketch.

Whoa, lets stop there a moment.  Details?  Details are dangerous.  Details are what should be in the final version, and not necessarily before that.  Why?  If you add too many details, you’ll bog it down.  You’ll clutter it.  You’ll take the simple, easy enjoyment out of it.

Simple.  Simple is the key here.  Remember about sketches and outlines not being set in stone? If you draw too many details, its going to start feeling like it is set in stone. And you don’t want that.

Okay, so, how much is too much? How simple/detailed do you do it?  Lets go back to what a sketch and outline are and what they do.  They’re guides.  Their goals are to show you a direction you can go and what might be the best way to get there.  Sort of like a roadmap, but with hopefully less potential of getting lost.

So how much do you do?

Only sketch/outline enough to figure out where you’re going.

Its a guide! Treat it like one.  Guidelines are not laws.  They can be dismissed or tweaked.  Guidelines are also not so vague you have no idea you’re being guided.

Only you know how much guiding you need before you can get started and succeed.  Maybe it’ll take some experimentation to figure out that perfect amount, but never go under or over that amount.

It’s a guide.

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