Writer’s Sketchbook

March 5, 2012


Artists sketch, right?

If you think about it, the thought of an artist sitting down with a spiral-bound notebook and a pencil, scribbling out quick shapes–that’s not an abnormal mental image, is it?

Some of the sketches may turn into a painting, some may be terrible, some may be wonderful but never go anywhere.

It’s a sketchbook. That’s what it’s for. Experimenting, trying things, failing, succeeding … playing.


So why don’t writers “sketch”?

Why does it seem so odd for a writer to sit down and spill out a few scenes or words that may not be part of their larger project, may not develop into anything, may not even be any good?

Even if someone believes that a newbie writer can play (I mean, what’s the harm, right?) I’ve often seen a reluctance to admit that a big name writer might need to “sketch”.

Everything has to be perfect and finished and complete.

WRITERS don’t think they’re allowed to just play with words. Writing a book is such a long, involved process that it can often feel like “cheating” to work on something else (and indeed, doing that can often completely derail a work in progress).

There is definitely a feeling of perfectionism that I’ve found in many of the writers I’ve met. If we do manage to succeed once, surely then we must continue succeeding and continuing to outdo ourselves because there’s a fear of being a one-hit wonder.

Across the internet, you can find little writing contests and challenges. Friday Fiction challenges,flash fiction based on an image, extreme daily challenges, extreme monthly challenges … these aren’t hard to find.

Can you imagine J.K. Rowling participating in one of these? Stephen King? Nora Roberts?

If not … why not?


I would LOVE to peek into Ursula Vernon‘s artist sketchbook. I adore it when artists post their sketches, not because I believe every page should be painted and perfect, but because of the loose imperfection of it.

(Oh, and don’t get me wrong. I know plenty of ARTISTS who find that their sketchbook imperfections grate on their perfectionist souls.)

Speaking of Ursula Vernon, she’s the only writer I know who posts her writer’s sketchbook online. Alas, although I do READ these “sketches” when they hit my feed reader, I cannot find a link to them. In recent memory, she’s posted a Regency Ninja scene, an alternate Little House on the Prairie, a short bit with a girl and a dog crossing an enchanted river, and some older stuff my memory tells me involves a bear who likes to cook. There may be HOPE from fans that she expands on these (and I believe Regency Ninja may actually have been finished) but there is never expectation. (One also hopes there are also not grammar nazis to point out problems. Sketches aren’t for artistic critique.)

Also, I believe author Julie Kagawa recently posted an extra/unpublished Valentine’s scene related to one of her books.

It really is uncommon, though. Other authors may post snippets from books coming out as part of a promotion/teaser for that novel, but the overall impression I get, as an outsider looking in, is that sort of authorial goofing around isn’t done once one gets published.


Personally, I think that’s a pity.

(Said the pot to the kettle).

Once upon a time, I wrote flash fiction and goofy little stories all the time. Many of them were the result of Saucy Wenches writing challenges. The majority were posted here under my “Story Potpourri” blog category.

Once our podcast was shut down, I kind of stopped doing the writing, too. Part of it was a feeling that I needed to “take my writing more seriously” (and I’ll admit another part was laziness, whilst I’m feeling truthsome).

Well, poppycock.

Even “serious” writers need to practice their craft. If I post a story and it isn’t polished and has typos and spellos … what am I afraid of? That I’ll scare off readers? That they’ll think I’m a terrible writer, and decide never to buy anything I write (you know, once I get into publishing for realsies)?

Um. No. Actually, I’d say that Ursula’s “sketchbook” makes me incredibly excited for her novels. (Her children’s books, while amusing, are … well, children’s books). I don’t remember her typos. I remember her clever turn of phrase and her intriguing situations. I know what to expect from her writing, and I know that it will appeal to me.


Are you an artist or writer?

Do you post your finished pieces?

Do you post your “sketchbook”? Why or why not?


Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to rename “Story Potpourri” to “Writing Sketchbook” and remind myself to loosen up and have fun a little more often.


  • willydd3 March 5, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    I’d love to be a one-hit wonder!

    • Tami March 6, 2012 at 8:30 am

      *laugh* I’d hate it. I want writing to be such a part of me, it’d be incredibly difficult to know I’d already done the only thing I would ever write that would matter.

      • willydd3 March 6, 2012 at 8:44 am

        With all due respect (and I have a ton of respect for you!) you would have a long and successful career as a writer if you would *ahem* finish some of your many ongoing projects! I’ve had the pleasure of reading some of the work that you say is not ready to be published, and I think it’s great! I can say confidently that many of the people reading this blog would agree with me.

        • Tami March 6, 2012 at 8:47 am

          I know, I know. I’ve been doing some evaluation of my time and resources so I can do just that. ^_^

          • willydd3 March 6, 2012 at 9:18 am

            Flaming bears, eh?

          • Tami March 6, 2012 at 9:23 am

            *laugh* Exactly.

            And once again, I find myself having taken on one too many of the overly-warm, snarly little fellows.

  • Tristina March 5, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    I LOVE when authors do goofy stuff like deleted scenes, alternate POVs, extra shorts, etc.

    Jennifer Armentrout and Cassandra Clare both do a little on their websites. It’s mostly alternate POVs but there are some extras thrown in for holidays, etc.

    But I do wish more authors would do stuff like that. It’s fun and makes them seem more “human” if that makes any sense.

    • Tami March 6, 2012 at 8:32 am

      Yes! That makes perfect sense. And I love to hear there are other authors doing it, that’s fantastic!

  • Steve Hall March 5, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    By all means, loosen up, Mrs. Moore! You’re entirely too strait-laced! :P

    • Tami March 6, 2012 at 8:31 am



      Sometimes, I am. Other times, I may as well have “sugar high” tattooed on my forehead.