Fran Wilde is a longtime friend of the Inkpunks and a fellow fountain pen junkie. And she also writes cool books about a kickass mom! Needless to say, it’s a delight to have her here on the blog.
Last August, I stood in a corner of Westminster Abbey — near Newton’s grave — while my family walked around the tombs. They were following a self-guided tour that snaked through the entire church, listening to the recording tell them where poets and kings rested.
Every once in a while, a tourist would break away from the line and come over to see what I — standing so still in an out-of-the-way corner — was doing. The tourist would peer over my shoulder, make a small sound, and either stand beside me and watch for a few moments, or walk away whispering things like: “that’s not very good.”
It didn’t matter what they whispered. I was happy, sketching. I didn’t care whether what I’d drawn was good or not. Nor that my fingers were smudged with ink and pencil. The act of capturing one tiny part of Westminster Abbey in shadow and line by looking closely, then translating that with my hands and a pen, left me energized and calm.
Sketching is a lifelong habit. I have dozens of half-finished notebooks with sketches from near and far. When I was younger, I drew something every day, more often than I wrote. I worked on drawings over a period of weeks, much like I write stories now. When I traveled, I brought watercolors and a box of pencils with me. I still do.
I usually stand to draw, because I was taught it was more respectful. I ask permission. I work quickly. I stay out of the way.
Over time, my sketches have become rougher and less practiced. They’re more about the action than the product. Sketching lets me stand still and look. It helps me work out problems. It’s almost the exact opposite of writing. On those days when I’m bashing around a plot problem, I often pull out my pen and sketch. Sometimes drawing lines and hatch marks and focusing on light and shadow gives me an answer no amount of rough drafting could.
That’s true with several sketches I did while writing Updraft. For those, I sketched from imagination, and at least one was done while on a train to New York. I sketched my version of a knife fight in a wind tunnel. I sketched the city above the clouds for scale. I drew a rough map. I played with frames and borders.
These days, I’m sketching different things toward the same goal: discovering parts of the whole through line and shadow.
They’re not professional drawings. They don’t have to be. But the sketches are something I made while I was thinking about Updraft.
A bit ago — and I guess this is the official announcement for this piece of book swag — I made four of my sketches into bookplates. I did it so that I could send something personal to people who pre-order Updraft: a signed and dated sketch, made when I was writing the book.
Meantime, I’m making some more sketches. For later.
Fran Wilde’s first novel, Updraft, debuts from Tor on September 1, 2015. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and at franwilde.net, as well as sketching on the train, in the park, and near the entrance of various old buildings.