In preparation for beginning nanowrimo in November, I created a mock up of the front cover of the novel I am hoping to write.
It is actually quite surprising how creating the cover of your novel can help you focus on the book you are going to write, it almost makes it real, whereas before, it was just a nice idea and a bunch of words all mashed up in some order you're not quite sure of yet.
I suggest this as an exercise for anyone tackling a big book project, whether in nanowrimo or on your own. I did this once before for the novel I was revising, and it really gave me the push to see it all the way through.
Some suggestions for how to get this mock up going.
1. Take a look at some of your favorite book covers and look at how these books convey the mood and characters and story of the books. Start getting some ideas of what you'd like your book cover to look like. For some inspiration, I have pinterest collections of illustrations, and more text based illustrations. Notice that the illustrations can be anywhere from super elaborate to very simple, multiple colors or black and white, perfect and precise to scrawled graffiti.
2. Pick a medium that you are comfortable with. Remember, you are not actually trying to be a book illustrator, you are just trying to make your book real to you. It's okay if you are not a great artist. If you like taking photos, try using one of your photos as the main image. Use magazines and collage images that convey a sense of the story. Perhaps your book cover is just color block, patterns or words. If you know photoshop or computer graphics or like cool computer fonts, use that. I generally hand draw all that
3. Take out a piece of paper and divide it into 6 or 8 book cover shaped rectangles. Sketch a few ideas on this paper, one per rectangle. Think about different main images, colors, where the text goes. Try rearranging the main elements for the best effect. Leave space on the image to put your book title, author and any other text. Sketch out the title so you know how much room you'll need to make it all fit. Pay attention to the space around your images, the negative space, so nothing is too squooshed or unbalanced (unless that's part of your design.) After I did it, I noticed that my lettering is a little unbalanced, but you know what? It's not that bad, and this is just a mock up. It's good practice for nanowrimo to not worry about being perfect. Practice letting go of your internal editor. I'll be honest, I skipped this step when I did my own mock up and went straight to step 4.
4. Take out a larger piece of paper and sketch out the placement of your images lightly, just so you know where it all goes on your paper. Oh, I suppose if you're working on the computer do whatever it is the computer wants you to do. The point is, try out your final arrangement.
5. Now go at it and make your image, paint, draw, collage, photo edit. Don't be too obsessive about getting it perfect. You only have a few days left before you have to start writing, so don't spend all that time on this. This is an exercise for your writing.
6. Don't forget to display your new book cover mockup so that you can be inspired by it while you are writing. Upload it to your novel page on nanowrimo. It feels good to have it on your profile.
I am specifically not giving advice on how to do graphics or art techniques, because the point is not to get all wrapped up in the hows of the craft, but to help you with your planning and drafting and writing. And to play. This is supposed to be fun. If it's not fun, scrap it. Find a better exercise for you, your personality and your creativity.
Perhaps it would work better for you to write the back copy of your novel... those few paragraphs that you would read if you picked up your novel in a book store and wanted to find out what it was about. Do that instead. Or do that also. Just have fun, and focus on the story you want to tell. Woo hoo, November is almost here!