Book Cover Contest

Recently, I ran into an advertisement for a book cover contest. I don’t usually try entering contests. The need for structured competition feels a tad bit ridiculous to me. I have nothing against people that enjoy competition. It’s just not for me. I prefer keeping an internal tally of my improvement over what I’ve done before. Competing with people I believe are my betters in my mind, can sometimes motivate me.

 

Keeping up motivation through a competition is the hard part. The way it’s supposed to work, doesn’t work for me. Nonetheless, I followed the traditional structure. First, I amped myself up with the thought that I would win. Every time I wanted to stop, I braced on that mantra, I’m going to win. And there was always fear. If I didn’t win, I would be crushed, and I’d never want to do something like that again.

contest web

Anyway, I had to design a special edition book cover for Dan Brown’s next book, Origin. The rules were simple. Include some text and make it the right size. Choosing what cover design to make was the difficult thing. If I supremely made a cover of something they didn’t want, it wouldn’t matter how good it looked. I could design anything I wanted. Making something they wanted as the cover was the hardest part. I needed details on the book. Those were sparse. Origin is the sequel to Inferno. Origin was about modern art. That was everything we got.

Day 1

In addition to entering the contest, I wanted to learn Adobe Illustrator. I had two months to submit a book cover. I choose what to make. I decided Origin was about something Biblical like the other books in the series. I knew the protagonist would be Robert Langdon. And modern art. I wanted to make a cubist picture of a guy for the cover. Then add the text and block out behind it, like a reversed redaction.

Day 2

I started. First, I made a reference image from stock I found on Unsplash.

day-4

I drew shapes.

day 5

I merged and divided shapes so everything was at a depth of one layer.

6

I colored the squares.

7

I made shadows.

8

Finally, I blocked out the text.

9

I combined all the layers.

10

Ultimately, I didn’t become a finalist. I learned a lot and probably won’t enter another book cover design contest again. My cover was over-designed. I frequently over-complicate things. The focus wasn’t the legibility of the text. I focused too much of the cover picture. If I make another book cover, I’ll fix all that stuff. And my design wasn’t what they wanted.

 

These are the finalists.

finalists 2finalists 1

Thank for reading.

Do It Yourself: Master of Fine Arts (DIY MFA)

 

I’ve always dreaded English classes, especially the writing part. The writing prompts always intimidated me. There was no right answer. Math and science made me relaxed, because there was an answer always. Not knowing what the teacher wanted was difficult. That grew into a strong dislike of writing and thoughts of inferiority in English.

 

One writing prompt I still remember was Who is someone you look up to? I had no idea how to answer that question. I’d never really thought of anyone that way. What could I say? Help!

 

I made up something to answer the question. I was always good at making up something. I thought about fictional characters that would fit the bill. That probably wasn’t the intention of the prompt, but it could work. I choose Superman. He had ultimate power but chose not to use it. It was flimsy, and I was terrified of doing it wrong. A standardized writing test was basically paint by numbers, and it was a struggle.

 

I should’ve taken a more difficult English class sooner to work through the kinks. I did well in English, but everything was a struggle, unlike the coasting I did in everything else. In the last three years of high school, I took difficult English classes for the first time. High-performance English classes. Doing something difficult or going through the crucible forced me to improve in ways I’d never thought possible. I worked harder at school than I’d ever had to before. The prompt anxiety went away when the teachers allowed us to pick our own topics.

 

I never had to take English classes after that. Now, I need to work on the less glamorous aspects of the craft. Things like story structure, plot choice, and becoming more familiar to the average reader. What’s the way to do that, if you’re self-taught? The DIY MFA.

 

ninja writers mfa

I ran into this great post on Ninja Writers about just that. Actually, that got me onto this. The plan is simple. Read a book on writing once a month, read one fiction book a week, write a short story a week, get feedback, and learn about querying. I added that last one.

27

Everything was already coming together. I’d recently found a list from Penguin Random House of the best books on writing. Through The New York Book Editors blog, I found a class on querying. I had already built a list of fiction books to read. Then I was brainstorming story ideas. Perfect for short story prompts. I’ll give the stories out to friends and family for feedback.

Query

Then there’s the motivation to even start this. One of my friends recently turned her whole life upside down to take an MA in writing for children. That involved a move halfway around the world. She’s an amazing person. Check it out her author’s site.

cori

I’ve started the reading. Some time those story ideas are going up. I’ll post the short stories when I start that.

 

Come back for another post in two weeks.

 

GK