I’m a very visual thinker and I’ve found having visual stimulants for my books to be extremely helpful—not only with writing, but also with goal setting. A college English teacher of mine once told us how the first books were actually written out on pottery and an author should be able to visualize their story as a piece of pottery, a whole object you can turn over in your mind and see how it all flows into one piece of artwork. I loved that image but didn’t truly grasp the concept until I went to my local RWA chapter’s writers’ retreat and they had an evening workshop of making collages for your story– a pictorial representation of the book. It’s a crafty way to get a hands-on feel for the story.
My first collage was for MUSTANG WILD and having this tacked on the wall beside my desk while writing this book was great when I needed a quick visual to place my mind in the scenery. Okay, and that Stetson man is plain nice to look at. With Tucker’s nickname for Skylar being Angel Girl, the winged heroine worked. The map represents the journal Skylar used to plot their course from New Mexico to Wyoming and I clipped a bit of scenery from each stage of their journey and some key words to touch on the conflict and motivation for the story.
My contemporary western ARIZONA SKY is set on a dude ranch, and a renovated Spanish-style house is the central setting and a focal point for this collage—having a quick reference to help place my characters was a really nifty tool. To make your own storyboard collage you’ll need a poster board or a wide strip of paper—some prefer softer paper so it can be rolled up and stowed away—and a few magazines. Personally, Cowboys & Indian’s was a gold mine of pictures and key words – Arizona Highways is another favorite of mine. Grab a glue stick and you’re ready! While attending the workshop they only allowed 10-15 minutes for flipping through the magazines—point was to not over-think anything, just whip & rip when a picture struck you for whatever reason. It was a lot of fun to then go over the pictures you’d ripped out on a whim and figure out why they spoke to you and what they said about your story. The exercise was also helpful for plotting!
I was recently looking for pictures for my next Wild book, tentativley titled INTO THE WILD, set during the blizzard of 1886 in Wyoming, and my heroine is a tough-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside mountain woman who blends in with her surroundings–so of course she’d need a white fur coat to cammoflauge her against the snow—check out the first picture I came to…..Wild! 😉
I shared this collage method with my critique partner, Sheila Raye, and she took her collage to a whole new level—she made actual models to her stories–this one is for one titled LOVE LIGHT, can you guess the setting? Talk about seeing your book as a sculpture!
From a writer’s standpoint, this creative, hands-on approach really allows you to explore and see your story in a whole new light, while spending time with your characters.
I also have a collage to help me exercise. Like many office jobs, I spend hours sitting at the computer–only I don’t have a time clock telling me to take breaks or when to quit, and I can spend 10 solid hours sitting on my derriere, lost in another world as my circulation slowly trickles to a stop ( ack!). Some friends and I started a phone-party-line walking group, and to kick us off, we went through our favorite clothing catalogs and made a collage of all the clothes (and shoes!) we’d like to get when we hit our goals. We have them on the wall beside our treadmills.
See it – Believe it – Live it
Before I published I would print out these fancy dream signature lines with the titles of my to-be published books beneath my name and would tape them around my computer monitor as a way to visualize my goal–of course all twelve of my finished manuscripts were listed 😉
Always dream BIG