Visual Motivation ~ Collage It!

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 IntoTheWildout 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!  😉 Sheila_C

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

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31 thoughts on “Visual Motivation ~ Collage It!”

  1. Cool! Thanks for sharing your collages. I haven’t actually made one before, though I have found a picture or two to just “keep in my mind” but I imagine it makes it a lot easier to see it in front of you while writing.

    Will definitely try this!

  2. Oh, WOW, Stacey! I’ve heard other authors talk about how they use collages, too, but I’ve never seen a picture of one. This is really awesome! Thanks so much for sharing yours with us. 🙂

  3. Hey, Stacey! I always love seeing how other authors operate. Your images are beautiful–and being a visual person myself, I can see why they inspired you.

    But you know, I’ve never done a collage. I’ll have to do one now.

  4. Hi Taryn and Andrea! Thanks for stopping in this morning 🙂 Having the collage beside my desk is really great for jumpstarting the brain–a glance and I have a visual that puts me right back in the book. They’re really pretty on the wall too *lol* Best part is, they’re FUN to make 😉

  5. Hi Pam! I know you’ll love it!

    Some authors have said they take a picture of their collage to send in for the art info and have had great results. I deffinitely use some of my pictures for cover suggestions.

  6. Those collages are great! I might have to try doing that for motivation for my NaNoWriMo novel, I have 80 words done. Maybe with some visuals on the wall I’d actually get down to business!

  7. Hi Stacey!

    What a nice blog. I had never thought of doing a collage — but your collage is really pleasing to the eye — or should I say eye-catching. I can’t believe how much I’m learning from these blogs. Thanks for the terrific blog today!

  8. Hi, I commented earlier but now it’s vanished.
    Anyway, maybe I didn’t submit it right.
    A really interesting idea, Stacey. I think I read an article by … Jennifer Crusie maybe? About how she does this. Great idea to have this visual reminder right in front of you.

  9. Sorry about the missed post, Mary — glad you came back 🙂 There are plenty of days when my brain is drawing blanks…so the collages come in handy 😉 Way cool about Jennifer Crusie!

  10. I do this too, although mine are on the computer-I need to do one and post it where I can just look at it while typing instead of having to switch back and forth between the wip and One Note.

  11. I loved looking at your collages. I have two for my current WIP – one tacked on the wall on each side of my desk. That way I can just look up and see them. It’s really fun putting them together, too.

    Thanks for sharing yours!

  12. Excellent ideas, Stacey. I love the idea of using scenery pictures to help you track the journey. Love your next heroine in white fur. I think finding a picture like that must be a good omen.

  13. Love your collages!! I made a table with a Pirate theme printing stuff off the computer and used mogpog to glue them onto my table.I think yours turned out awesome!!

  14. Oh by the way the light house is too cool!! I’ll have to try one for my nautical room which is also my reading room.

  15. They weren’t very time consuming, Charlene. I did the Mustang collage at an evening workshop, and with Arizona Sky, I was thumbing through a magazine, saw the house and knew that was the house in my book—I immediately ripped them out and started the storyboard. Since I subscribe to Arizona Highways and Cowboys & Indians, I finshed the collage in a couple of hours. But, it was definitely the pictures that inspired the storyboard for that one. You can’t really tell in the picture, but the smaller cluster of picturs has pic from a real dude ranch, with an hold fashioned chuck wagon, and beautifully decorated dinner tables out in the desert — while they’re on a horse drive, part of the dude package is extravagent evening dinners out in the wild 🙂 Got those pictures from Hidden Trails…a brocure on horseback riding vacations 😉

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