Wednesday, May 20, 2015

6 Tips for Using Pinterest as a Writing Tool

Roseanna M. White pens her novels beneath her Betsy Ross flag, with her Jane Austen action figure watching over her. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two children, editing and designing, and pretending her house will clean itself. Her novels range from biblical fiction to American-set romances to her new British series. She lives with her family in West Virginia. Learn more at www.RoseannaMWhite.com
Pinterest.

No, this isn't a post about ways to waste time when we should be writing. Although... ;-) Nor is it one on social media and how to use it to market. I do realize, of course, that Pinterest can be used both as a time-waster (ahem) and as a social media site.

I, however, want to talk about how to use it as a tool.

When Pinterest first took off, Stephanie sent me a link to some of her boards. I thought they were cool, but I didn't quite get the whole "I could spend hours browsing Pinterest" thing. Of course, that was before I discovered their historical fashion boards, I admit it.
Am I drooling? Sorry. Back to the point.

Not long after this intro to Pinterest, in which I dutifully signed up, I got a contract for a historical trilogy. And as I was doing my research, suddenly it hit me: this is where Pinterest really shines for a writer! And then, glory of glories, my publisher sent me a cover questionnaire to fill out, and it really started to shine. I sent them a link to my board--and heard back that they were going to ask everyone to do these, since it made it so easy on the designer.

So now Pinterest boards are a part of my process for every book I write. And I'm always finding new ways to make them effective...without giving away the story or confusing followers of my boards.

Tip #1
Shh...It's a Secret!

I don't always make my boards secret when I begin them. But if it's for a story that is still in its beginning phases and hasn't been pitched to anyone yet, I just might. I'm not exactly paranoid about people stealing my ideas...but I'm a little protective of sharing some of my best ones before I have any nibbles from publishers or the thumbs-up from my agent.

So right now, I have a secret board going. That's a safe way to start, if you're not ready to make your idea public. You can always add your critique partners or best friends as contributors, so they can see it too, and ask them questions like "Which one of these guys looks like Locryn to you?"

During this phase, you can pin anything. Ideas. Brainstorming. Any image that inspires you, as well as those that fit in the categories coming below. In some of my earlier boards, I still have multiple pins for different actors that could suit my characters...these days, I would have those on the board when it's still secret, but before I turn it public, I would delete extraneous ones. These boards can be your visual bulletin board, your inspiration, and since the photos link to the websites where you find them, they can also be a way to organize that research.

But a word of caution--before you make them public, make sure you've transferred or deleted any pins that will ruin your story for readers. So that means none of this:
Good for you? Yes. Good for your reader? NO. (And no, that is not one of my actual pins. I just made it up for this example, thank you very much.)

Tip #2
Characters

I know most any writer on Pinterest already knows this one. =) Need to know what your hero, heroine, their families and friends look like? Pinterest is a great place to store all those photos of actors, models, or random people who appear on the web and make you go, "That's him! That's Jack!"

But when the time comes for cover questionnaires from publishers or designers, those images can do a lot more than inspire you. They can give them the visuals they need in model selection, and even beyond that.

Most recently, I sent this image to Bethany House from my board for The Reluctant Duchess.
My note to go along with it is similar to my caption--that I really like the look of Emma Watson for Lady Rowena Kinnaird, but not just any picture of her. Many of them from this last year are waaaaaaay too sexily styled, and that's not the look I want. I want classic. Soft. Hair up.

My editor replied that she just adored the expression on Emma's face here, and she would pass that along to the photographer.

I wish I could share the result, but it's still under wraps--let's just say that they posed the model at the same angle, and her expression captures that gentle, hesitant look PERFECTLY. I'm totally in love with the cover, largely because they found a model whose looks and facial expression matched this image so very well!

On the flip side, I've had other covers, and my friends have too, where the photographer/designer focus on the wrong image or part of the image, to the author's way of thinking. So be careful in the photos you pass along--you never can be sure which ones will get their imaginations going, and it's not always the ones you want them to note!

Tip #3
Clothing
What, you don't wear a model boat in your hair? Well I don't know why not...

I'm a historical writer, so this is HUGE for me. But even if you write contemporary, science fiction, or fantasy, posting any images you find for the fashion your characters prefer is extremely helpful for designers.

Pinterest itself has unplumbed depths that you can search and repin, but I often visit Google Images too, to find that perfect red dress from 1912, or that cowgirl-meets-beach-bum style for my contemporary heroine (okay, so I don't actually have a cowgirl beach bum...). I realize not everyone is fashion-minded, but the things our characters put on usually play a part in the story, and taking ten minutes to provide some visuals can not only help you when you need to go back and describe that coat again, it can also be a lot of fun for your readers.

Last year I hosted a Facebook party where I had all my guests post images they found that I could then pin to my board. It gained them entries into a contest to celebrate the release of one of my books, while simultaneous building my Pinterest board for my next one--it was so much fun! And I still have readers who will recommend pins to me when they see something that reminds them of that party.

Tip #4
Places

I love that Pinterest now offers maps, but even before they did, I made it a habit to pin images from the places that play key roles in my books. I like to find houses that resemble the ones my characters live in, largely so that I have something to look at when I need to describe bits and pieces of them. Thus far no houses have appeared on my covers, but they definitely appear within the pages!

So for instance, an inn from a contemporary...


And a manor house that I totally need to spend a weekend writing in to fully grasp its beauty, right? Right?? For my current WIP...

In addition to houses, I search for images from the surrounding area/countryside. If I'm not super-well acquainted with the setting (which I'm usually not--I've never been to most of the places in my books), these images again help me in my description.

For instance, the Cotswolds.

Can I get a blissful sigh?? I can't tell you how many times I tab over to a page like this just so I can have an image to help me find those perfect words for the style of architecture or color of green of the grass in the spring.

Tip #5
Travel Methods

A horse? A car? An airplane? A shuttlecraft?

Whatever mode of transportation you employ in your stories, it might have to be described too, and having an image on Pinterest can be your starting place for those descriptions.
It's also helpful to pin an image from a useful post or article that talks about your type of travel, or a video about it. Though most casual readers who hop by your Pinterest page probably won't follow the link and read the article, some might.

Tip #6
Things

For my current series, it's jewelry. There is jewelry in each and every book that plays a vital role in the story, so naturally I think it's great fun to find images getting as close as I can to how I describe the jewelry in the story.

For Dina Sleiman, it was her heroine's weapons. For a colonial writer, it might be the butter churn. For a spy, it could be that page of code. For steampunk, a cool teapot with gears and wheels.


Whatever your story, it's filled with things. Things that are important to the character. That aid her on her journey. That get in his way. These things have a valid spot on your Pinterest boards too! I daresay any board for Katniss Everdeen should have her bow, right? Captain America needs his shield.

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This is by no means a comprehensive list of ways to utilize Pinterest as a writing tool, but it's the basics. What other fun ways have you found to utilize it as a tool without letting it go into the distraction category?


36 comments:

  1. I don't have a Pinterest, but it sounds cool! Thanks for an awesome post as always, Mrs. White. :)

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    1. Sure! I definitely don't use it like my mom and sister do, LOL. But I find it useful!

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  2. I can definitely get lost in Pinterest. Have just started pinning for my writing - have used it mostly for my art. Thanks for the information!

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    1. Oh, I bet it's really helpful for art too!

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  3. I use all of this for my stories! I think half of my boards are writing boards...lol. It's also fun to send your WIP Pinterest boards to betas. Great post!

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    1. Only half? LOL. Definitely fun to get input from those early readers! I've done that too. =)

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  4. LOL! I love Pinterest! It's easy to look through, and you can find AMAZING stuff. Character is a big one for me.

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    1. Completely invaluable for characters! Once I pick a model, I'll even tab over to decide how to describe their eyes, sometimes. ;-) (Other times someone is perfect except for eye color I've already decided on, so I do a little Photoshop alteration and upload my own version, LOL...)

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    2. Lol! That's cool!:) I like creating boards for separate characters.

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  5. I started a Pinterest board half-way through revising my upcoming release Dare, and I wished I'd started it sooner! I had found pictures for characters and places and printed them off to add to my Book of Secrets where I keep all that kind of stuff. But when I wanted to start a Pinterest board for the book, I had to search through Yahoo and Google to try to find the pictures I'd used before. Now I start the board right away to save myself the hassle later!

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  6. Pinterest seems like an amazing tool for writing. At this point I am not allowed to have one because when my dad went on there something bad popped up. Any tips on how to make it so that everything that pops up is pretty kid friendly?

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    1. That's a good question. I've never had anything bad pop up...I vaguely recall answering a bunch of preference questions when I set up my account.

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    2. Funny ... I don't recall those questions at all. Pinterest itself discovered my interests as things went on ... I would love to know a good answer to this question. In general, the deeper you get in the more likely random stuff with little context will pop up.

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  8. I haven't got around to making a Pinterest account yet...mostly because you have to be thirteen to join, and I'm twelve :(. Only six months left though...another reason to look forward to that day :).

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    1. Way to turn the frown upside down.

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    2. Definitely a good reason to wait. ;-)

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    3. It's REALLY awesome when you do join:)

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  9. I've always wondered how to use Pinterest as a Writing tool, thanks! And great post! :3

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  10. This is SUCH a helpful article!! I think Pinterest could also be useful for plotting, for more visual people - like finding a picture for each stage of the plot, and any time you want to remember it better or just see what you have so far, all you would have to do is scroll through the board :)

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  11. I started using pinterest for a writing board long before I knew other people did it. It just made sense to my visual mind, and was way easier than printing out all the pictures I wanted and keeping them in a folder. I just wish that Pinterest would start doing boards within boards.

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    1. And I wish they would let me reorder the pins within a board! LOL

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    2. They often make layout and other changes, but I feel like us authors would be willing to fund them making those two options available. Donating some money to it is a small price to pay in my opinion.

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    3. That would be AWESOME!

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  12. One thing you didn't mention is using it to build an idea of culture. I have a board for a fantasy country closely based on the Middle East, and it has grown enormous. If I need imagery for that country now I have a huge selection of images to give me pictures of everything from nomadic tents to ancient ruins to race horses to people.
    I have a Pinterest board for each major character as well. I not only add pictures of what they may look like or what they may wear, I pin quotes and phrases which I feel describe them or that they might say.
    Oh, and I have boards filled for times when I want something to write about, but am not sure what. I have a board for character faces, character words (another board full of those snappy quotes), character clothing, plot inspiration, setting inspiration, etc. Sometimes I just go and looks through them to enjoy all the potential stories hiding there.
    Great post!

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    1. I was going to comment about how I use Pinterest for writing but it seems like you have already covered everything!

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  13. Pinterest is a HUGE part of my story planning. In fact, I use it before I've even decided what exactly is going to happen in my story to help me plan it. Sometimes I'll base the historical setting of my story off of the the style of cloths that I've found on pinterest. Great ideas! I love, love, love using pinterest for my writing. (-:

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  14. I don't use Pinterest, but I've used tumblr to do a similar thing - I have private sideblogs where I reblog pictures, quotes, poetry, etc that inspires my story. I tag things with characters' names, or 'scenery', or whatever, so I can easily go through those tags to find all the posts related to a certain topic :) Might have to try Pinterest too, though!

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  15. Great post! I am completely addicted to Pinterest. I have two secret boards going with places and people that remind me of my WIP's and the series that I will be starting after I'm done with the one I am working on.It's marvelous to have all the visuals, so I can better describe what's happening in the stories and the places I want to travel to with those in the stories. Fun, fun!

    God bless, Anne Marie :)

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  16. I have a bunch of secret boards on pinterest for my books. I have a whole board just for character inspiration - pictures that inspire me to write characters but don't work for any of my current books.

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  17. I got inspiration for my current WIP from Pinterest. There was a girl holding a bow-and-arrow and all that jazz, and I started thinking of a name for her and a plot and her family and where she lives and then the next thing you know, I'm pulling up Google Drive and starting another book. :3
    I have found pictures for all my characters, costumes, settings, everything. I LOVE Pinterest. xD

    ~Lydia~ <3

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  18. I have a board for intriguing people, settings, pictures that look like some kind of event is taking place, etc. I also have a board with random quotes that aren't quotes, exactly, just some sentences (if that makes any sense). Then there's my "writing life" board with writing posts/articles and other writer-y things. ;)

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  19. This post inspired me to try Pinterest out for writing, so I made a new account and oh my gosh, it's so helpful. Now thank you to your post, I have about a hundred likes for people waiting to be my characters ;)

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