Today I’m hosting an author whose amazing Pinterest boards have almost 850 followers and whose books are beautifully imagined:
ERICA CAMERON (Author of the Dream War Saga)
Thankful for Writing Programs
It’s not uncommon for writers, especially when left to their own devices for a while, to start talking about their processes—how they visualize characters and stories and worlds, and how they take everything their brains offer and somehow lace it together into a story readers will (hopefully) understand and enjoy. The psychology major in me loves these conversations because it is fascinating to hear how differently several people can approach the same question: how do I plan and write a book?
There’s another reason I find these conversations so interesting, though: I do not have a visual mind.
More than once I’ve heard people describe the movies that play in their heads as they write and the pictures of their characters they’re able to mentally hold. They seem capable of literally building and visualizing worlds in their minds and I…really can’t do that.
Which is why there are inventions like Pinterest and OneNote. And why a lot of authors love those programs (or programs like them).
Confession, a fair number of my Pinterest boards have nothing to do with writing. I think trees, dance, Venetian masks, and sun/moon art are gorgeous, so I have collections of all of them. But then I have other boards whose purpose bleeds into my writing life, boards that are both for the pretty factor and as possible future reference/inspiration. Collections of portraits so that I can find faces for my characters, for example. A board of outfits and clothing to help me describe their style. Landscapes and cities from all over the world to help me picture their world.
The thing is that I’m not a planner. When I get a new idea for a story, I don’t sit down and outline the chapters and then create character profiles or write up detailed personal histories. I may do some (or all) of that eventually over the course of writing a book, but it’s definitely not the first thing that happens. That means that Pinterest isn’t a planning tool for me. I use it as a reference point instead, and also sometimes as a source of inspiration when I get stuck on a particular description. After I’ve started a project—usually not until the middle or end of the first draft—I pin pictures to a board for that book/series. The images may not precisely represent something from the book, but they all evoke the imagery or feelings or characters. I use them as a reference point for myself later, to keep myself on course as I write.
Honestly, though, Pinterest is more fun than a writing tool. As a reader I like seeing the art and photography that reminds an author of the way they imagine the worlds they create, so I try to give my readers the same experience. In other words, because of both the way my brain works and the way the site works, I use Pinterest for reference and inspiration.
Because of the way my brain works and the way the program works, I use OneNote for planning and note organization.
A lot of authors swear by Scrivener, a writing program that includes a lot of the same kind of note organization tools and has integrated word processor programming designed with novel writers in mind. It’s a little too complicated for me, though, and it also tends to work better on Mac computers while I’ve always owned PCs (the first time I tried Scrivener’s first-gen Windows program it crashed about fifteen times in one day; I gave up after that). Personally, I swear by OneNote.
OneNote is simple, intuitive, and includes all of the reference organization options that Scrivener has—luckily without all of the aspects I find confusing past the point of use. I can paste specific character facecasts and landscape references, I can sketch a map with paper and pencil and then insert a picture for reference, I can organize hundreds of pages of worldbuilding notes, I can screencap websites I referenced just in case that page disappears one day, and all of this is laid out in a method very reminiscent of a three-ring binder from high school. Since the program is integrated into the Office Online system, too, I also have the option of sharing this entire notebook with my beta readers, editors, and friends, something that can come in HUGE amounts of handy during the editorial process.
One thing that’s important to keep in mind, though, is that this current system of mine is something that has evolved slowly over the last decade. I’ve paid attention to what works for me and what doesn’t. I know how likely I am to lose a notebook and how bad I am at updating notes once I’m closer to the end of the editorial process. I also know that I’m more likely to use and be able to find notes if they’re laid out in a pretty, easy-to-search system.
Do I wish I had access to these two systems in the early days of my path to authordom? Yes, definitely.
However, I’m thankful to have them now and that I’ve been able to use them to develop a process that works for me. It’ll be even better if explaining it this way, letting people know these uses and options exist, helps someone else refine their process.
After a lifelong obsession with books, Erica Cameron spent her college years getting credit for reading and learning how to make stories of her own. Erica graduated with a double major in psychology and creative writing from Florida State University and began pursuing a career as an author.
Erica is many things but most notably the following: writer, reader, editor, dance fan, choreographer, singer, lover of musical theater, movie obsessed, sucker for romance, ex-Florida resident, and quasi-recluse. She loves the beach but hates the heat, has equal passion for the art of Salvador Dali and Venetian Carnival masks, has a penchant for unique jewelry and sun/moon décor pieces, and a desire to travel the entire world on a cruise ship. Or a private yacht. You know, whatever works.
The Dream War Saga began in 2014 with Sing Sweet Nightingale and was soon followed by the launch of the Laguna Tides series in 2015.