Friday, December 11, 2009

Watch Where You're Going

The other day I saw a great post on creating visual tools to help you stay inspired as you move from that spark of an idea for a story to the finished product. You can read the post here.

This is a technique I've used for years for various things in my life. Call it visualization, The Secret, law of attraction... it really doesn't matter. I've used it to stay focused on my goals, such as saving money for a trip or getting through school, but I've also used it try to attract certain qualities into my life, like a job that has flexible hours or an apartment with both a fireplace and a safe place outside for my cats. The more I focus on the things I want, the better things always seem to go.

Since I've always used pictures, vision boards, or vision notebooks representing what I want in my life, when I began writing my first novel, it made sense to me to have some visual "representation" to keep my goal in mind. I did what I had always done when I had a big goal- made a vision board. I cut out pictures of people reading books and smiling, headings from review magazines, and witty sayings related to writing that I'd find in magazines like "Do You Have the Write Stuff". I taped them to posterboard along with handwritten cards saying "Welcome to our guest author, Jessica Capelle" or "Ascending Angel, the debut novel by Jessica Capelle, will be released in the Fall". This board was my dream for my writing life, showing people enjoying my writing, showing myself successful and published. And that was a great vision to focus on, but I just didn't know how to get to that dream without a visual picture of the book that I hoped would take me there someday.

Starting with a blank piece of paper and an idea, even an idea you've had for 8 years like mine, is a bit daunting. So of course I made an outline, but it wasn't visual enough for me to "see" the book. I then started collecting pictures that reminded me of my story or the characters and (poorly) drew pictures of key scenes in the book and items that were unique to my world. I found a beautiful picture (wish I could figure out the artist) that looked almost exactly like my main character and essentially summed her up perfectly. That picture became my desktop background on my laptop. While writing book 2, I even wore an ring shaped like angel wings (my story is about angels) that a friend gave me. When the ring went on, typing was on the book. If I'd veer over to Twitter or Facebook, I'd notice the ring and be reminded to head back into Word. All of these strategies helped me stay focused on where I wanted to go, who my characters were, and what I wanted in the world I'd created for them.

But I was writing a series, so I also needed to know where I was headed in the future, even though I was a ways away from that. I didn't want to have inconsistencies to deal with later, so I needed a plan. The brief outlines I'd written (like 2 paragraphs) for each future book were great, but I couldn't see the whole story arc at one time. Then I had the idea to put up a board for each book in my office. I'd be surrounded by my world (literally) and be able to see all the books at the same time, so I could change things easily. I used dark purple post-its for the big themes that ran through each book and light purple post-its for key plot points and action.

Everything I did served as a visual reminder of my goal and the fact that I need to be working towards it. Having the picture of the book to keep in front of me has been so valuable in making my writing stronger and more consistent. It has kept me focused on wrapping up loose ends and making sure if I don't explain something now that I sure know the answer for later. I believe that when (not if, but when) I become a successful writer, the hard work that went into creating the "visual book" will be a big part of what got me there.

You can see my initial boards for Book 1 and 2 in the picture below (there are a lot more purple post-its now!), as well as one of my notebooks for the series on the desk (how cool that my friend found a notebook that had a heart with angel wings on it?!)

Are there any visual representations you use for your book or characters?

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