Using Pinterest to Improve Your Writing

I’ll admit it.  I am a Pinterest addict, heading rapidly towards 10,000 pins.  I make some sort of Pinboard for every class I teach, and every project I plan – not to mention those I’ll probably never get around to.   While the most obvious thing for a writer to do with Pinterest is marketing, I like to use it as a tool in the planning stages of my novels.  Pinterest allows you to have both public and private boards.  Writers can utilize both, depending on what stage they are in a project or how they plan to use the pinned information.

Here’s a few ways to use Pinterest to enrich your writing.

Create a “Writing Prompts” Pinboard.  I am a very visual person, and I find some of the students in my writing classes are, too.  Instead of standard prompts, I sometimes display one of two pinboards: my Random People for Writing Prompts Board or my Random Places for Writing Prompts Board.  As I continue to build these boards, I try to add striking faces from a range of time periods and cultures, as well as places that puzzle or intrigue me.  If you don’t want to create a setting-related board of your own, you can often find collections of interesting places by looking  at other people’s dream vacation boards.

Create a “For My Character” Pinboard.  People often create pinboards for family members or friends, recommending things they think that person would like to try, or humor they feel their friend would appreciate.  I made this type of board for my husband and found myself pinning fractals and glass art, exploring engineer-friendly do-nothing gadgets and open geared watches.  The resulting board reflected his personality, not mine.  Think about your main character.  What are his hobbies?  What type of sense of humor does she have?    Once you find a pin that you would recommend to that character, click on the board it came from to see if you can find other related interests, things you might not even realize exist.  Use these discoveries to add depth to your character.

Create a “My Dream” Pinboard.  Pin as your character.  If he is traveling, what kind of board might he build as far as places to stay or to eat?  If she is in love, might she have already started building a wedding board, whether her intended has proposed or not?  Pinterest is full of boards that collect pie-in-the-sky daydreams, things most people could never afford or views of life with anything unpleasant cropped out at the edges.   If you are having a hard time figuring out what your protagonist really wants in your story, build him a board like this.  If he had all the money/time in the world, what would he want?  Then narrow it down to the one image that feels most important.  Find a way to dangle that in front of your character — and then take it away.

Create a “Dreamcasting My Book” Pinboard.  I find having a headshot in front of me helps me to keep my character descriptions consistent.  Most of the time, I choose movie stars for these boards, because – visual learner again – it also helps me picture how they move and speak.  Sometimes, I just can’t think of an actor that looks like the character in my head, so I will do a search for the physical characteristics I have imagined, and can usually find a random person that looks similar.  I keep these boards listed as secret, so I won’t freak anybody out, especially if I have cast them as a villain.    After I have a draft of the story, I try to find each character’s defining moment, and I put a quote under each picture.  This really helps me define their character arcs.

Create a “Time Period” Pinboard, or other “Just the Facts” Pinboard.   If you want to write about a time period or culture outside of your own experience, a pinboard can offer a coherent feeling about whatever you are trying to understand as you collect together images of clothing, food and architecture  – with the added benefit that all of it is clickable to the source material for your research.  One caveat:  while it is rare, the owner of an image can contact Pinterest and have that image removed in the interest of copyright law, which is usually a minor blip in your pinning life, but could be more devastating if it was linking back to an important fact for your story.  You may wish to keep a backup bibliography, but that could just be the librarian in me talking.

Create a “Writing Techniques” Pinboard or a “Writing Inspiration” Pinboard.  If you spend any time at all on Pinterest, you will come across boards that offer collected tidbits of information on craft, writing prompts and quotes from famous writers.  If you make one of these, it is a convenient place to stick links to articles you don’t have time to read while in the middle of writing your first draft – just don’t let pinning to it take the place of your writing time!

Speaking of which, I need to get back to Currents if I am going to get my chapters edited for today.  Keep writing!

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