I write fiction, or at least I do a lot of research and planning, and eventually I’d like to actually write all that stuff into stories. Being a big planner, though, means I’m always hunting for ways to organize my thoughts and research. For some reason it took me a while to realize what an excellent resource I had on my hands with Pinterest. I used it for recipes and crafty stuff, and I really love the visual bookmarking aspect of the site.
But it took forever for me to realize that I had a virtual cork board on my hands for story research and references.
Kinda dumb, huh? I mean, Pinterest basically is a virtual cork board. But now that I clued myself in, I’ve found myself using Pinterest boards as a way to aggregate both ideas for specific stories and general inspiration for writing.
Tips & Tricks
If you’re a bit lazy like me, it’s tempting to just make a Writing board and start stuffing pins in there indiscriminately. But when it’s 3 in the morning and you’re desperately trying to find that one pin so you can describe that one place, it’ll be much easier on you if you’ve put your pins in order. You can read my organization strategies below.
- Install a Pin It plugin!
Pinterest has several options that let you pin on the go. I personally like the Chrome browser extension that adds a Pin It button to every image, but if you don’t want to add stuff onto your browser, you can also use their bookmarklet to pin from pretty much anywhere on the web. Many websites and blogs will have Pin It buttons or links on the pages, too. So when you’re toodling around the internet and find an image that’s just perfect for your story, you can save it right away.
- Browse the categories!
Sometimes you don’t have something exact in mind but you really want to find the right image to help give your writing a boost. Pinterest has predefined categories that people (theoretically) sort their boards into, and sometimes you can find hidden gems just by browsing through the big categories. Pinterest also has suggested topics for you based on the kinds of things that you typically pin. You can find great new stuff in there, too.
- Search, search, search!
This may seem like a no-brainer, but the search function can be incredibly handy when you’re looking for inspiration. Along with the words you enter, Pinterest also suggests related searches, so be sure to hunt through those. The perfect picture of a Paris café might be hiding deep in that search.
There are lots of different ways that you can organize your writing pins, and no one way is going to work for everybody. But here is a list of ideas that might help you figure out how to keep your inspiration in order.
- Story-specific boards
This is helpful especially if you’re just starting out on an idea. Creating a board for your whole story allows you to start collecting images and ideas, and even later in the writing process, this kind of board can be good for scrolling over and refreshing your plans.
- Character boards
For me, a lot of character building happens around mentally casting a role. I’ve always loved movies, and I tend to be a visual writer, so it’s helpful for me to have a specific person in mind. Having character boards will allow you to pin images of your dreamcast actors, the clothes they might wear, their distinguishing features like tattoos or scars. You can even pin house or apartment images to help you get a sense of the space your character inhabits.
- Writing prompts, tips, tricks, and tools
This isn’t story-specific, but Pinterest is great for saving links with writing prompts and exercises, advice, and handy tools. It’s also a great source for these kinds of tips and tricks, since there are lots of other writers hanging around Pinterest.
- General writing inspiration
Sometimes you run across an image that just speaks to you, even if you don’t know what it wants you to say just yet. Pinterest is great for saving these photos in a neat, convenient board, unlike the disorganized folders full of images on my laptop. Ahem.
- NSFW/private boards
Maybe you write steamy romance stuff like I do. Hey, I don’t judge. You don’t see it very often, but there are NSFW boards and pins around. Pinterest’s content rules disallow sexually explicit and/or pornographic material, but not all sexy inspiration has to be explicit. If you don’t want to share your sexy inspiration with your aunt, though, you can create a private board that only you (and whomever you invite to see it) can see.
My Writing Boards
I have two distinct categories of boards for writing inspiration. The first is my Writing Inspiration board:
This board serves as my catch-all for images that I find really evocative. There’s something of a common thread in these pins; they tend to be whimsical, maybe a little mystical, often misty or foggy or dark. The board started out life as a place to pin things that didn’t quite fit in other categories but that I liked a lot, like a photograph of a purple potion bottle. The more I pinned to it, the more I realized that I was pinning images that I might want to write about, photographs that could coax words out of my brain.
My other category is for specific story ideas. So far I’ve only created three of these boards, one of which serves as an extension of my research and inspiration that I keep in Scrivener (which is a post for another day). The other two are a still embryonic ideas that are based more on aesthetics than story specifics.
The first one, “Story Inspiration: Alex & Josie,” is for a contemporary erotic romance I’ve been working on. I tend to be very visual when I’m writing, constructing things as if I were filming a movie, so it’s really helpful for me to be able to pin images that capture places where scenes take place. It’s also handy for mentally casting roles, either with actors (yes, Alex is Charlie Hunnam) or by piecing together elements. I haven’t been able to find an actress who fits just right, so Josie’s pins are hair colors, tattoos, clothing.
The other two boards (Arcanum and Paris) are for stories that haven’t quite made it past the vague idea stage. Most of those pins are of specific places where I’d like to set a scene, or in the case of the Arcanum board, images that just look right for the city I want to create.
Pinterest is also handy for compiling writing prompts or exercises or even saving links to helpful apps and websites. I even pin stuff in my non-writing specific that could be useful in my writing, like house plans or furniture layouts.
Do you use Pinterest for writing purposes? Leave your tips in the comments!