(Guest Post by Lewis Jorstad)
When you first sit down to write a novel, you’ll likely have one or two core ideas guiding you. Maybe you can imagine a specific character or setting, or perhaps a specific scene. If you’re lucky, you may even have a loose idea of how those elements connect.
However, for most writers, their initial inspiration will only get them so far.
Only a rare few can stretch a single idea into a full-length novel without adding more to the mix. But, how do you ensure you stay true to your initial inspiration, even as you expand and explore your story?
Well, the key is having a clear vision for your novel. Best of all, all the hard work that goes into defining that vision won’t go to waste once you’ve finished your first draft—it’ll serve a key role when it comes time to publish your novel too!
Searching for Your Novel’s Vision
When I first tried to write a novel, I had a single, compelling idea and nothing else. Still, I was excited and driven to turn that idea into a novel, so I sat down and committed to making it happen. However, after a few unproductive weeks, I had gotten nowhere. I assumed my idea simply wasn’t enough to drive a full-length novel, and I gave up on it as a result.
Fortunately, many years later I realized my problem wasn’t that my idea wasn’t any good, but that I hadn’t expanded on it before I began writing. Rather than setting out with a clear vision for my story, I was working off of a single isolated image. I would wander in circles around that idea until I eventually ended up back where I started, having made no progress at all.
This is one of the hardest parts of writing a novel, especially if it’s your first try.
We all have an initial idea that inspires us to write—whether it’s a character, setting, or scene—but that single idea eventually needs to stretch into many ideas. These are the meat of your story. Without this wealth of ideas to draw from, you’ll lose momentum and likely giving up on your novel before it’s complete.
Of course, it’s also easy to lose touch with your original inspiration as your story grows. You want to expand on your initial ideas, but you also want to stay true to your novel’s core vision.
While every writer will approach this in their own way, my personal favorite method is through vision boards—specifically, Pinterest boards!
Pinterest Can Help!
If you’re not familiar with Pinterest, Pinterest is essentially a search engine like Google, except it’s solely focused on sharing and saving images. Once you find an image you like, you can then “pin it” to one of your Pinterest boards.
This puts a ton of creativity in your hands, allowing you to save and organize the images you find into custom vision boards. Best of all, these boards are then accessible from anywhere with internet, meaning you can pull them up on anything from your phone to your laptop. You’ll always have your vision board at your fingertips when a new idea strikes, unlike a traditional board that might be stuck on a corkboard in your office.
But why vision boards at all?
Why are these such a powerful tool for writers?
Well, think of it this way. Humans are highly visual creatures. Images inspire us, and they can be hugely beneficial when planning our novels for that reason—especially when we’re trying to establish a strong vision for our stories.
If you build your vision board—or Pinterest board—with care, you can capture specific visual themes, moods, and settings that will later come to define your novel. An image of a dark forest paired with witchy houses and drying herbs evokes a very clear feeling. On the other hand, that same dark forest might communicate a completely different message when paired with eldritch horrors and the blackness of space.
Ultimately, by combining these images in unique ways, you can develop a solid sense of your story’s identity. Along the way you’ll generate new ideas to expand that story, but they’ll all be in line with the initial inspiration that started it all.
Rather than wander in circles around a single, isolated idea, your Pinterest board will help you explore the full potential of your novel—all while keeping you focused on your novel’s vision!
How to Create a Pinterest Board for Your Novel
If you’re new to Pinterest, it’s actually a very easy platform to use.
To get started, you’ll first need to pull up https://www.pinterest.com/ and create your account. From there, you can jump into creating your novel’s Pinterest board. Simply click “boards” under your profile page, and then the plus symbol to create a new board. Name this board something you’ll remember—the WIP title of your novel is perfect for this—and then it’s time to add some images!
However, before you dive into adding images to your board, here’s an extra tip that can make your Pinterest board even more useful: sections.
Sections allow you to organize your images—called pins—into specific categories within your board. This saves you from having to create multiple boards for the same novel. To create sections, simply click the plus symbol while you’re in your novel’s board and select “sections” from the menu.
You can add as many sections as you’d like, but here are a few examples to get you started:
Animals and Plants
You can even create specific sections for each major character in your novel, such as one for your protagonist and antagonist.
With your sections created, you can now begin filling out your novel’s Pinterest board. This is as simple as typing keywords into the search bar and browsing through the images you find. Whenever you find one that fits your novel’s vision, save it to the appropriate section in your novel's board.
Here are some prompts to inspire you:
What does your protagonist look like? (red hair, green eyes, warriors, female archers)
What are some key features of your story’s world? (black sand, moss, dark forests, cold islands)
Is there any unique tech or magic present in your story? (witches, long bows)
What animals or plants feature in your novel? (deer, horseback riding, whales, puffins)
What is the tone you want to create in your novel? (dark, cold, wistful, mysterious)
4 Extra Ways to Use Your Novel’s Pinterest Board
Inspire Your Cover Design:
While this brainstorming technique is great in its own right, your new Pinterest board isn’t only useful for developing ideas as you outline your novel. This board can also serve a key role in publishing and marketing your book too.
For starters, consider your novel’s cover.
Your future cover designer will need something to inspire them when creating your cover. Fortunately, rather than struggling to find the right examples to send them, you’ll already have the perfect reference material in the form of your Pinterest board. Not only will sharing this board make their job easier, but it’ll ensure the cover you get back is better too—meaning fewer revisions, less time spent, and money saved in the long run.
Plus, your cover designer will appreciate your foresight!
Boost Your Book Marketing:
Marketing in the internet age is all about visuals. When it comes time to market your newly published novel—something even traditionally published authors will need to consider—you’ll need promotional images, banners, and ads for everything from social media to your author newsletter.
Of course, having cohesive visuals in these ads will make them more effective in the long run—and this is where your Pinterest board comes back into play.
Just like for your novel’s cover, your Pinterest board can provide visual elements, color palettes, tone, and more to help inspire the marketing of your novel. By looking to your Pinterest board for inspiration, you can ensure your marketing efforts stand up to the competition and show your novel in its best light.
Jazz Up Your Author Website:
Another element of marketing your novel is building your author website.
You see, your author website is the hub of your writing brand. Once a reader sees your ads or reads your book, they need somewhere to go where they can learn more about you—and maybe even follow along with your future novels too!
Of course, just like with cover design and marketing, you want your author website to match your novel’s visual identity. So, look to your Pinterest board for ideas on how to jazz up your existing author website, or share your board with a professional web designer if you need help building one from scratch.
Better yet, link to your novel’s Pinterest board directly so your readers can find it too! Speaking of which…
Share it With Readers:
If you play your cards right, your novel’s Pinterest board should help you market your book and create a compelling cover design, but this board isn’t limited to only benefitting you—it can also benefit your readers.
Readers want to dig deeper into the fictional worlds and stories they love, so share your novel’s Pinterest board with them. Offer it as a way to inspire them as they read your book, and as a way to gain an even stronger sense of the ideas that built your story. Not only could this help convince hesitant readers to buy your book, but it’s also a great bonus to improve their reading experience once they do!
At the end of the day, it may seem silly to spend all this time on Pinterest when you should be writing your novel—especially if you aren’t already a Pinterest junkie like me. However, there are a lot of very real benefits to sorting out your novel’s vision before you begin writing.
Not only will it make your writing process easier, but it’ll result in a stronger story overall. Plus, it’ll make publishing and marketing your novel that much easier too!
If you’re new to Pinterest and the idea of vision boards, I hope this post has inspired you to try one out for your own novel. And, if you’d like some recommendations for where to start looking for great images on Pinterest, consider checking out Brittany’s awesome worldbuilding board or my board for character inspiration!
What’s your vision for your novel? Let me know in the comments!
About the Author:
Lewis Jorstad is a bestselling author and certified history nerd who helps others tell compelling, memorable stories over at The Novel Smithy. When he isn’t working on the next book in his Ten Day Novelist series, you can find him playing old Gameboy games and trying to explain the nuances of Feudal Japan. You can also check out his free ebook, The Character Creation Workbook, and grab a copy for yourself.