Jill Hedgecock is this week’s featured podcast interview, see the details and access instructions for tomorrow here.
Let’s face it, writing a book can be a slow process. Often, it is the culmination of many months or, more often than not, years of hard work. Keeping details straight through multiple drafts can be an enormous challenge. But what if all you had to do was look up at a collage of images and important text?
A muse board is a powerful visual aid designed to create mood, inform book structure, convert technical jargon into layperson’s terms, and/or inspire descriptive prose. Typically, the advertising industry, interior designers, wedding organizers, and even web designers have used similar techniques. For authors, a muse board can be tailored to fit a writer’s goals. And one of its most powerful features is assisting writers in keeping details straight. This blog post describes how to make a muse board and the many advantages of creating one. It takes time to assemble this tool, but like any planning, it can ultimately save hours. Sorting through pages looking for ancillary and long-forgotten details can be more onerous, and a lot less fun, as well as less valuable to improving your book than creating a muse board.
Step 1: Format and Media Decisions
If you decide to try this writing aid, the first two decisions you will have to make is what format you want and what media you’d like to use. The format can be collage, sequential images that outline the book, topic-specific, or mood driven. There are many media options, such as a corkboard or whiteboard, trifold cardboard (e.g., child’s science project exhibit boards), or digital. One advantage of the trifold is that it can be displayed at author readings and book signings, which makes this my favorite option. The digital world offers many types of platforms, including Pinterest (www.pinterest.com), Photoshop’s collage feature (https://digital-photography-school.com/make-photoshop-collage-9-steps), Sampleboard (www.sampleboard.com), and Milanote (https://milanote.com/product/writing-software). I’m partial to Pinterest because your followers can monitor your book progress, creating buzz.
Step 2: Collect Materials
For a digital muse board, this will largely entail using computer search functions. While digital media is convenient, content is limited to Internet images and digital photos, while using a physical medium provides more options for materials that can be used:
- Post its
- Scented cloth
- Photographs of your own text
- Family genealogy
- Geographic maps
- Your introductory paragraph
- Synopsis and book cover—great for advertising your book at signings
- Internet images
- Inspirational quotes
- Isolated words
- Written sound bites (think movie trailer) or elevator pitches
I like to color code my images, so I mount images on vibrant scrapbooking paper (red for intense topics and green for setting). If you aren’t using your own photos, be aware of copyright issues. A few examples of sites that provide royalty-free photography include pexels, (www.pexels.com), pixabay (https://pixabay.com) and Unsplash (https://unsplash.com).
Step 3: Define Your Goal and Create Your Board
It is important to understand how to best utilize this tool to support your specific writing goal(s). Do you struggle with writing descriptive text? If so, you may want your board to consist largely of photos of people or objects. Do you need inspiration to jump-start your writing day? How about a sticky note with text you’ve written that you’re proud of? Or you could study an image on your board and write a paragraph on why you included it. The text might not need to be part of the book, but this quick exercise may launch you into your work-in-process or possibly take your book in a new and exciting direction. Is travel a key element to your book? How about adding cultural and iconic images of the important destinations? Depending on your project, you may want to create multiple boards. For memoirists, you might want to consider creating more than one board or, if you’re using a trifold, you might assign each panel to different family members, period details, or genealogy charts.
Remember, assembling a muse board can be a fluid process. For my trifold muse boards, I use scrapbooking paper and loose tape so I can move things around. I have also learned to leave space for my book cover image and my elevator pitch to maximize marketing potential during book signings.
Step 4: Reap the Benefits
Here are some of the many potential advantages:
1). Corrects weaknesses in your writing style
2). Identifies key themes and help set tone or mood
3). Focuses chapters and overcome writer’s block
4). Improves ability to describe objects and people
5). Prevents time-consuming rewrites
6). Keeps text true to a time period
7). Organizes your chapters
8). For memoirists, creates a cohesive balance in the arc of the story
9). Helps ensure consistency of descriptions of people, objects, and settings
10). For memoirists, aides in foreshadowing
11). Assists in finding your beginning and/or ending
12). Circumvents writer’s block
While you might be concerned that creating a muse board will consume precious writing hours, the planning and energy spent creating this tool can actually save time. Plus, the process of designing a muse board can stretch your creative brain and elevate your work to a whole new level. Best of all, it can be an effective marketing tool at author signings after publication.
Jill Hedgecock is an award-winning novelist and book review columnist for The Diablo Gazette. With the aid of a muse board, the first draft of her debut coming-of-age suspense novel, Rhino in the Room, was written in about six weeks. Her two Doberman-inspired novels (Between Shadow’s Eyes and From Shadow’s Perspective) were published within two years of each other. For more information, visit (www.jillhedgecock.com). Jill offers developmental editing services; you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
If you like this blog post, you’ll love our Author Toolkit on writing nonfiction books. It includes checklists, templates, worksheets and more. Check it out!