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Seeing is believing

So, my first draft of my next book is finally done. It still needs a good amount of editing before I can send it off to my readers, so I am behind on schedule. I did manage to finish the actual first draft on time though! πŸ˜€

I tried out a few different techniques and things during the writing of this story, because I saw bits of advice from other blogs and writing sites and I’m always up for giving new techniques and advice a try, so I did.

One thing that I found really worked for me, much more than I ever thought it would, was the use of visual aids and reference. Now, I know I’ve talked about Pinterest and other similar tools as useful resources for writers, but I usually only use that for gaining sparks of inspiration. This time I actually printed off pictures and photos of things that would be useful to my story.

I do keep character notes and such in my notebook, referring back to them as needed, but in general my imagination is one of my best tools and I am great at picturing things in my head with clarity. This time though I did as advised, and I β€˜cast’ my book with actors and printed off character sheets with photos, also with pictures of anything useful relating to the characters such as outfits, objects, expressions, etc, that would provide visual aid whilst writing.

Same with setting, I printed off maps, found pictures of what the place used to look like. I mean, I had those sorted out anyway, due to the fact it was a historical piece. Yet having them to hand to look at what buildings were really like, or the layout of a room made a massive difference.

Spreading out these printed sheets around me whilst writing was so incredibly useful, I wish I had been doing it for every time I have done writing! I felt fully immersed in the story, with photos and sketches of the place, and having the characters right there surrounding me and I didn’t have to break my writing flow in order to go look up a map, or have a glance at outfits from the time on the computer. It was all there ready for me.

My visual aid sheets, along with my helper.

My visual aid sheets, along with my helper.

Though my imagination is great, being able to glance to a character sheet and see exactly what the outfit was inspired by, or look to the photo of the place its set and get a sense for how it felt, instead of just using my imagination helped push my story that much further to becoming something better!

The visual aid sheets I made, though had photos and sketches, I had also added a lot of text information, such as how the outfit would have felt to wear, what characteristics they had, what their motivations were, how they were going to develop throughout the story. Also, how the setting would have been, what smells there were, how the heat would have felt.

Everything I needed was in one place on these sheets, rather than spread out in notes throughout my notebook or saved in files on my computer.

A lot of you may already do this, and I am probably a late-comer to the party! πŸ˜€ Yet, for some reason, I have always found using reference such as this some form of cheating. I don’t know why, it’s the same when I draw, I always got antsy over using reference then.

It has taken me until now to realise it’s not cheating at all, and it was the most helpful thing I’ve ever done to further improve my writing.

If you haven’t tried it out, I would fully recommend giving it a go. Gather any useful images you can find to do with your story, not just for characters or setting, just anything that helps you to immerse yourself into the writing. Visual aids are definitely being added to my writing process! πŸ˜€

Do you use visual aids? Have you ever tried out a new technique that has now become set into your writing process?

Progress Report

Status of Third Manuscript: Editing first draft.

April E-Book Review: Book chosen.

52 thoughts on “Seeing is believing

  1. Great post! I mostly use written notes for my fiction, including very detailed description of locations and clothing or even weapons. I sometimes have vague drawing or floor plans for places. Ironically I think I mostly use visual aid when working on my nonfiction when I rewatch scenes or play video games again for research or go through my picture collections.

    • I was really surprised at how much I used the visual aid sheets I made, I just figured I didn’t need them, I hadn’t use them before, so why now?

      I guess it goes to show it’s always worth checking out new tips and advice, never know when something might work out πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  2. I find a whiteboard and tons of post-it notes stuck on the wall or window helpful at time. I use online pictures and either save or link… Never printed; I might give it a try. Thanks πŸ™‚

    • I did that too, saved them all in a file o my comp, and I found whilst writing I never used them much because it would interrupt my flow of writing, though for some writers that works for them perfectly! Guess that’s what makes us all individual πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

    • I have heard so much about Scrivener, I really am going to have to check it out. I think it’s fast becoming the tool every writer is falling in love with πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

      • I was intimidated by it at first and had no idea how to get started with the software even after the tutorial until I took Gwen Hernandez’s six week class (she wrote Scrivener for Dummies) Made a huge difference. Now, I can’t imagine not having it.

  3. I love the process you’ve described. I facilitate a weekly writing group, and I’m always trying to get folks to write more “off the world,” using actual things around us to inform our writing. I don’t think we always have to do it in our heads. And, to me, your “collaging” of things into something new is using your imagination!

    • I think having something there and physical, able to look to directly, made a big difference. And yeah, it’s all creative and getting the imagination involved πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  4. When I first started sketching years ago, I used those step-by-step reference guides a lot to learn basic technique. Then I got frustrated that I could only draw that one thing, so I stopped using references all together. Years later, I come back to reference guides as an adult and see how helpful they are for the bits and pieces and details.

    I imagine writing works a lot the same way. We play games as children based off our favorite books and movies (“I wanna be Ana from Frozen” is my baby sister’s battle cry right now), then we start to write our own stories, convinced we’re completely original and anyone with criticism is just stupid and boo! Then we get a little older and realize the “grown ups” aren’t all stupid, and other’s might have some good advice. I think the next step after that is to take all the advice you can get, cause you never know what might be the perfect idea for you. πŸ™‚

    Cait and I use A LOT of reference material when writing together, because the world lives somewhere between our two heads. Until I get a clear picture of her creations in my head, I am forever consulting our “cheat sheets”. Even now, I’ll still use them for established things, just to double my check myself.

    • It really is great to look at all the information and resources out there and see how much we have to use as writers. People provide advice and tools for a reason, I just got to make use of them now πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  5. I’ve mainly used written notes and aids thus far but the idea of being so visually immersed in the whole feel of a WIP sounds amazing!

    Congratulations on finishing your first draft by the way, another great achievement. πŸ™‚

    • It really was surprising how much it made me feel completely immersed within the world of my story and its characters, definitely will be doing it for all my future writing projects.

      Thank you for the congrats, and commenting πŸ˜€

  6. I love that commercial where the guy is talking about his home business, his staff–himself and his dog. Got completely distracted from your wonderful post by your darling (and I’m sure effective) assistant.

    • Oh yes, she’s very effective at knocking things off and giving me the cutest looks and distracting me from writing πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  7. That’s a great idea! I don’t do it often, but when I do have some pictures in front of me, it keeps the writing moving along–just as you say. I should do this more often! Good post!

    • It really did help keep the flow going, rather than checking on the computer all the time or scanning through my notebook πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  8. Good post! I do this sometimes, but not always. I do, however, find it extremely helpful when I have those visual reminders strewn around my work area. I’m starting a new WIP, and now you have me thinking I might just do it again this time around πŸ™‚

    • I would recommend it, it’s always good to give things like this a try, just in case it really does help! πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  9. I really like this advice. Thanks so much for sharing! This is next on my list for getting organized. I’m a visual person and it gets tiresome searching through notebooks for the information I need. πŸ™‚

    • I didn’t realise how much I would respond to visual reference, but it was incredible how helpful and motivating it was, I definitely recommend it πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  10. And your dog is beautiful! I have year old Cocker Spaniel who insists on pawing my arm while I type. He’s not dealing with the book taking my attention. Oy! I adore him though. It has put a kink in my writing. πŸ™‚

    • Yeah, my dog knows how to work her cute look and get attention, even when I know I should be writing! I can’t help it, she’s too sweet to resist πŸ˜€

  11. Congrats on finishing the draft!

    I use quite a few visual aids myself. I do charts to keep information at hand, diagrams of relationships, occasionally things like genaeology charts. Typically my aids are done hastily by hand or on a computer,and i put just enough into them to make them useful. But not always. I have an exquisitely detailed map for one of my projects that I put weeks into with a photo editor.

    My home office set up includes corner desk with a bulletin board to the left of my computer and a whiteboard to the right, so I can pin things or scribble notes without getting up from the keyboard, I find that writing in the corner also cuts down on distractions and helps me focus.

    • I think putting in the work before hand, gathering photos or working on maps, etc, also helps to get geared up and in the mind set of the story before we even begin writing.

      Your office set-up sound great, I am envious! I have the sofa and a coffee table, though I guess at least it means I can still write πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

      • YW, and I agree about the work beforehand. Sometimes just putting that stuff together triggers ideas that I’d never have otherwise.

    • Oh, I never thought of magazines, bet there’s a wealth of images in there to use. I grabbed my pictures from anywhere I found them: Pinterest, history sites, Flickr. I only wanted them for reference, I wasn’t going to show them online anywhere or to anyone so I didn’t worry about where they came from πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  12. I’ve been using visual aids a lot lately, although I think that’s because I’ve been working in a visual storytelling medium. When I’m just doing straight literature, I don’t use so many pictures for references, although I will often draw my characters, and I’ve found that to be very useful in keeping their descriptions consistent.

    • I did some sketches for this book, things I knew I wanted certain stuff to look like. It was a great help getting it down onto paper, rather than just keeping it in my head.

      You’ve been looking at a lot of airplanes then? πŸ˜€

  13. I never used this technique before–I usually have retained images in my mind or written descriptions down, but I like the idea you suggested. I should start saving images πŸ™‚

    • I used to keep images saved on my computer or Pinterest boards, which was great for inspiration or random times, but for me I find it distracting to come out from my writing flow to look at those images. When they were already spread around me, it was that much easier πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  14. This was a great post! Yes, I keep “crib notes” on page 1 and I use a split screen view when I need to refer to them, then delete them when I’m done. Also, I usually keep a timeline of people’s ages or important dates within the story when necessary. Your helper looks more helpful than mine. The cats just jump in between me and the monitor when they want a treat…they don’t actually help. πŸ™‚

    • Keeping a timeline is definitely something I’m going to have to try next. I usually have dates or events noted down in random places in my notebook, not in any kind of order (which really doesn’t help!).

      I bet the cats are cute enough to get away with it though, right? πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  15. Great post! I just started using visual aides for my own writing and they make all the difference. After awhile, my characters start developing “faces” of their own.

    • Exactly, I found it so incredibly easy to picture them in my head with all the visual reference I had around me. I think my writing and character development really took a leap because of it πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  16. Another great post, Mishka. For those who don’t yet use visual aids, this piece advocates the value in using all the tools at our disposal. I’ve tried a variety of things over the years. I recently discovered the wipe-board and love adding to it when I’m in the middle of a story. I pin things to it too and there are usually arrows and references all over the place! It’s extremely useful and though I can’t carry it in my pocket, there’s no going back for me πŸ™‚

    • I am tempted by a pin board or wipe board, a really easy way to keep all stuff I need in front of my face in one place πŸ˜€

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

    • I do like to inspire people, especially to try out new things πŸ˜€ I just couldn’t get over how much the sheets helped!

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

  17. Completely off track, but “oh, I love Shelties so much!!!”. There. I got it out. I’m Sheltie-less at the moment. Sniff. But that will change in about a year. The picture of yours is gorgeous.

    • She’s actually a Rough Collie, the full size version πŸ˜€ Though she is very petite for her breed, and she loves meeting shelties as they are just her size for playing with! They are gorgeous though, so sweet and pretty.

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚ (My dog will certainly take all the compliments she can take, lol).

  18. YAAY you on finishing your draft! πŸ˜€

    What a fantastic idea! I need to use tangible visual aids, too, since I’m a highly visual person (and learner). You’ve inspired me. Thanks! (Writing is serious business, eh? Not for wimps.)

    What’s the name and breed of your cute helper? πŸ™‚

  19. Great post, love this topic. I’m a visual/tactile learner so these strategies seems necessary to me. When I first started writing my first draft (many years ago – sigh) I got a lot of great advice from different books, including the visual aids. I have my characters pinned up on a cork board with their names. Maybe I should give them a tagline…

    I seem to have trouble with imagining setting both while reading and writing about it. So maybe I should create more visual aids like maps… I’m sure it’s related to my “quirky” sense of direction…

    I’m curious where you keep your visual aids? Do you just spread them out?
    I agree with Nadine very cute helper! I need me one of those….

    • I gathered visual aids not just for characters, but for setting and anything inspiring, I found that really helped immerse me into the whole story πŸ˜€

      I spread them out around me, so everything was there and I didn’t have to search through paper. There was a lot and it took up quite a bit of floor space, but was definitely worth it! Well, until my ‘helper’ decided to lay on them.

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

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    • She’s very sweet, likes to lay on all my research and notes so as I will give her my full attention instead πŸ˜€ I used to have 2 cats, I remember how ‘helpful’ they used to be!

      Thank you for reading and commenting πŸ™‚

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