Doing Book Collages for Your Manuscript

Last week, Jenny Crusie shared on her blog, Argh Ink, about how she loves doing collages of her manuscripts.

She pastes images to match the moods, tone, and themes of each of her manuscripts as she’s writing them — sometimes literal images (a picture of the diner the hero just bought) and sometimes just papers or fabrics to evoke a mood (floral paper that represents the heroine’s mood at the beginning of the story). She said it helps her work out plot points and “see” the book visually, and the way the scenes fit together. Her collages are absolutely beautiful. (If you want to see some of them, and read the discussion between her, Anne Stuart, and Lucy March about doing book collages, you can read the full conversation at Argh Ink here.)

I have to tell you, when I first read this, I got a little giddy inside.

I had been saying for weeks that I was really in the mood to scrapbook again — to get out all my paper, scissors, tape, pens, ribbons, pop-up dots, paper cutters, hole punches, brads, ink, stickers …

(Well … you get the idea. … “Getting everything out” means it’s strewn across my dining table for weeks. I have an embarrassing amount of scrapbooking supplies.)

And even though I used to scrapbook obsessively for years, I really haven’t in ages — ever since I started writing fiction again, actually. (There are only so many hours in the day, after all. I guess my fiction-writing took the place of my paper-crafting.)

But I was itching to get it all out again: I began leafing through older scrapbooks I’d done, thinking I might finish a few pages I’d started; I began lingering in the paper-crafting aisle of Michaels when I’d bring Rene there to get her art supplies; I slowly got out a few ribbons and glue and made a couple of gift tags, at least. …

But I kept thinking I shouldn’t. Because I have books to write, man. I need to get on the ball and get some of this writing finished.

But when I read Jenny Crusie’s blog post, Ithought YES! I can scrapbook my books! Brilliant! It was a perfect solution: I’d be “working on the books” (figuring out more about my characters, seeing how the book fits together visually), and yet I’d be able to satisfy this craving I have to use a paper cutter again!

So I made plans to rush home from work one night, feed the kids pizza on paper plates, and be able to get started scrapbooking right away. I got out all my stuff and spread it all over the dining table. And I continued working on the collages throughout the evening, then during week in the evenings. I did double-page spreads for four books: the one that’s finished (Earning Wings), the one that’s almost finished (Making Waves), the short story I want to make into a longer book (Jem/Charley), and the newest book I want to start (calling it “the Professor book” for now).

It was so fun!

None of the collages is completely finished, but Crusie says you can add to them as you go — seeing new relationships between scenes, seeing new things coming to the forefront. I took Crusie’s advice and put a picture of the heroine in the center (and raised a little with pop-up tape), to make sure everything emanates from her. (A problem I have when writing is letting the hero take over the book.) Then I collaged plot points, the hero, and supporting characters all around her. Two of the books don’t even have images for the heroine yet — I need to find the “just right” picture, the way I see them in my head. But I’m so excited to work on these.

Here’s the one I started for Earning Wings. It’s about 80% done:


I’ll post the others as I finish them. … (Plus I have to get my camera back because I left it at my SIL’s!)

Do any of you writers “collage” your manuscripts? Or do something else to “see” it visually?


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4 thoughts on “Doing Book Collages for Your Manuscript

  1. Don’t laugh, but I always pictured Simone looking like Michelle Phiffer when she was like 27. Who is that in the collage? I can’t tell from here. But that is exactly how I pictured Adam and Adam’s plane. Awesome!!!

  2. Tricia — No worries! (That’s the danger of my showing these collages at all, because they’re really only how *I* picture the characters; I don’t mind in the least if readers picture someone entirely different!!)

    In fact, I try to be fairly vague in my physical descriptions because I always want readers to picture whoever they want. I try to give some general “outline” (and call out any features the hero would definitely notice about the heroine, or the heroine would notice about the hero), but overall I like readers to be able to fill in with their own imaginations. I always appreciate books that do that for me, so I try to return the favor!

  3. Oh, and to answer your question, that’s Angelina Jolie, but I tried to select pictures where she wasn’t wearing much makeup — that’s how I pictured Simone. 🙂

  4. That is exactly how I pictured them both! What a great idea and a great way for you to kill two birds with one stone!

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