I can’t remember exactly who taught me the fine, messy art of collaging a novel—it was either Jenny Crusie or Susan Wiggs. Pretty sure Susan mentioned it first, but either way, it’s been a part of my process for a long time. I’m currently building a collage for a novel of women’s fiction, and as I worked on it over the weekend, I was reminded of the value of the process.
Some writers scoff at this process, finding it a waster of time. Maybe some of you fail to see how an art-based project can help you build a book that’s made of words. If you’ve never tried it, however, maybe give it a shot.
The basic process is straight-forward: you use images and other physical or visual materials to create a snapshot of your book. It can be very simple or very complex, and does not require any particular skills or any kind of artistic bent. Jenny, the former art teacher, builds astonishing collages, three-dimensional and with all sorts of gadgets and gizmos. Susan once built them of them of paper board and magazine cut-outs and now has moved her work to Pinterest. I fall somewhere in-between. (The photo above is from the collage I made for How to Bake a Perfect Life.)
The product is not the actual point. It’s a process tool. Using tactile, visual, or textural materials, you get out of your logical, verbal left brain and allow the loose, associative right brain to play.
Let me stress again that you do not need artistic talent. You don’t need to create something “beautiful.” No one else has to see it. Ever. You don’t even have to keep what you make, though I find the snapshot very grounding over the weeks and months it takes to complete a book. For example: On the current board, a photo of a row of worn, paint-splattered female cowboy books brings me back again and again to a basic concept of one main character. [Read more…]