Monday, January 21, 2013

Scrapbooking Your Novel

by Katana Collins

I've always considered myself to be a visual person. I learn faster when something is physically shown or drawn out for me. In school, math was jibberish until I could physically see it in action. History? Bromidic descriptions and endless amounts of dates were a mishmash inside my head until I could put a visual to the words.

For the “day job,” I am a photographer. I tell stories through pictures. Then I compose each of my sessions into a linear tale designed to evoke emotion in each client. I never present my images in the same order that they were photographed. Why? Because that's what the client expects when she or he comes in to see their gallery. I want to give them the unexpected. Just like in my fiction. My readers deserve more than the expected.

When I sat down to write my first novel, I had a legal pad and a number two pencil in front of me. Visions of ten year old Katana sitting in front of a tiny metal desk in a primary colored plastic chair flooded my mind and I nearly had a damn panic attack. The thought of having to write an entire outline seemed like a Herculean task. So, instead of beginning with words—I doodled. The exact same doodles I used to put in the margins of my homework were now becoming my outline. My first draft looked roughly like a comic book with scenes I knew I wanted to write sketched out on the paper. And for the record—I do not draw well! I'm a stick figure girl at best (and that's not a joke about me being an A-cup). But I knew what these horrid sketches meant and what they symbolized and that's all that mattered. Filled with an excitement that wasn't there before, I grabbed stacks of old magazines and found my characters within them. I cut them out, pasted them to sheets of paper and in the margins wrote character descriptions. The character's name, their age, their eye color, scars/birthmarks and how they got them, their jobs, their backgrounds, astrological signs, whether or not they thought astrology was bullshit. I wanted to know my characters as though they were my best friends. And the way I, personally, learn is through pictures...not words.

This became the basis for how I begin every book. I sketch out scenes that I know I want to write—do I think my characters are going to have a huge public fight in a park on a snowy day? That goes in my scrapbook. What does the layout of her home look like? A floorplan goes in the scrapbook. Will they make love against the window of my hero's high-rise apartment? Hell yeah! And because I'm sometimes a 13 year old boy at heart, I draw her boobs extra big!

For every single book I write, I have a “scrapbook.” A binder with pages and pages of collaged pictures and sketches inside. Since I mostly write in books within a series, these are invaluable for referencing later. I can't tell you how many times I've forgotten what color eyes one of my heroine's love interests have. Or which side of his face there's a little scar. I don't have to do a search and find for the word “scar” through my entire first manuscript. I simply open their scrapbook and flip to his page!

Once I finish a chunk of the scrapbook, I'm usually energized to where I'm ready to tackle my personal battle with words. And now with Pinterest, this is the perfect outlet for a digital scrapbook, making the process even easier! Your readers will love seeing your Pinterest pages—your photographs and insights. Having a chance to glimpse into an author's brain and how they picture the hero and heroine of their favorite novel is thrilling for fans.

Is this method for everyone? Certainly not! But if the idea of writing down a full outline for each book seems daunting, this might be a great way to get your juices flowing.

For as long as she can remember, Katana Collins always had one of two things in hand—a pen or a camera. And now, after twenty-nine years, she is lucky enough to have two of the best jobs ever—writing sexy romances, and also photographing sexy boudoir portraits. After writing for years, Katana finally found her niche with hot paranormal and sexy contemporary romances. When not writing, reading or photographing, you can find Katana in Brooklyn with her husband and two dogs where she drinks copious amounts of coffee and red wine and actively volunteers her time and photography expertise to local animal shelters.


  1. I do the same thing. It's really helpful in those moments when you can't "get" into writing. But if you see it, the scene comes alive and engerizes me.

  2. Interesting process. Thanks for sharing. I do both pictures and words for my outline.

  3. I think not only does the visual methodology aid a writer in fueling creativity, but it is a "tactile" process as well. I'm a firm believer that the process of touching things, say even drawing a setup, or smelling something while you're writing, can greatly effect the process by involving a writer's senses. In your case the visual which is such an easy thing to refer back to while writing. Suppose you get a bit blocked? Stare at the photo of the "hero" and imagine how he'd react? Or check out the boudoir of the heroine to imagine how she'd feel sliding beneath the sheets.... Terrific idea and thank you for the inspiration!

  4. I keep a scrapbook on my computer that is filled with pictures of my characters, their homes, their places of business, and even their pets. It helps me visualize the who, what, and where.