East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Writing with Pinterest


piniconAs I mentioned a few days back, I’m exploring Pinterest as a tool for writers.
And as we know, the Pinterest nation is 70% women – this already makes Pinterest attractive, but let’s not talk about looking for a girlfriend…

For the uninitiated: Pinterest is a social media and tool based on the pinboard metaphore.
You collect items of interest around the web, and organize them in graphical, themed pinboards – providing images, videos and sounds, text (Pinterest allows for 500 characters comments), links.
You can share your pins, collaborate on pins with other pinners, and “steal” pins from other boards.

An early attempt at putting together a writing-oriented pinboard was the Mock Elizabethan board I manage together with my friend Chiara.
We both share a passion for the Elizabethan Era, and it seemed a fun project collecting weird and unusual modern Elizabethan references in one place – as a game, but also, who knows, as a source of inspiration for future writing project, maybe even the joint project we’ve been talking about for years now, and still haven’t found the time to get going.

So, Pinterest as a repository of graphical reference.
Clothes, places, characters, far away lands and peoples.
Doing a search on Pinterest is often better than just looking for the right picture on Google Images.

By the way – I work a lot with pictures.
Picture references are indispensible, for me.

But it can be better.

Evernote_iOS_logoNow, Pinterest is not flexible enough (in my opinion, of course) to be used as an online note-taking/clipper tool.
Evernote or NixNote (among others) were developed for that purpose.
Or you can go the rough way, and create a folder on your desktop, and save unsorted pictures, web-pages and text snippets while you surf looking for informations about what you’re writing.

And yet…
Pinterest allows us to create graphical, often highly impressive collection of snippets connected with our work.
What for?

Consider the following options

diagram. as a collection of writing prompts
Right now, I need a small sailing ship.
No, not for me… for my character.
So I’ll look for a suitable picture on Pinterest and through the web.
Once I find it (found!) I’ll save it on the board I’m keeping for that writing project, and I’ll use the 500 letters comment to write a short, economical, narrative description of the ship.
This is not just a visual reference: it helps me getting creative – and I can recycle the text in my stories.

. as a character-building tool
Defining a character requires work.
Many use lists of questions – what does he like, what does he not like, etc.
But I can build Pinboards for characters (collecting elements of their style, examples of their clothing, their favourite foods, books and movies…)
Basically using the standard Pinboard “My Style” approach, and create a “My Character’s Style” board.
A Character Board can also be useful when used as a promotional tool…

. as a promotional tool
Pinboards can be private (for personal use) or public (to be shared with the Pinsphere).
I can build a private Pinboard collecting bits and pieces from my story (places, faces, links), and then make it public as a “web extra” to promote the launch of my next story, or collection.
I’m currently building a private Pinboard that will be presented as a web extra for the launch of the third edition of my non-fiction pulp essay about the Silk Road between the wars.
It might please my readers – and attract a few new ones.
Iyt does not beat other promotional tools (Facebook presence, tweets, website, blog) but it complements them nicely.
Things like Character Boards can also be used during the writing and publishing process, as teasers, to create some hype.

And using Pinterest I have all the images and links I might like to quote during promotion, all in one place.

So, while the tool in itself remains the same, it is what you do with it that is interesting.
And I guess there’s more uses that I have yet to discover – suggestions, kindly posted in the comments, will be really really welcome.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

6 thoughts on “Writing with Pinterest

  1. Very interesting … I never used Pinterest (I use Tumblr for sharing only) but maybe it’s time to try it … It seems really a good tool 🙂


  2. Ah yes, this is interesting. Apart from Mock Elizabethan (and yes, some day we must must must start that joint project…), I have started a board for my current WIP, where I collect useful bits: characters, places, atmospheres, the odd sound… Not being the most visual person in the world, I find it helps, but I am not using it as much as I thought I would, because no matter how many images I scavenge, very few of them really match what I have in mind or are at least close enough. There are even times when I feel an urge to download images and tinker with them to get what I want… And frankly, madness lies that way.
    Still, I like the notion, and I rather intend to play with it some more.


    • No, I do not alter my visual references, either.
      I don’t have that much time on my hands 😀
      And after all, it’s just reference – not templates or exact matches.
      And yet – the web is huge, and I usually find something very close to what I had in mind in the first place.
      Evidently my writing is more mundane than yours.
      Which is curious, becuase you are the one that’s supposed to be realistic and fully backed up by historical facts and a learned bibliography.
      Me, I’m just a hack.
      I play pretend.


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