visuals and writing YA

Back in August, I got an email from NaNoWriMo (that's National Novel Writing Month) organizers, inviting me to guest-blog for them. The theme was writing tips and/or motivation, but it was open to interpretation. I quickly said 'yes, please' (that's my usual tactic where writing is concerned) and got to work.

The use of visuals for inspiration and motivation emerged as a topic for me to write about and NaNoWriMo folks liked my pitch. So here's me reblogging this piece (all images are licensed under Creative Commons and you can find details in image captions on the original posting available here).

I'd like to thank NaNoWriMo for reaching out and for running my guest-post on their blog.

Can a picture inspire a thousand words?

Can a picture inspire a thousand words? NaNoWriMo investigates the power of images in our writing lives. Author Katya de Becerra describes how using an image board brought her novel’s setting to life:

For me, a book begins with a place. The feel of this place, its colors, its peculiar atmosphere–all of it has to be just right, especially early on in a new project. Whenever I start working on a new book, as I play around with the protagonist’s voice and craft the early chapters, I set up a dedicated image board. I then sift through hundreds of pictures on Pinterest, Flickr, Google, populating the board with images that make sense to the story I have slowly building in my head.

As my visual board grows, I jot down ideas. My image selection process is interwoven with those key writing stages when I’m working out my protagonist, her voice, her goals, the way her mind works. On a deeper level, the process is interlinked with the mystery at the book’s heart–a question, an old secret, an almost sentient locale where the protagonist perhaps had a reality-altering experience, or where she witnessed something she was not meant to see.

With my novel What the Woods Keep, which eventually got me my agent and later a publisher, I knew the title from the get-go. Then the book grew around it, becoming more complex with each revision. The book’s core remained stable throughout–a young woman’s emotional homecoming, her relationship with her mother, her creepy windswept hometown and the boy-next-door who stayed behind while she got to leave. With the help of my image board, the forest-locked town of Promise, where the book is set, eventually got to tell its own story, acquiring a mind of its own and interacting with the protagonist in a way a regular character would.

Later, when I worked on the book’s revisions, my image board came in handy once again: the pictures I had so painstakingly selected as I wrote the book’s first draft shifted my mind into the right kind of mood, taking me once again back to Promise. It can be a difficult task to maintain the same feel to the book after months of working on something else, while waiting for feedback from your editor. My image board was instrumental in the task of keeping my rewrites true to the story and I can’t recommend it enough to all writers, experienced or new to the craft.

Katya de Becerra is a Melbourne-based author of Young Adult books. Her stories tend to be set in strange locales where it rains a lot and odd misunderstood things go bump in the night. She has two forthcoming books, What the Woods Keep and Oasis, both acquired by Imprint Macmillan in 2016. In What the Woods Keep, a girl inherits a riddle from her mother’s estate that leads her to a strange Colorado town where her physicist father has been studying strange phenomena. Oasis, a horror-adventure with a diverse cast set in Dubai, was originally a 2014 NaNoWriMo project. Find Katya at her blog at where she talks about pop culture, urban fantasy, science fiction and monsters, and also on Twitter @KatyaBecerra and Facebook @katyadebecerra.


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