More on Collaging
Not so long ago, I posted about a number of methods used to brainstorm a new novel. For my most recently-released novel, The Salt Maiden, I mentioned the use of collaging, which is a technique I picked up from several authors, including Susan Wiggs, Barbara Samuel, Jenny Crusie, all of whom, I'm 100% sure, are more artistic than I am.
But I won't knock anything that works, so when I recently rediscovered my original collage, I snapped a photo before tossing it, mostly because I thought it would be interesting to see how closely this idea-catcher resembled the final novel. I've done this with other prewriting plans (usually webbing, which I described in the linked post, or occasionally in poorly-rendered sketches) and have been surprised to find that these may have formed a springboard to the ideas that formed the synopsis and, after much hair-pulling, a novel, but they've borne little if any resemblance to the final product.
Not so with the collage. I was surprised to find it a close match, not so much in the detail department (most if not all of the characters names were changed. I never know who they really are or what they should be called until after I've lived in their skins awhile.) But what I call my "guiding vision" for the book remained remarkably true, giving my imagination visuals on which to hang its many hats.
So does this mean I'll continue using collaging to plan every book? Nope. In fact, I've found it surprising unhelpful for planning the next manuscript I wrote. (Triple Exposure, coming in Aug. 2008, had a guiding vision informed by my real travels and experience.) But as I've mentioned before, it's one more trick for the act, and you can never tell which one you'll need to pull out of your pocket on any given day.
Adaptation is the lesson. Train your noggin to slurp up every technique you can, and don't be afraid to try it, reject it, bastardize it...
Whatever works to get you through the book.