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Swoon Author Nikki Katz: The Visual Element of Writing a Manuscript

Authors often are asked if they are a plotter or pantsers—which means do they plot their novel before starting to write the first draft, or do they write by the seat of their pants? 

Personally, I do a little of both, but tend toward the side of pantser. Before I begin, I know where the manuscript will end. I also know my major beat points, but if I plot too much, it sucks the creativity from the process and I end up not wanting to write at all.

Not a good place for an author to be! 

In order to keep me on track, I do use a visual sort of inspiration board. I used to create these from magazine cutouts like a traditional inspiration board, and sometimes I would do one for each main character. I would add photos of models or actors that looked the characters, images of their sports or hobbies, fashion and style photos, words they might say.

When Pinterest gained popularity several years ago, I moved most of my visual boards there. It was easy to pin images and allowed me to link back to articles I might want to use for research later. It’s still one of the first steps for me when I begin to investigate the spark of an idea for a new manuscript. I have over a dozen boards for novels I have yet to write!

For The Midnight Dance, one of the first visuals in my mind that led to me writing the book was that of live marionettes. You’ll notice some of the first images pinned on my board are from deviant art (one of my favorite places to start!)    

I then gathered image ideas for my characters. I like to try to stick with only one or two models/actors for each character as a representation of who they are.

Lily Collins was my ideal Penny...

Alex Pettyfer is perfect for Cricket...

And Ian Somerhalder will always be Master in my eyes!

I also wanted easy references for images of the setting.

I loved this sprawling estate image for Grand Teatro...

And this interior for an apothecary shoppe...

And then I rounded out the visual board with elements from the plot. 

The peacock mask that Penny wears during the gala...

And a gift from Master to Penny...

With my latest manuscript, I took many of my images and made a collage that I printed out on color paper and hung on the wall near my monitor. I know many authors use music to get in the mood and back into their writing, but visually I love my boards!

Author spotlight

Nikki Katz

Nikki is the author of The Midnight Dance, her debut young adult novel, replete with magical realism and Gothic settings. ...

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