Pre-Writing with Collage

The other day, I found this page at author Jennifer Crusie’s site, which details how she uses collage as a form of prewriting, and for continued inspiration as she writes her books. You can see the collages she has put together for various books here; Crusie has an art background and it shows! Her collages are actually assemblages, and they are very beautiful.

This is the collage she created for a book she’s still working on:

Jennifer Crusie

Jennifer Crusie’s Collage for You Again

If you click on the image, it will take you to the large-sized picture on her site. Click on that image, and you can see the details up close. It’s very intricate, and gave me some wonderful ideas and lots of inspiration for  doing my own pre-writing collages.

Reading through her process, it seemed to me to be a very good way to open up yourself to your intuition, dusting off that fossil, as Stephen King put it in On Writing.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about writing more intuitively; when you’re plotting and figuring out where you’re going with your novel, intuition can often get left behind, especially if you’re writing suspense or mystery or even fantasy. On the one hand, it’s easier to sit down and write when you have a good idea where you’re going, but on the other hand, too clear an idea where you’re headed can dampen your enthusiasm for getting your story down into words. At least, that’s what I find – I’ve always loved the feeling of writing and discovering my story at the same time. When the discoveries have already been made, methodically by the left-brained me, the writing isn’t nearly as fun.

So the idea of prewriting with collage really intrigued me. Off I went to the art supply store for proper provisions (which is a part of the fun!). I came back with a variety of supports – large foamcore boards, packages of medium-sized illustration board in both white and black, and a nice-sized pad of sturdy cartridge paper.

As I was wondering the aisles, resisting temptation as best as I could (there was a gorgeous box of oil pastels that I really, realistically speaking, didn’t need … and yes, I was very good and didn’t buy it!) I realized I could extend the process further. I would do an overview of the book I’m writing on a large foamcore board, but I would also do smaller collages for each of the major characters, and for specific locations, too.

So now I’m well-armed in the supplies area. Next up is a visit to the dollar store to see what catches my eye, then it’s going to be a day spent with a stack of magazines, letting my inner muse tear out pictures without any censoring from my logical self.

What I’m looking forward to the most? Seeing what surprises come up for me. The novel I’ll be using this technique with is one I’ve carried with me for nearly ten years now. It’s a fun book, but it’s a big book, too. I think in the past, tackling this project has always felt overwhelming – there’s just so much there, so many areas to explore. Now, however, I feel like I’ve found the way to find my way, so to speak.

And that definitely feels good.

More Links

I decided to Google around and see if I could find other authors who also use collages as a prewriting technique. It’s fun to read about each writer’s collage process. I didn’t find very many links, so I thought I’d list the ones I’d found for anyone who’s interested.

Collages with Barbara Hannay

Collaging: A Story in Pictures (Note: pdf file)

Workshop: Creating a Writing Collage

Story Collage (Yvonne Lindsay)

Tycoon’s One Night Revenge

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7 Comments on "Pre-Writing with Collage"

  1. Comment #1
    Ann-Kat (Today, I Wrote)
    02/02/2009 at 3:48 pm Permalink

    This is an amazing idea, one I’ve come across more than a few times (on your site), but have always glossed over. I guess today was just the right time for me to really slow down and read it. Gotta love it and it’s even motivated me to try this technique for my next short story idea which hasn’t fully amalgamated in my mind just yet.

  2. Comment #2
    tj gus
    27/06/2009 at 12:49 pm Permalink

    Sounds like fun! Not only that, but when you are finished you really have two products to show for your work: collage and story.

  3. Comment #3
    tj gus
    27/06/2009 at 12:52 pm Permalink

    I was just thinking. I’m an elementary teacher, and I could use a version of this idea with my class. Students could spend a week collecting pictures, paper scraps, anything that caught their fancy, make a collage, and then write a story to incorporate as many of their chosen items as possible. It is on a lower level than what you are talking about, but it might be fun.


  1. [...] week, I intend to (finally!) start prewriting with collage – it’s something I wrote about a few weeks ago, ...

  2. [...] for which I know the ending (kind of rare for me, that). And I hadn’t been intending to start ...

  3. [...] Inspiration on the fringes. Pictures, other images, and words that relate to my story and help keep me in ...

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