Pinterest for Novelists: Can Pinterest Inspire Your Writing? By Author Laura Harrington

Today’s a great day for Women’s Fiction Writers!  Not only is my friend, author Laura Harrington, back to share her wisdom on all things Pinterest, but today is the paperback launch for her novel, Alice Bliss.  The new cover is just spectacular and evocative. I’d totally pick it up in a bookstore, if I didn’t already have it on my iPad, that is.  If you haven’t read Laura’s series of posts on revisions, check them out by clicking the link at the bottom of this post.  And if you haven’t read Alice Bliss — now’s a great time!

Please welcome back Laura Harrington!

Amy xo

Pinterest for Novelists: Can Pinterest Inspire Your Writing?

by Laura Harrington

When I first started hearing about Pinterest I reacted with a sense of doom. My first thought was, are you kidding me? There’s something else we’re supposed to be doing to connect to our readers/ build our platform? I felt that I didn’t have one more iota of available brain space for anything that was not actually writing.

And then my writing hit a snag.  I was about half way through my second novel when I slowed to a halt.  I felt stuck and stale and tired. Had I lost my writing mind to too much Twitter and Facebook and all the rest of it?

Or did I need some inspiration? Did I need to find a place where I could play?

I am a very visual person. Part of this is from my theatre background; part of it is my lifelong love of design and image. I was an art history minor in college and worked at a museum and in a prints and drawings gallery for two years between college and grad school.

I decided to take a look at Pinterest, to see if I could use it as a place to spark my imagination for my new book.  When I began I had no idea where it would lead me, nor did I know how addictive it could be. (Warning!)

And yes, I agree with some of the criticisms leveled at Pinterest. It can be a glorified form of hoarding, many of the images have the gloss and emptiness of advertising, and lots of people use it simply to collect things: recipes, cute kitten photos, outfits. But it can also be as inspiring as exquisite paintings, cool old vintage photos, pure color washes, birds, clouds. Some boards feel like too much sugar to me. Some boards draw me in and inspire me. I especially like finding artists from other cultures to follow.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a virtual corkboard where you can pin just about any image, being careful about attribution of course.

Where in the world do you begin?

The Next Book:

I started with a catch-all board, titled “The Next Book” and pinned any image that struck me as being part of the world of my next book, which is set in 1966 and 1970. Using key words I searched for images of Viet Nam, black and white photos of kids from that period, peter pan collars, Simplicity patterns, sewing notions, lakes, swimming, lakeside docks, cars, trucks, farmhouses.  That “catch-all” board continues to be one of my favorites because of its variety. It never fails to draw me into the world of the book and spark my imagination.

Soon, however, my searches were becoming more specific and so were my boards. I started to get organized. Here are a few examples:

Field Journals:

Two of my characters keep field journals with a particular interest in birds. But field journals turns out to be the most delightful of categories: here you will find pencils, drawing tools, beautiful handmade books, pages from field journals, watercolor wash techniques, etc.

Espaliered Apple Trees:

The father works with apple trees at the Cornell Agricultural Station in Geneva, NY, and is experimenting with the French espaliered method.

Books for the Next Book:

My research titles.  You could also use a board to pin research articles, magazine clippings, etc.


One of my characters is a bird artist who becomes a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam. These are the birds he might see or draw or be inspired by.

Billy/ Nell:

The primary relationship is between a brother and a sister. They are wild children, alive in nature. Finding images to capture their unique spirit is challenging and fun.

Are these images helping with my writing? Absolutely. The world of my book is deepening, becoming richer. My imagination has been shaken up and unlocked. Energized and inspired, my book has taken an entirely new direction.

Here are a few other ways that authors might use Pinterest:

Book Trailers:

A young woman is creating a book trailer for my first book, Alice Bliss, to launch when the paperback launches.  She sent me her initial cache of images and I realized that these ideas, which looked great on paper, were not quite capturing the spirit of the book.

Pinterest to the rescue. I created a board for Alice Bliss/ The Book Trailer where I could easily share my ideas with her: She can pin images to this board as well.  It’s a great place for us to test out ideas as she storyboards the book trailer.

Book Design:

As I worked to find images that capture the spirit of my books, I found myself thinking about book design.  Perhaps one of the future uses of Pinterest will be as a place for authors to share their visual ideas with book designers. I love collaborating with designers and I am fascinated by their process. In no way do I want to take over or intrude upon that. But I do think that the author’s understanding of the visual world of their book is useful information for a designer to have.

My intuition tells me that Pinterest is going to have a powerful impact on book covers. Using boards to share images, looking at images and cover ideas online, where most covers will be seen, testing to see if the cover “reads” in a very small format, might very well enhance the process of design and give us ever more beautiful and striking covers.

In conclusion:

Pinterest is not for everyone. Just the fact that it means spending more time in front of a computer screen was enough to keep me away from it initially.  Now, however, I find I have to limit the time I spend there by setting a kitchen timer.  It is so easy to get lost down that rabbit hole.  But I have found it to be refreshing, to be a place where I can play and have fun, where I can find inspiration.  Perhaps best of all, I can disappear into visual beauty, and take a rest from words, words, words all the time.

How do you use Pinterest?

If you’d like to take a look at the boards that I’ve referenced, above, just click on this link:

Laura Harrington’s award-winning plays, musicals, and operas have been widely produced across America, in Canada, and Europe. She is the 2008 Kleban Award Winner for most promising librettist in American Musical Theatre. Harrington has twice won both the Massachusetts Cultural Council Award and the Clauder Competition for best new play in New England.

Her first novel, Alice Bliss, (Viking/ Penguin) has been lauded as a “Discover Great New Writers” at Barnes & Noble, “Best Books of the Summer” at Entertainment Weekly, a “People Pick,” at People Magazine and “Best Books of 2011” by the School Library Journal. Foreign rights have been sold in the UK, Italy and Denmark

Alice Bliss has been named a “Must-Read” book in the annual Mass Book Awards, 2012, and has been chosen by the Richard and Judy Book Club in the UK, where it will be featured in all WH Smith Book Shops throughout the summer.

Laura teaches playwriting at MIT where she was awarded the 2009 Levitan Prize for Excellence in Teaching. She has also been a frequent guest artist at Tufts, Harvard, Wellesley, and the University of Iowa.

Read more at:




28 thoughts on “Pinterest for Novelists: Can Pinterest Inspire Your Writing? By Author Laura Harrington

  1. I used Pinterest to post which actors I would love to play my book characters if my novel, The Boy Who Played Guitar was made into a movie. It really helped get it in focus for me and generated helpful feedback from readers. like you, at first I groaned in side at the thought of keeping up with more social media threads. but, fingers crossed, it seems ok – and the people and groups on there are a friendly bunch.


  2. Wow. What a fabulous post, Laura. I have been dragging my feet with this “additional” form of social media (but it is on my TO DO list). I never thought of using it as an organizational tool for a WIP, but it makes complete sense. And I ‘get’ how photography can inspire. I would say it’s the single most influential part of my writing process right now (as I take photos of my natural surroundings, which also happen to be the setting of my WIP). And what a great way to SHARE your photography with other writers/inspire them/generate new ideas.

    I also agree with this comment: “I do think that the author’s understanding of the visual world of their book is useful information for a designer to have.” And your comment about disappearing into visual beauty, and taking a rest from words all the time also resonated with me.

    Congrats on all the successes your book is amassing! The next one sounds WONDERFUL (your boards are fabulous).


    • Melissa, Thanks so much for this great comment and all of your observations as well.
      I love the thought of you taking photographs of your surroundings as inspiration. And I’m so glad you like my boards. I’ve been having a lot of fun with them.


    • Quotes and imagery – brilliant! Yes, I love that wonderful, sometimes unexpected synergy between words and image. Which is part of what I’m doing when I’m writing lyrics, too. The lyricist Yip Harburg (The Wizard of Oz, Finnian’s Rainbow, Brother Can You Spare a Dime) said the most wonderful thing. I’m paraphrasing, but … “Words can make you think a thought. Music can make you feel a feeling. But a song can make you feel a thought.”


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  4. Terrific post Laura. I never knew about Pinterest. Like many others, I’m maxed out on social media, but being a visual artist as well as a writer, I like this a lot! I’m so amazed by your boards. You have a fabulous eye, and I can only wonder how many thousands of hours you spent searching for and choosing the beautiful themed images on your boards. I think if I want inspiration all I need to do is look at your boards. (I’m sure my brain will come up with different stories). I’ve heard of writers creating collage as a starting point and grounding point for their novels. This is the same idea only better. (Imagine, no clutter, take it anywhere).

    I’m also looking forward to your book. If you write fiction like you do everything else, I’m sure it’s exceptional. Thanks for the inspiration.


  5. Love this post, Laura! I’m visual, too. I have Pinterest boards – some are filled with my personal loves and others are storyboards. I went to visit yours, followed you, and found so much inspiration among your pins. I’ve just finished the 1st draft of my novella set in 1918-1920. I also have begun plotting a series set in the late 1960s to early 1970s. You’ll see that I repinned many of the images you found. I’ve had trouble using the right keywords for searching these pictures.
    I use Pinterest for inspiration for my books (I am working on a Trilogy, also, set from 1918-1970, storyboard #1) and for connecting with readers and other writers.
    I love the idea of using for ideas to give those who do the book covers and trailers. That would make it so much easier.
    Since I’m at the editing stage with my novella, I’m reading your series of posts on revising. Couldn’t be more timely! Thanks!


    • Marcia, thanks for this great comment. Your work sounds amazing. I’m curious about whether you are finding the imagery you need for your work set in 1918 – 1920. And I’ll look forward to exploring your boards.


  6. Someone sent me to Pinterest for something specific, but I never thought of using it for a source of inspiration. Great idea!

    I have to tell you, I read Alice Bliss, and I kept having to put it down because it brought me to tears so many times. Lovely book. Congrats on the paperback!


    • Thanks so much for telling me about your experience reading Alice Bliss. That is so meaningful for me. My daughter had the same experience. She was one of my test readers, so I was a little worried when I saw her put the book down for days at a time. Finally I got up my courage to say, Listen, it’s really okay if the book is awful, I know it’s hard to read something that your mother wrote, but just let me know. Her response: I have to keep stopping because I can’t stand it – it’s almost too real.


  7. I too entered Pinterest with a sense of trepidation at “one more thing,” but I find it so visually pleasing to scroll through all the boards and not only get inspired but also learn more about friends via what they post! I haven’t yet used a board for specific details like you mention, but I do have a “writing inspiration” board which is a pretty eclectic mix of things that simply inspire me… great post giving great new ideas for how I can look at Pinterest!


  8. I didn’t think I’d be into Pinterest, and I haven’t had time to set up an account yet, but I’m really liking it more and more, the more I learn about it. I just partook a flash fiction contest in which the contest sponsor had us write flash fiction pieces based on her pins – I got so inspired by one I started a new novel off the picture and the idea it provoked! Storyboarding a book trailer – inspired! And now I wish I’d had a pinterest board to share with the cover artist to give her a better feel for my novel since it’s a cross-genre piece – not really chick lit, not really urban fantasy – somewhere in the middle. It was hard to describe it to her in the Info Sheet, but I think a pinterest board would have helped. Thanks for the great article and ideas!


    • That sounds like an amazing experience – writing from imagery. And how wonderful that it inspired a new novel. Wow!
      I’ll be curious to see if Pinterest does in fact make it easier for us to talk about visual ideas. Illustrating something is always less interesting than evoking it.


  9. I’m a couple days late to the game here, but just wanted to pipe in and thank Laura for the very informative post. I, too, am a huge visual thinker. Currently, my WIP is in a binder with oodles of real pictures scattered throughout. I also have a bird artist in my story so I loved your boards and selection of bird photos. I keep putting off Pinterest, for fear of the black hole, but something always niggles at me to sign up and experiment with it.

    One question (for anyone on Pinterest, actually): Is there a pool of pictures to choose from within Pinterest? or are people getting their pictures from all over the internet? This may sound ridiculous, but one of the biggest time wasters for me has been searching the internet to find just the right picture, and THEN having to jump through hoops to get the right attribution. I’d rather flip through magazines at home and not have to worry that I’m cutting and pasting them into my notebook illegally.


    • There is a pool of pictures at Pinterest – everyone else’s boards. You can search by following someone or you can search by keyword.
      But you have your finger right on the murky heart of it all – unattributed postings. For instance you will not be able to search Getty and pin those images because they are copyright protected. But if you purchase images from Getty for your website, for instance, then you can also “Pin” them.
      There are artists who are actively sharing their content on Pinterest and others who would prefer not to. We are still in the midst of trying to figure out who owns what in the world of digital content.


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