Alison Does Great Collage

About a million years ago (okay, probably about four or five years ago), I taught at a beach retreat and met Alison, a terrific writer who wanted to be a better writer. Toward the end of the retreat, I did a collage workshop and Alison caught fire and did something amazing. Then after the retreat, she did something even more amazing: she turned collaging into notetaking, plotting, and real art, which she showed me when I met her again at a local RWA meeting. I said, “Send me those so I can put some of this up on Argh,” and she did. Except she sent it to me at the exact moment I was changing from an old laptop to a new laptop and I missed a couple of e-mails when I changed over. Fast forward three years later and I’m finally cleaning off the old laptop because my now three-year-old newer one is having battery troubles, and there’s Alison’s e-mail with a jpg of her note cards and one of her collage pages. Look at this (click on the images to make them larger):

Don’t you want to read that book? I can’t stop staring at the collage. But she also does a kind of note collage thing that’s really smart. Here are some of her cards:

So here’s what Alison said about her process:

“On the scene cards:

*The act the scene’s in (with the title of the act, and the
protag-action sentence)

*A picture of something significant in the scene (pulled most of these
from my research files on Curio)

*The number, title, and synopsis of the scene

*The scene’s POV (also indicated by the color of the text box), the
protag and antag (happy to report I now have one of each in
almost–almost!–every scene), and the number of pages.

*The cards themselves are color-coded–a different color for each act

(Again, my heartfelt thanks for giving me a systematic way to think
about these things. Like you say, it’s not what I need to think about
when I’m finding the characters and story, but it sure does help with
revision. Doesn’t make revision easier–it’s harder in many ways–but
it makes it…hmm…worthwhile, I guess. Like having the right
brushes can make all the difference in a painting. Thank you.)

*On the back of the cards, I jot notes–things to add, change, look
up, research…”

Basically, Alison is freaking brilliant. And I want to frame her collage. And use her notecard method, I think. Alison, I owe you.

24 thoughts on “Alison Does Great Collage

  1. Apart from that rich visual imagery… the card titled ‘Where the pain is, Betsey gets reassured, Charlie is disappointed,’ hooks me in.

    It leaves me in that big why, why, what happens next mode.

    Thanks for sharing Alison and Jenny.

    How do you time new methodologies in a way that syncs so well with what I need?

  2. In addition to the interesting visual style and clear organization notes the shape of the little punches mean that Alison uses Circa notebooks (aka Rollabind) a wonderful system for making custom notebooks. They cause my nerdy little organized heart go pitter-pat. Seriously they’re almost as good as Post-Its. See how the card organizer will fit into the notebook with the collage as cover, then the little cards can be collected and reorganized in order in their own small card-size notebook? Geek, geek…

    1. Ah, Kat, you have a sharp eye. I lusted over the Circa pages in Levenger catalog for years, years before I finally broke. Now I have my own Circa hole punch. I made my collage notebook-size because at the time, I didn’t reliable internet service, and frequently had to transport everything to the library to research. Thank you, Jenny and everyone, for the kind comments. You’ve made my day!

  3. Wow! I’m totally saving this post for future projects. It just makes such great sense. What a great system, and that collage is outta this world. Just WOW!

    Thanks for sharing, Jenny!!

  4. Awesome collage. After blowing it up and studying it, I’m ready for the book. Does it exist yet?

      1. And you will tell us where we can buy it shortly after, yes? (In book form, with paper pages and everything right?)

    1. With my blurry morning eyes, I read this as “awesome college. After blowing it up” and I was very confused. 🙂

      1. LOL! Well, when you look at it that way… too funny. (and my whole brain is blurry till at least noonish.)

  5. That is so cool. There’s a lot of visual imagery that gives cues for what to write.

    And yeah, I’m with Julie about we need to know as soon as that book is published.

  6. Wow, that collage is just… Wow!

    It makes me want to go for a stroll on the boardwalk while eating salt-water taffy.

  7. (-: Excellent! I need to get going on my own stuff, and maybe this can kickstart it . . . .


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