My Problem with Pinterest: 2013 365 Challenge #161

My scrapbook for Finding Lucy. All images are from istockphoto © David Meharey

My scrapbook for Finding Lucy. All images are from istockphoto     © David Meharey

Last year I wrote a post about my love affair with Pinterest. I discovered it fairly late and immediately saw the potential for writers: a way to explore characters, connect with readers and a means to replace the scrapbook for storing ideas.

I quickly filled several boards with all the images I had on characters, locations etc for my novels. Then I started reading about people being sued for breach of copyright, And I got cold feet. The boards were stripped of all but photographs I had taken, or ones with a Creative Commons licence. I had assumed (wrongly) that, because Pinterest links back to the pinned source, copyright wouldn’t be an issue.

I was gutted, as it made scrap-booking much easier. No printing, copying, storing: just a quick click and a note and there it was for everyone to see. But, as someone who has worked in compliance before, the idea of breaching copyright terrifies me. So I went back to saving bookmarks and putting images in Word files. For a while I did post blog images on Pinterest (most pictures on the daily blog are mine or CC) but I’ve forgotten my logon and now my boards are dormant and bereft.

Cover and key story line of Finding Lucy

Purchased Cover Image and key story line of Finding Lucy

Then, today, I found the scrapbook I made for my first (unfinished) novel, Finding Lucy, and it occurred to me that Pinterest would never replace a decent scrapbook.

Instead of mourning a missed opportunity I need to stop being lazy and keep up with my scrapbooks. I look at the detail of my original scrapbook and realise having the same for all my other novels would be amazing. Because it’s all there.

All the stuff that ensures continuity and depth and three-dimensional characters. Birthdays, star signs, house layouts, what characters look like – not just one look but many different looks (stock photography is great for that. All the images in my scrapbook above are the same girl as my cover image).

When I get the time to go back and finish Finding Lucy, (the first draft was caught short by the early arrival of my second child), I won’t have to trawl through Word files to remember who everybody is. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m not 100% certain even how old some of my protagonists are for my later novels. For Finding Lucy their birthdays pop up in my phone like real people (It’s Andrew Finch’s birthday today – one of the leading men from Finding Lucy!). I do have notes and character maps for all my books, but they’re buried in Word files. You can’t beat flicking through pages, scribbling notes in the margin. Time to turn my back on digital and do it the old-fashioned way. Pass me the glue..

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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Claire’s wrist throbbed by the time the Sat Nav announced her arrival. I had to sprain my left hand, didn’t I? It doesn’t really matter, these days, hurting the hand you write with. Who writes with a pen anyway? I can type as quick with both hands. Changing gear, though, that I can only do left-handed.

She curled her good hand around the swollen wrist and wondered if the hostel manager would be able to procure her some ice. What did the Doctor say? Something about rest, ice and elevation. Well, I’ve buggered the Rest part, let’s see what we can do about the other things.

Raising her wrist across her chest, Claire kicked the car door shut and headed into the building. As she took in the wide, white walls, the geometric lines and tall sash windows, Claire felt some of the pain ebb away. I might indulge myself and stay a day or two. What is it about these old buildings that exudes calm? Maybe I was born in the wrong century. I hope it’s as nice on the inside.

She walked through the door, and her soul lifted higher. It’s a refurb. God bless the YHA for investing in their properties. All through the building to her room it felt like a new hotel, not a Georgian mansion or a youth hostel. Everywhere she looked there were new fixtures and bright colours.

A bit too bright, she thought, as she headed for the bunk-beds, with their lime-green duvet covers and pillows. She gave the frame a rattle, as she claimed the last available bed. I’m glad I’m on top. It’ll be like sleeping on a boat, but I pity the poor person beneath me. This is going to shake like a bouncy-castle if I have a restless night.

With a look round the empty room, Claire decided it was time to ignore doctor’s orders and visit the bar. A whole weekend of wedding planning and baby talk had left her in dire need of a drink. At least it’ll help me sleep soundly. That should please the girl underneath.

 *

“What’ll it be?”

“Gin and tonic, please.”

Claire looked round the lounge, surprised to see it so full. “Busy, for a Sunday night?”

“It’s quiz night. Most of these are locals.”

Claire scanned the tables again and realised most people were huddled in groups, whispering together. A young Asian man caught her eye, and grinned. “Come and join our team, we could use some fresh blood. Then we might come better than last!”

There was a ripple of laughter from the surrounding tables, and Claire felt herself smile in response. She turned as the barman placed her drink on the counter and told her how much. As she retrieved some money from her purse, she tried to think of a polite way to decline the man’s invitation, should he renew it. For some reason her brain seemed unwilling to come up with an excuse.

Sure enough, as she turned, G&T in hand, the man gave a small wave and patted the seat next to him. Not for the first time, Claire’s feet moved of their own volition, and she found herself hovering in front of the man’s table. He was sat with two other men and a young girl who looked like she might faint if asked to speak.

“Hi, name’s Mizan.” The man who had invited her over half-rose from his seat and held out his hand.

Claire shook it quickly, unsure what to make of the greeting. Is he trying to chat me up, or just being friendly. Deciding it didn’t really matter either way, Claire perched on the spare seat.

She smiled round at the group and was relieved when the others nodded in greeting. Clearly inviting random women to join them wasn’t an unusual occurrence.

“What’s your topic then and, more importantly, what’s your name?” The man next to Mizan spoke, in the soft burr of the Scotsman.

With a flush, Claire ignored the heat generated by the sexy voice, and replied a little too loudly, “Claire, my name’s Claire. I don’t have a specialist subject, I’ve never been to a quiz night before.”

There was a babble of words as all three men exclaimed at her confession. She wondered if she would be ejected from the team, but her value now seemed to be as a curiosity, rather than a participant. Really, is it so amazing that I’ve never joined in a pub quiz? They don’t have them in wine bars and pubs aren’t really my thing.

She sat back, as the quiz master arrived at the front of the room, and supped her drink. The alcohol fizzed its merry way to her brain and spread warmly through her body, carrying with it a wave of contentment.

I won’t be able to contribute, but it beats talking about babies.

***

Basil Fawlty, a Cameo and Bugs: 2013 Challenge Day #13

Basil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers. A Classic moment in TV History.

Basil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers. A Classic moment in TV History.

Still germ-infested here. I only made it out of bed yesterday because my son tripped over and fell into a door and the adrenalin kicked in as I went to retrieve Mr Bump from the fridge. Today it was husband’s turn for a lie-in so managed to drag myself out of bed to watch TV with the kids. We only survived the day by taking them to town and wandering round until they were tired enough to sleep!

This is quite a long post because it’s mostly narrative rather than dialogue. I am finding it a challenge to keep the instalments interesting when sometimes things just have to happen to build the story and move Claire around. Hopefully I’ll get better at it! It’s teaching me about ‘conflict in every scene’ if nothing else…

I’m trying to work out how to set up a Pinterest Board so my followers can pin to it if they want. If anyone knows how to do it, please let me know! I’m also open to suggestions as to what I can call my novel (currently just called the YHA Novel. My titles are usually pretty unimaginative, considering I used to work in marketing.)

See if you can guess who the (posthumous) cameo is based on my previous posts…. 😉

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“Just start, you stupid stinking heap of junk!” Claire smacked her hand against the steering wheel, then winced as pins and needles shot up her arm. It felt like the wheel was made of iron rather than the cushioned leather she was used to.

“Don’t cry, don’t cry.” Claire inhaled deeply and stared out of the chipped windscreen. She was still parked outside her flat. No one had towed the car away in the 24 hours since the Skoda had arrived to replace her company Audi and so she had no choice but to use it to drive to her parents before heading up to Berwick to start her assignment.

Claire dropped her head back against the seat, wincing again at the hardness of the headrest. She had never been in a car with fewer comforts. She tried to recall what the man in blue overalls had told her. The words manual choke floated into her head, although she had no idea what they meant. Claire fished out her iPad and typed the words into Google. She scanned through the information on ehow and began searching around the steering wheel for something that looked like a lever she could pull. She found it eventually near the handbrake and yanked it out. When she turned the key this time, the engine spluttered into life with a throaty roar more suited to a tractor than a tiny tin-pot car.

Claire looked out the window, hoping none of the neighbours were watching. Even though she wouldn’t be back to the street for a year she didn’t really want anyone to question why her shiny company car had been traded for this East European relic.

Claire managed to find first gear, after a quick tour of third and fifth. The gear stick was a giant baton, like a cheerleader might twirl, and the distance between the gears could be measured in inches. It had been months since Claire had driven a manual and that had been a hire car. Bunny-hopping down the street nearly gave her whiplash as she tried to find the bite on the spongy clutch.

Claire headed out of town to the motorway, weaving through morning rush-hour. What possessed me to leave this early? Idiot. The truth was Claire didn’t know any other way than to get up at 5am.

Traffic ground to a halt as they approached a roundabout and Claire could hear the engine growling at her. Looking around helplessly she realised she hadn’t pushed the choke thing back in. She was sure ehow had said something about it only being needed for a few minutes and she’d been driving for twenty.

Damn this car.

She inched forward in the traffic wishing that she could get anything other than Commercial on the ancient radio. After the third advert for PPI Claims she turned it off and tried not to worry about the sounds coming from the engine behind her. She glanced in the rear mirror and saw something fogging her view even though the way was clear in front.

What…? Is that mist?

Claire turned to look over her shoulder. There was steam pouring from the boot. That can’t be good. She looked down at the dash and saw that the temperature needle was thrusting at the red. Bugger. Claire searched around to see if there was a way out to the hard shoulder, or better still a service station, but there was just stationary traffic all the way to the roundabout. Double Bugger.

Claire coaxed the car onto the roundabout and down to the motorway, praying they would make it to Knutsford services before it conked out entirely. The cars around her hemmed her in like a pack of lions surrounding a sickly calf. The horns started as she crept down the slip-road, not daring to go above twenty.

She was practically sobbing with relief by the time the Skoda crawled into the petrol station. Climbing out of the car Claire resisted the urge to kick it. If there had been a tree branch handy she could quite happily have bashed the bonnet like Basil Fawlty.

“Problem love?”

Claire looked up to see a kind face twinkling at her from beneath a motorbike visor. An elderly gentleman in a black leather jacket with a red scarf around his neck was just putting the petrol cap back on what looked like an old police bike. He pulled the disposable gloves off his hands and walked over to where she was slumped against the car.

“Overheated?” The man looked to where steam was still pouring out the back of the car.

“I guess.” Claire shrugged. “It’s not my car; I normally drive a 2011 Audi.”

“Ah, I imagine you’ve been having fun with this then.” She looked up to see if the man was being sarcastic but it seemed he genuinely meant it. Maybe if you ride a motorbike then even a Skoda seems comfortable. Claire never understood the appeal of being out in the cold and rain when you could be nestled in a heated leather seat.

“Did you turn the fan on?”

“The what?” Claire watched as the man reached into the driver’s seat and pulled a lever. The boot popped open and he went round to inspect the engine. His voice was muffled as he spoke from the depths of the car. “These old things often have a bodge for the fan. A manual switch under the dash.”

Claire walked closer so she could hear him better. She had learnt her lesson about paying attention. “You need to flick it on in traffic but remember to turn it off when you’re parked otherwise you’ll flatten your battery.”

He looked around the forecourt and located a bucket of water, then pulled on his large leather gloves and twisted off some part of the engine. A plume of steam whooshed out and the man leant away before turning back to pour some water into the hole.

“You’ll need to take it steady but I don’t think you busted anything. Are you a member of the AA?”

Claire looked puzzled. What did Alcoholics Anonymous have to do with her car overheating? Unless he was worried she might turn to drink in her anger and shame.

“The AA? Breakdown cover? I recommend it if you’re not used to driving an old car. Temperamental things. Need love and care.” He stood up and slammed the boot shut. “Bought my daughter one of these when she passed her test and she ended up taking the carburettor off when it broke.” He beamed with pride as if he could imagine nothing finer than a daughter who would get her hands dirty.

Claire looked down at her perfectly manicured nails and wondered if her father would be proud of her if she turned up at home covered in oil. Her mother would freak.

“How do I get AA?”

***

Pinteresting

Amanda Martin's Pinterest board for Pictures of LoveI’m always late.

I was late getting the kids to nursery this morning. We were late to a Christening yesterday, although, thankfully, so were the baby’s parents. I am always sliding into the chair at the doctors or the dentist hoping that they, too, are running late.

The thing I am usually proud of being late for is getting on a band wagon.

Who wants to jump on a band-wagon too quickly? 

Sometimes it’s because it’s a band wagon and I don’t want to climb on until rush hour has past and it’s a bit less noisy and smelly : I didn’t read any Harry Potter until the third book was out. I only saw Avatar last month and I’m resisting the urge to see what all the fuss is about with Fifty Shades of Grey.

Sometimes I’m late on a band wagon because I’m stupid. I don’t think something will work for me or I don’t see the point. Like Twitter and Pinterest. Now I’m still there with Twitter: I have an account and tweet occasionally (see, I know the terminology, just about) but I can’t get into it. I think maybe you need to be able to see it all the time on your phone or computer to make sense of it. My technology isn’t there yet. It leaves me feeling like the person arriving late at a party, who comes in mid-conversation and doesn’t understand the punch-line to a joke because they didn’t hear the beginning.

Pinterest though, now that’s a different matter. I originally dismissed Pinterest as not useful or relevant to me, although I enjoyed seeing my friends’ posts; links to lovely crafty things that I might have the time one day to do with my children. I hope. Then I read an article, sent to me by LinkedIn, about how photographs can help people engage with your brand. I don’t have a brand, but I am about to self-publish my first novel. So I thought I’d better see what Pinterest was all about.

And oh my how much do I love it?

I love photos anyway, photography being a former attempted-career. And I have always had scrapbooks for my novels (usually on my laptop but sometimes actual physical cut and paste ones.) For my first novel, Finding Lucy (currently unfinished because I inconveniently went into labour before completing the first draft) I have a giant scrapbook of pictures of the main characters, taken from stock photo sites. There are also biographies, timelines, star signs, pictures of their houses including floor plans for ease of writing scenes. It is my treasured possession.

I haven’t done a scrapbook for Pictures of Love, my current WIP, because if I get scissors or selotape out now, the kids are on me like ants on jam. So I have a file on my computer, full of photographs I took when I went to London to visit my locations in Fleet St, Earl’s Court and so on, as well as headshots of people I have found that look like my characters do in my head.

And now I can pin all those pictures in one place and carry it around with me anywhere I can get internet access. I can share it with my friends, show my beta readers what I think my characters look like and see if they agree.

I can put pictures on a site without worrying about copyright, as everything is sourced. [Update: it turns out this isn’t enough to stop you worrying about copyright. Since writing this post I have deleted most of the content from my Pinterest boards for fear of infringing someone’s copyright. I may be over-reacting, but better to be safe than sorry. You can read about someone who has learned this the hard way here and here (comment #76).]

And because everything is sourced I erase another problem – file location. For some of the images in my scrapbooks I wasn’t organised enough to keep internet URLs.

Idiot.

I have spent the last two days trying to track down all the images online (sorry family). And thankfully I have found most of them. My husband is not so lucky. I designed a fab (if I say so myself) front cover for his children’s novel Max and Shady, and got a copy printed for Christmas a couple of years ago. Only now he wants to publish it online and we can’t use the cover because we can’t find the image in order to purchase usage rights.

So Pinterest I thank you: for keeping me in tune with the zeitgeist, for giving me something fun to do while watching Euro 2012 (not that I need to worry about that so much now) and most of all for keeping me organised.

If you want to check out my Pinterest boards, to see what my sexy leading men (and women) look like, you can find them here.

Have you used Pinterest to plan out your novels or create your universes? How has it worked for you?