Which parts of the internet are you grateful for? Our Year of the Novel blogger, Caro, muses about the sites she’s found useful for research and inspiration.

I think I speak for most writers when I say the internet gives us a lot to be grateful for. Did your character run away to the Appalachian wilderness? Flicker can help work out what that should look like. Need to know how much a dugong weighs? Our buddy Jeeves can help. Trying to empathise with a character who’s a part-time cowpuncher? Thank Google you’re here, search engine.

Chat rooms and discussion forums provide endless fodder for characters and interests, while there is barely a subculture or movement on Earth you can’t get some insight into online. But lately, the site writers seem to be turning to is Pinterest, which (for the uninitiated), is like a virtual bulletin board of things you like.

Of course, there are plenty of marketing opportunities here – Penguin’s Pinterest boards are a delightful ode to book-loving, while writers like Gypsy Thornton use it to bring genres (in this case Fairytales) to life. There are also applications for reader engagement and book recommendations, and it’s yet another platform to connect and network like-minded wordsmiths.

But the reason I love it is that it’s almost purely visual, and for those of us who write from imagery it’s the perfect way to collect inspiration. You can gather pictures that speak to your characters, settings and themes on an accessible moodboard – and rearrange them at whim. It’s virtual image-doodling, and it’s a lot of fun to boot.

Walt Disney described pictures as the most “universally understood language”. Barthes said photographs could puncture the soul. Any number of writers use images to prompt and instigate their work, and plenty of writing texts advocate it as a technique to get past writers’ block. So if you’re not already on Pinterest, these are good reasons to give it a go – and if you are, you’ll at least have solid justification for a bit of (constructive) writerly procrastination online.

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