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Brainstorming Techniques for Writers & Bloggers

I had an epiphany recently that vastly improved my approach to writing and blogging. I’d somehow fallen under the notion that the only way I knew of to generate  writing/blogging ideas was to free-write (write without stopping or editing) until the answers came. And, yes, that kind of worked, but I was getting frustrated with having to write so many blind pages. Free writing didn’t always seem that efficient.

The  best solution is usually the simplest one. There are TONS of brainstorming techniques other than free writing. I knew this but wasn’t using them. Using a variety of brainstorming techniques mixes up the brainstorming process, makes it fun and interesting, and maybe even saves time.

Maybe you’re working on an outline but have a plot hole you’re struggling with, or you’re planning a blog post that’s missing  key ideas. Try some of these brainstorming techniques to fill in the gaps. You probably already know this, but when brainstorming remember to never censor yourself. The BEST ideas come right after the most outlandish ones. Good luck! –Eve Messenger

BRAINSTORMING TECHNIQUES FOR WRITERS & BLOGGERS by Eve Messenger

ROLE PLAY

1. Perspective Shift

Approach your brainstorming topic as if you were in a different place or time, or even as if you were a different person. What if you were in your favorite hiding spot as a kid? What if you were on Mars, in the middle of an ancient forest, in a great library, or sitting at a Paris cafe with  Lost Generation writers? What might your approach be if you were your favorite writer? What if you were the best you living life in your dream situation?

2. Attribute Change

This is like Perspective Shift, except you’re only imagining changing one aspect of yourself. Approach your brainstorming topic as if one attribute about you is different: gender, race, socioeconomic status, religion, ethnicity, nationality, profession, etc.

3. Super Power

Imagine you have a super power that lets you get right to the root of your answer. Explore your topic from that super power perspective. If your topic feels murky, imagine you’re Aqua-man (or Aqua-woman), who can see clearly beneath the water and swims quickly and powerfully toward the solution.

BE A REBEL

4. The Opposite Approach

It’s remarkable what good ideas can be sparked by exploring bad ones. Deliberately try to cause problems for your topic. Now write down those problems and see what solutions come.

5. The Five Whys

In this brainstorming technique, you get to be the little kid who asks “why” ad nauseam. Starting with your brainstorming topic/problem, ask why at least five times: “Why is this happening?” Answer. “Why is that happening?” Answer. And so on.

MIX IT UP

6. Z to A

Write whatever comes to mind starting with each letter of the alphabet, Z to A. For example, let’s say you’ve got a lot of half-ideas floating around in your head and you want to solidify which you should write on. First, solidify your question: “What should I write about in my next blog entry?” Then open up the floodgates to your subconscious and let the ideas flow. Each idea you write must begin with the next successive letter of the alphabet.  The trick in brainstorming is to not beat yourself up about bad ideas. In this brainstorming technique, you’ll come up with 26 ideas. Pick the three best ones.

Zoo animals in YA fiction.

Young people are frustrated by not being properly represented in YA fiction.

X-ray closely the dark underbelly of  publicity for YA books.

and so on until you reach “A”. . .

7. Cubing – D/C/A/A/A/A

Approach your brainstorming topic from six different angles:

  1. Describe
  2. Compare
  3. Associate (what does your topic make you think of?)
  4. Analyze (what is your topic composed of?)
  5. Apply it (how can your topic be used?)
  6. Argue for or against your topic

8. List

This brainstorming technique is simple and straightforward. Just make a list of the story/passage/character ideas and elements you want to convey.

9. Fill in the Gap

You probably already have some solid ideas for your novel or blog post, but now you’re looking to fill in the gap. Make connections from your solid ideas to the one that’s still missing. Build the bridge. Fill in the hole.

10. Commonalities

Parallel your topic with other similar topics. What does your topic have in common with what other writers have written? List the commonalities and apply them to the topic you’re brainstorming.

11. Sentence Starters

Give yourself sentence starters.
“What if ___________.”
“The way this will work is if ______________.”
“The best solution to this problem is  ________________.”

HAVE FUN WITH SCHOOL SUPPLIES

12. Mind Mapping

This brainstorming technique is probably the one many  of us  learned about in school. Get a big piece of paper or a dry erase board, In the center, write your brainstorming topic. Without censoring yourself, write down all ideas related to that topic–the sillier and more outlandish the better. After exhausting all ideas, start connecting them and branching other ideas off of them.

13. Starburst

Draw a large six-pointed star. At the tip of each point write: who, what, when, where, how, and why. In the middle write your topic/goal/problem. Now answer each of your “tip” questions.

14. Index Cards

Get a stack of ten or so index cards. On each one, jot down a key image or idea from your brainstorming topic. Now shuffle the cards, pull out one at a time, read your idea/image, and  brainstorm responses.

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ARC Review: THE CUTAWAY by Christina Kovac #amreading

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Hello, fellow book junkies! A Goodreads friend really liked The Cutaway by Christina Kovac, so I ventured out of my YA zone and, crossing my fingers, requested an ARC on Netgalley. I got a copy (yay!), and totally enjoyed it. 🙂

The Cutaway is a fast-paced, engrossing adult mystery whose biggest strengths are its top-notch writing, a noble protagonist, and the many fascinating insights Kovac (a career journalist) shares about the world of television journalism.

The setting is Washington, D.C., known as “The District,” the protagonist Virginia Knightly, a newswoman with a painful past and a near-photographic memory. When a young female lawyer goes missing, Virginia vaguely recalls cutaway footage of the woman from years before. As Virginia pursues the story on this missing person investigation and uncovers why the elusive footage is important, she enters dangerous territory, both professionally and personally. But Virginia is not a woman to be trifled with–if anyone can compile a top news story while maintaining her integrity, Virginia will.

Though I guessed the villain’s identity a little earlier than I’d hoped I would, overall, the plot was suspenseful and solidly constructed. I’m definitely open to reading more books by Christina Kovac, and I predict The Cutaway will do well when it comes out in March 2017.

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— Eve Messenger

Halloween Book Tag!

Hello, fellow book junkies. ‘Tis the season to be spooky, so I’m super thankful to thegrishalieutenant for this awesome Halloween Book Tag! 

CARVING PUMPKINS-What book would you carve up and light on fire?

I’m mad at The Bone Witch for being so darn aimless, especially after I’d looked so forward to reading it.

TRICK OR TREAT – What character is a trick? What character is a treat?

For this category I chose two different blond guys. . .

Trick

Eli Cardale from V.E. Schwab’s Vicious. Every character in this book is as morally ambiguous as can be, but Eli Cardale is one of the biggest dicks tricks.

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Treat

Matthias Helvar from Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows. This hunky blond from the icy north gives me the shivers in a good way.Definitely a treat.

CANDY CORN – What’s a book that’s always sweet?

Most books I read these days have somewhat of a dark edge, so I’ll have to reach way back into my reading history (and even farther back historically since this book was published in 1902!) for a riches to rags story I’ll never not be touched by: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

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GHOST – What character would you love to visit you as a ghost?

It might be interesting to be visited by the ghost of Karou from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone. I think she’d show me interesting things.
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DRESSING UP IN COSTUME – What character would you want to be for a day?

I’d want to be Nimona from the graphic novel by Noelle Stevenson, because Nimona gives a total of zero f–ks, and I would like to know what that feels like.
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WIZARDS AND WITCHES – What is your favorite Harry Potter moment?

When Harry Potter first takes the train to Hogwarts on track nine and three quarters and meets Ron and Hermione. It’s just so darn magical.

BLOOD AND GORE- What book was so creepy you had to take a break from it?

It’s a tie between these two books because the idea of pure, cold evil terrifies me like nothing else.

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Happy Halloween!

XOXO, Eve Messenger

I tag:
Jesalin @ –Blogging Everything Beautiful
Amy @ Every Book You Need to Read and More
Britt @ Geronimo Reads
Orang-utan Librarian
Emma the Book Lover
Caitlyn @ Rhodes of Reading
Amanda @ Cover2CoverMom
Alyssa @ Alyssa is Reading
Cinderzena @ Cinderzena Blogs
Jessica @ The Mud and Stars Book Blog

Eleven Ways to Motivate Yourself to Write

Dreaming up stories and watching them come to life on the page is pure magic. It really is. I love being a writer. So why is it that some days facing my manuscript is the hardest thing to do in the world?

Because writing good books is HARD.
lisa-simpson-writing.gifWriting and editing can feel like wading through quicksand. Life’s distractions can pull so hard away from the writing desk that it feels impossible to muster the mental energy to write.

That’s when I pull out the big guns.
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When my writing resistance is at its highest, I take out my writing motivation checklist. If I’m lucky, I’ll only need to do a couple of items before I feel pumped enough to write. Other times–when writing-resistant inner me throws a particularly nasty tantrum–I might need to hit all ten items on the darn list.

Ultimately, the list helps me overcome resistance to writing. Maybe it will help you, too. And if you’ve discovered other effective ways to motivate yourself to write, I’d love to hear about them in the comments! 🙂 — Eve Messenger

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CHECKLIST FOR MOTIVATING YOURSELF TO WRITE
by Eve Messenger

#1 Breathe.
So simple yet so effective. You’d be amazed how much the simple act of focused breathing can perk you up to write.

#2 Get your energy up.
-Listen to a song that gets you pumped.
-Do jumping jacks.
-Flap your hands.
-Dance.

#3 Make sure your physical needs are met–hunger, thirst, room temperature, etc.
I’ll admit, sometimes I’m not that self-aware. I might think I’m resisting writing but am actually hungry, so I grab a quick bite and then I’m good to go.

#4 Acknowledge your emotions.
We’re writers; we get down about things, but we can’t let that hold us back from our dreams. If emotions are dragging you down, acknowledge them, call a friend for a quick “attagirl,” then move on.

#5 Set a specific time to write.
Make sure it’s a block of time that works reasonably within your schedule. When the clock strikes that hour, sit your bottom down in a chair and write. No matter what.

#6 Give yourself a goal to work toward.
For example:
-write 500 words
-edit for one hour
-edit X number of manuscript pages.

#7 Promise yourself a reward.
A bowl of ice cream, a nap, Netflix (and chill?), a new pair of shoes, even a sticker will do. Give yourself something special to look forward to after you’ve tackled your writing goal.

#8 Reassure yourself it’s okay to write badly.
As John Greene puts it: “I give myself permission to suck.” What a freeing notion! Even if your first pass at a daunting writing task turns out to be weak, at least you’ve managed it, and more often than not, your efforts won’t turn out badly at all.

#9 “Sprint it out.”
Tell yourself all you have to do is blaze through as many words as you can during a five-minute word sprint.  Even if all you get out are those words, you’ve accomplished writing for the day. More often than not, you’ll find that once the momentum has started, more writing will come.

#10 Block distractions. 
-Block social media.
-Shut off your cell phone.
-Turn off the TV.
-In a noisy environment, use earplugs or noise blocking headphones.
-If your home is one big distraction (AKA kids, chores, bills), get thee to a library or coffee shop. If you can afford it, trains are a super fun place to write. Writing in different locales reduces distractions and can add adventure to the writing process.

#11 Visualize your ultimate goal.
If your passion is to get your stories out into the world, then visualize fans tweeting and emailing to say how much they enjoy your writing. If your dream is to have a successful writing career, see yourself as a successful, published author. Remind yourself you’re worthy of happiness and success. Say your affirmation out loud. Then sidle up to that computer and write your dreams into reality.

Happy writing!

Eve Messenger

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The Sunshine Blogger Award

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Hello, fellow book junkies! Well, I’m enjoying home-cation this weekend while my family’s away, so I’m reading and writing like a nut and now get to answer “Sunshine Blogger Award” questions from one of my favorite bloggers on the planet, Shannon @ Clockwork Bibliophile . Not only does Shannon hail from the #1 place in the world I want to visit (Scotland), she has a very pretty blog with tons of insightful posts about books, and she’s so nice and friendly, too.

Rules

  1. Thank the people/person who nominated you.
  2. Answer the questions from your nominators.
  3. Nominate eleven other bloggers and give them eleven questions.

Shannon’s Questions

  1. What was the very first book you read? (if you can remember)
    I totally did not expect this question. Let’s see. . . I’m pretty sure there was a Mother Goose collection of nursery rhymes pretty early on in my childhood. More than anything, I remember carting around an activity book full of mazes, coloring pages, dot-to-dots, etc. I loved those things.
  2. Why is your favorite genre of books your favorite?
    Another good question! My favorite genre of books is YA fantasy because I appreciate great imagination so much, especially magic in all its variations, and I enjoy heights of emotion found in YA stories. I also like watching characters grow, making connections, finding themselves.
  3. If you were to write a book, where would it be set? (place, time period etc)
    The stories I write are usually set in some blended version of America and Japan, either in the present day or some mythological past. I’ve set stories in suburban neighborhoods, towns, cities, and often in natural settings like mountains or woods.
  4. Have you ever felt connected to a character because they have experienced something you have?
    For sure. I’m too shy to specify the book and character, but in a book I read not that long ago I definitely related to the emotional pain the character suffered.
  5. What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?
    To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s spot on true to the book.
  6. What is your favorite book-to-tv show adaptation?
    Though I haven’t read the actual books–and probably won’t–I think Game of Thrones is pretty spectacular.
  7. What was the last book you read and did you enjoy it?
    The last book I read was The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North. “Appreciated” might be the most apt word to describe how I felt about reading it. It was a brilliantly written, four-star read. If I’d felt a little more invested in the main character it would have been a five-star book for sure.
  8. What’s your least favorite book that you’ve ever read?
    *stall, stall* While I get that he’s a skilled writer, I’m not a big fan of Ernest Hemingway’s minimalist, testosterone-fueled stories.
  9. Who is your favorite blogger and why?
    Oh, gosh, there are so many bloggers I adore, for myriad reasons, but I’m going to say Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand Stories is my favorite blogger because she’s been with me since I first started blogging, she’s taught me so much about YA books, and she makes me laugh.
  10. What’s the prettiest cover on your shelf?
    The cover of The Star-Touched Queen catches my eye from across the room all the time.
  11. What is a random fact about you that people might not know?
    I speak fluent Japanese.

I Nominate…

Sabrina Marsi
Nazahet @ Read Diverse Books
Michelle, Books and Movie Addict
Dee @ The Bookish Khaleesi
Stephanie @ Your Daughter’s Bookshelf
Astra @ A Stranger’s Guide to Novels
Cristina @ My Tiny Obsessions

My Questions –

I hope I don’t get into trouble with the Sunshine Blogger police but Shannon’s questions were SO GOOD I’m sending them out again to the next round of Sunshine Bloggers.

  1. What was the very first book you read? (if you can remember)Why is your favorite genre of books your favorite?
  2. Why is your favorite genre of books your favorite?
  3. If you were to write a book, where would it be set? (place, time period etc)
  4. Have you ever felt connected to a character because they have experienced something you have?
  5. What is your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?
  6. What is your favorite book-to-tv show adaptation?
  7. What was the last book you read and did you enjoy it?What’s your least favorite book that you’ve ever read?
  8. Who is your favorite blogger and why?
  9. What’s the prettiest cover on your shelf?
  10. What is a random fact about you that people might not know?

The Real 7/7/7 Challenge #amwriting

7-7-7 challenge

Talented super writer/reader ladies Melanie Noell Bernard  and Elena Johansen both tagged me for the 7/7/7 Challenge, so does this mean I should do a 14/14/14 tag? Okay, not.

When I first saw this tag (two months ago, yes, it’s taking me that long to get caught up on book tags)I assumed I was supposed to type 7 lines from page 7 of a book I am READING. Of course, the directions clearly state the passage should come from MY OWN work in progress, which I didn’t notice until after I’d already located and typed out 7 lines from The Casquette Girls.

Anywho. . . here’s the not-exactly-earth shattering passage from my work in progress, a modern day YA paranormal that’s been a ton of fun to write.

Rules

  • Go to page 7 of your work-in-progress.
  • Scroll down to line #7.
  • Share the next 7 lines of your manuscript in a blog post.
  • Tag 7 other writers (with blogs) to continue the challenge.

Eve’s 7/7/7 Snippet

“Adam?”

From the other side of the door, Adam clears his throat and answers in a voice much lower than I’ve ever heard from him. “What is it, Callie?”

It feels strange to hear him say my name since he’s never used it before.

“How’s the cat?” I ask.

“Not. . . good.” Adam still hasn’t opened his bedroom door.

“I. . . uh, want to tell you something.”

Nominees

Kelly F. Barr

Herminia @ aspiringwriter22Author Kelly Miles

Mackenzie Bates

Jon Stephens @ Start Your Fiction

 

Millie Schmidt

Danielle @ The Caffeinated Writer

To Publish Books, You Must Write #amwriting

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In the mad rush of writing, reading, and living life, it’s important to pause and reflect because from reflection comes awareness, and from awareness comes new goals. Setting new goals helps me continually improve myself both as a writer and as a human being. It isn’t always easy, especially because there are so many things I could improve upon. Where to start?

I decided to reflect upon why I was able to write twice as many words during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) last year than I did this year.  This November, I crossed the NaNoWriMo 50k finish line with 1,535 words to spare. Yay, I’m a “winner,” but it’s a far cry from last year’s 112,000 words. What changed? Here are some of the things I did differently during NaNoWriMo last year.

-I wrote every morning.

-I frequently left the house to write. Coffee houses, the public library, and the university library all worked well.

-I had not yet started blogging and tweeting. Surprise, social media sometimes draws my attention away from writing.

-I wasn’t reading nearly as many books. This November I read eight novels while participating in NaNoWrimo. In order to do this, I had to cut out pretty much all TV shows and movies–which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

-I was a lot more interested in last year’s novel than the one I wrote during NaNoWriMo this year.

-I wrote with 100% carefree abandon. This year I was a tad bit more careful so the resulting first draft wouldn’t be quite such a traumatic mess.

-I didn’t have other areas of my life crowding out my writing time so much. Oh, dear reader, over the past couple of months I had a major personal thing happening and, boy, did it take me emotionally and physically away from writing, but hey, no excuses, right?

So. . . this year, things changed. Life does that. In reflecting on the differences in productivity between NaNoWriMo past and present, I’ve decided to:

  • Make it a priority to reestablish a morning writing routine.
  • Be more mindful of the time I spend on social media. I’m SO grateful for the kind and talented writers and readers I’ve connected with through blogging and social media. They have made the pursuit of a writing career so much less lonely. And I’ve learned so much about publishing and writing, as well as great new books to read. I’ve also gotten a good grasp on what makes a good query letter (thanks especially to literary agent Janet Reid of Query Shark). And I have assembled a long list of excellent literary agents with whom I’d like to work, thanks to lots of internet research, agents’ blogs and tweets, and industry insights gleaned from sites like querytracker.net. Those are all good things to be aware of, and to be prepared to execute well when the time comes. But…

To publish books, you must write.

Though I’m not at a place where I feel the need to set limits on my social media time, I do realize that–as a person whose dream, goal, and mission is to publish successful YA books–more of my free time should be spent writing.

If you’ve come up with good ways to create a balance for yourself between social media and writing, I’d love to hear about them.

–Eve Messenger

Reading While Writing – Is it a Bad Thing?

NTSNBN

There’s this YA dystopian thriller I’ve been dying to read.  Very hyped, mentioned in lots of blogs, highly ranked on Goodreads. I won’t mention the title because — call me superstitious, or maybe respectful or polite — I won’t publicly write negative things about another writer’s published work. Who knows, maybe you’ll guess it from the references I’m about to make. Anyway, I was excited to read this book, but I stopped myself.  I stopped myself from reading any fiction.  Why? Because I’ve heard from other writers that reading while you write can be detrimental.

But reading is the shizzle!

So two days ago I picked up this hyped novel-that-shall-not-be-named (henceforth known as NTSNBN), and I began to read.   Even though I’m working on my own novel.

And it’s been really helpful!  Possibly because NTSNBN is in a different enough genre from my own YA fantasy adventure. Or maybe because it’s a good book but not so brilliant that I’m utterly intimidated. Or maybe (and probably most significantly) because the plot and characters of my own novel are well-formed enough that reading someone else’s novel — both as a positive and negative example — gives me ideas on how to enhance what I already have.

Back when I was tapping and scribbling out the nucleus of a plot in coffee houses, libraries, and all the other free places writers and homeless people hang out, reading someone else’s novel might have been detrimental to my process. Consciously or subconsciously, another writer’s plots and characters could have crept their way into my own writing.   (Though I probably will take the chance and try it while writing the next novel.)

After two days of reading NTSNBN — while working on the 2nd/3rd major revision of my own — here’s how reading someone else’s novel has been beneficial. Throughout the narrative, NTSNBN gives a very clear sense of the main character’s emotional state. It contains too much a lot of internal self-talk. With a keener awareness of this, the next time I sat down to work on my own book, my characters started spilling their emotional guts a lot more.

I like that.

The author of NTSNBN also employs several quirky stylistic devices, such as replacing number words with the alphanumeric, as in ‘2’ instead of ‘two.’  Also, there are long passages that deliberately avoid commas. Thirdly, there is a lot lot lot of  too much  striking out of lines and words, which signify the MC censoring his/her own thoughts.   Though I probably won’t use those devices in my own writing, the stylistic experiments definitely inspire me to try new things.

Lastly, NTSNBN reads really fast. All the chapters flow really well, each with its own grabber that takes you right into the heart of the scene and an ending that propels you further into the story. All wonderful things to keep in mind while revising and polishing my own work.

E.B.M.