creativity

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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Vicious, Inspiration & Cinderella w/a Girl

I’m still madly in love with V.E. Schwab’s writing. Just finished reading Vicious, and what that woman did to the superhero genre. . . I hardly knew who to root for. It was crazy. I got so invested in the story and characters.

Speaking of Victoria V.E. Schwab, did you know that she wears a bracelet emblazoned with the letters WWNGD? The letters stand for “What Would Neil Gaiman Do?” Just as Gaiman is her role model, Schwab is mine. She isn’t afraid to write books in different genres, she works hard, she is gracious, and she is successful. That is why I wear this every day.

WWVSD

My “WWVSD” bracelet inspires and reminds me to work tirelessly toward my goal of becoming a successful published author.

Over the past few years I’ve written four novels. The fifth one (five has always been my lucky number)–which recently started writing–has grabbed hold of me and won’t let go. In a previous post  I mentioned I’d like to read a story in which Cinderella ends up, not in a cliched relationship with Prince Charming, but in a loving relationship with his dark, lovely, girl-knight sister. Well, guess what? Now I’m writing it! Ironically, I’m not a big romance reader, so in addition to romance there’s magic, a ghost, a betrayal, an invasion, and the coolest council of women magicians who hold even more power than the royal house. Whenever I write about the council it’s like stepping into Beyonce’s song, Run the World (Girls). Am having so much fun with this novel.

Alrighty, now I’d better get back to work. Yeah, that’s where I’m typing this–sorry, boss.

–Eve Messenger

Sunshine Blogger Award

Yay, I get to be a “Sunshine Blogger” and answer some questions thanks to friendly, super smart, book-loving  Lila @ The Bookkeeper’s Secrets. Lila is truly a wonderful book blogger, so I hope you get to check out her blog.

The Rules:

  • Answer the 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
  • Nominate some wonderful bloggers and write 11 questions for them to answer.

Lila’s Questions:

1. What/who makes you smile the most? Acts of kindness and my hilarious daughter make me smile the most.

2. Would you ever get a tattoo? If so, of what? I’m not planning on getting body art any time soon, but if I did it would be a tattoo of my good luck symbol, a hummingbird.

3. What do you think heaven looks like? I think heaven is unimaginable for us mere mortals.

4. What’s the first item on your bucket list? Good question! The number one item on my bucket list is a trip to Europe. I have a special affinity for Scotland and Norway and am forever wanting to include Scotland as a setting in my stories.

5. If you could ride the Whirling Teacups at Disneyland with one person, alive or dead, who would you choose?  I would, for sure, ride the Whirling Teacups with someone who doesn’t mind me throwing up on them.
https://i1.wp.com/i.imgur.com/9sK8ZDV.gif

6. Plaid and polka dots or stripes and florals–which combination is more visually appealing? Stripes and florals, definitely. Spring flowers are my favorite!https://i0.wp.com/bodyonept.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/spring-flowers.jpg

7. What does licorice taste like? (I ask this out of genuine curiosity as, due to my celiac disease, I can’t have licorice 😉  Black licorice tastes like bitter gasoline (to me), so you’re really not missing anything there.

8. Coke or Pepsi? On the rare occasions that I drink soda, I am Team Coke all the way.

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9. Are you enjoying yourself atm? As a matter of fact, I am. 🙂

10. Is there a pattern to these questions? If so, what? Ggaaghh, I find no pattern to these questions.

11. What is life??? Life is what we try to live to the fullest by maintaining connections with good people and exploring our talents.

I Nominate:

Annika @ Annika Perry’s Writing Blog
The Orang-utan Librarian
Michelle, Books & Movies Addict
Michelle @ The Bibliophile Struggle
A Stranger’s Guide to Novels
Nazahet @ Read Diverse Books
Beth @ Betwixt-These-Pages
Jess @ –Blogging Everything Beautiful–
Larkin @ Wonderfilled Reads
Nicole @ Sorry, I’m Booked
Alyia @ A.J. Helms

Eve’s Questions:

  1. What are three things that make you laugh?
  2. What’s your favorite daydream?
  3. Would you rather have the power to shapeshift or to make yourself invisible?
  4. What’s one of your favorite stupid pun jokes? (Example: “Why did Adele cross the road? To say hello from the other side.”)
  5. Do you like stickers?
  6. What’s your favorite social media and why?
  7. Do you sleep with the light on or off?
  8. If you performed in a talent show, what would your talent be?
  9. Have you ever handwritten a letter? If yes, to whom did you mail it and when?
  10. What’s your favorite thing to do with friends?
  11. Big or small, what’s something you’ve done that you’re really proud of?

Library-Hopping Adventure #amwriting #amreading

Huntington Beach library.jpg

Huntington Beach Public Library – As an elementary school student, I used to ride my bike here and spend the afternoon reading books and magazines.

For a huge book nerd like me, libraries are a retreat, a sanctuary even. Sometimes, like today, a library can even be an adventure. Some libraries are tiny, old, and in need of fresh paint. Others are vast, with elevators, conference rooms, fancy patrons’ plaques on the wall, row after row of study carrels, sometimes with gardens and statuary on the grounds outside. As long as friendly books line the walls, I’m happy; I feel safe.

When I have time, I like to leave the house to write. With fewer distractions and a deliberate plan that includes getting dressed up and packing supplies (laptop, bottled water, sometimes notes), I usually accomplish a lot more. In the evenings and early mornings, I’ll write at Starbucks, but libraries are my preferred destination. Usually I write in our awesome, recently remodeled local library or sometimes at the university library a 15-minute walk from home. On the weekends, I might visit the regional library in the next city where a friend works as a children’s librarian.

I live 15 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, but today I happened to be in a coastal town called Corona del Mar. I had my laptop with me, so after completing my errand I decided to go on a little writing adventure to a library I’d never visited before. Thanks to Siri, it was easy to find the nearest library just a couple of miles away. I took the elevator up to the second floor and set up my laptop in a cozy alcove near a window overlooking a perfect Southern California day. A short while later a woman joined me in the alcove. She tapped away at her laptop, too, and it was nice to have writerly company.

I had so much fun today on my mini-adventure to a new library that now I want to library-hop every week. Maybe, with each new library I write in, I’ll take a picture and post it on my blog.

–Eve Messenger

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

Inspiration: Which Artist Do You Wish You Could Write Like?

Janelle Monae

Musician and performance artist Janelle Monae makes music the way I want to write: totally out of the box and genuine.  If you have not watched her video for the song Tightrope, please do not pass “go;” head directly to YouTube. . . or watch it here. 🙂

 

Talk about truth and singing from the heart, watch what happens starting at 1:33 when Janelle Monae sings, “I was made to believe there’s something wrong with me.” She released this video as-is. Why? Because it’s deeply honest.

 

Which artist would you like to write fiction like?

What if You’re Not a Natural Born Storyteller? #amwriting

light-bulb-over-head2

Thankfully, one of the many great things about writing novels is that there are unlimited opportunities to revise and rewrite until we get our stories right—to make them great, even. Writers who are natural storytellers (those lucky devils) might have an easier time coming up with great plot ideas, but those of us who aren’t necessarily born storytellers have more work to do. We are readers and lovers of novels, so we know when a story is good. It just might take more time for us to get our own stories to that point.

Writer Do Nots

This advice is so spot on that more writers deserve to see it.

Samurai Novelist

Take this advice to heart:

  1. Never write a novel to prove something.
    If you are going to be a novelist, then just do your job. Publishing a novel is not a way to prove something. The objective of a work of fiction is to transport the reader to another world created in print. It is not meant to impress people who have no intention of being transported and probably only will be looking for faults in your work anyway.
  2. If you write for your own therapy, it’s not for publishing.
    Every writer has a book that is not meant to be published. We might call them private journals, notes, fiction for my own consumption, whatever. If you write something for yourself, keep it to yourself. There is nothing shameful about writing something that cannot be published. And things that are written for your mental well being rarely accomplishes the objective…

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Be Outlandish. Write Books with Wings #amwriting #nanowrimo

fox2bsmelling2bflower

Photo credit: front-porch anarchist 2012

 

As a writer, here are some things I try to remind myself.

Reach out for, and welcome, scary, crazy ideas because those can be the most brilliant. (Ask Vincent, Sylvia, F. Scott, and the gajillion artists who’ve come before us.)

Don’t be afraid to be outlandish. Think outside the box. Believe there is no box. When writing, allow yourself the freedom to freewheel unfettered through a galaxy of creativity. God, I love that part.

Revise with confidence. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t immediately get things right. Big, scary, daunting, multi-faceted, novel revision is a marathon, not a sprint–a marathon during which you get to stop and smell flowers, daydream, listen to music, and read other books (how cool is that?), with the ultimate goal of crossing the finish line with a novel you can be proud of.

Polish your novel until it has wings to fly: to overworked literary agents who perk up because you’ve written exactly what they’re looking for; to readers who are moved by your words, excitedly turn each page, and feel a sense of loss when they reach the last word.

Then write more novels to make those readers happy again.

–Eve Messenger