fun

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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How to Tell If You’re a Book Junkie II

Image result for person buried in books

Directions: Mark an ‘x’ for each statement that applies to you.

[ ] 1. I have dropped a book on my face. More than once.

[ ] 2. On social media, I follow writers, not singers and movie stars.

[ ] 3. “Unputdownable” IS a word.

[ ] 4. My idea of a great weekend is starting a new book.

[ ] 5. My fingers type “Google” into the web address bar but somehow I keeping winding up at Goodreads.

[ ] 6. If I leave the house without a book I feel naked   I have a mini-panic attack. I never leave the house without a book.

[ ] 7. I freely admit I’ve hugged, kissed and/or lovingly patted a book.

[ ] 8. My favorite thing in my wallet is my library card.

[ ] 9. I plan road trips just to listen to audio books.

[ ] 10. While reading a book I am oblivious to the outside world. People can shout my name, gesture rudely, but short of bodily injury, I will not notice them.

[ ] 11. I’m happy if there’s a long wait at the mechanic/doctor’s office/airport because it means I get to read.

[ ] 12. When putting together a travel checklist, my first item is always: “books to read.”

[ ] 13. While standing in line to buy a new book I am. . . reading a book.

If you answered “yes” to any of the items on this checklist you are officially a book junkie. For further confirmation, try this test too: “How to Tell if You’re a Book Junkie.

Happy reading!

–Eve Messenger

Library-Hopping Adventure #3 #amreading #amwriting

 

Why I Like Writing in Libraries:

  • They’re libraries, as in churches of books.
  • They’re free. No obligation to buy coffee.
  • They’re MUCH quieter than Starbucks.
  • Some are open until as late as 9pm–perfect for evening writing. University libraries have even later hours–much later–often until 2 in the morning. (Thank you, night-owl college students.)
  • For weekend writing, libraries are the best. Most are open on Saturdays, and some even have Sunday hours. Which brings me to this week’s library-hopping adventure: Newport Beach Central Library.

Newport Beach Central Library is huge, a whopping 71,000 sq. ft.–so big I had to use the panorama feature on my camera to photograph the building facade. And again with the palm trees. Are there any libraries in my county without palm trees? Hmm, that’s a question for the next library-hopping adventure. Ext NB Central Library.jpg

The Good

  • This library is open on Sundays.
  • Because I keep the latest versions of my works in progress on Google Docs, I appreciate that Newport Beach Central Library offers a generous five hours of free internet access–with a library card. So, of course, I signed up for a library card. 🙂 In fact, I want to collect a whole DECK of library cards, one for each of the 33 cities in my county, plus the county library  system (which I already have). So far, at three different cities, I’ve been able to sign up for a library card even though I don’t reside in the actual city.
  • Newport Beach Central Library is super quiet. I got in an hour of uninterrupted writing, and it was very peaceful.

The Good & Bad

Newport Beach Central Library has tons and tons and tons of seating. . . none of it the least bit inviting. And I wished I had a cushion for the hard wooden chair.

Study Table.jpg

The Bad

  • Not that I should be staring out windows while writing, but it’s worth noting that the view–which you’d think would be amazing since this library is located in a beach town–was not very good, just street traffic and overly landscaped parking lots.
  • At the top of the stairs is a large open area with a credit union and a bistro, which totally had the feel of a mall. Call me old-fashioned, but I like my libraries mall-less.

Random Highlight

There’s an 8-ft. bunny statue on the lawn. Yes, just sitting out there all by his lonesome, no plaque or anything. No one knows why this is. Maybe the giant bunny is on a library-“hopping” adventure of his own. XD

8 ft rabbit.jpg

–Eve Messenger

Library-Hopping Adventure #2 #amwriting #amreading

Some people meditate; I find my center at the library. Libraries are my Disneyland. I write in them, read in them, escape, explore, daydream, and mini-vacation in them. I love libraries so much that, earlier this year, I posted in my blog I’d like to visit a new local library each week.

Seven months(?!) later, I’m finally making good on Library-Hopping Adventure #2. 🙂

Today I visited East Anaheim Library, one of nearly a hundred libraries in Orange County and Anaheim’s newest one, remodeled from what used to be a medical center and featuring the requisite palm tree.
Exterior Facade - shares building with Anaheim PD

East Anaheim Library shares a building with the Anaheim Police Department, so out front there’s a lovely little memorial to police dogs.
Ext Police Dog Memorial front

I got choked up reading the list of canine heroes’ names. Ext Police Dog Memorial names

Just inside the front entrance, really high high ceilings and industrial style architecture let in the light of a beautiful, sunny morning.
Int Entry Industrial Architecture 1

Here’s the cozy back table where I spent three hours writing and reading next to a view of trees and. . . major freeways. The muffled rush of traffic was easy to habituate to, though; after a while, it sounded like ocean waves. Pictured: my trusty red backpack and document holder for transporting my tools of the trade: laptop, manuscript, folder for completed pages, pens, highlighter,  water, snack. Cozy Table in the back by trees and freeways

For what it’s worth, the library bathrooms were also extraordinarily clean, but I didn’t take a picture of those. 😀

Here’s to libraries and visiting more of them. They’re good for the soul.

— Eve Messenger

 

The Winner’s Curse & the Traveler’s Blessing

Hello, fellow book junkies!

This week, with books in tow, I road-tripped through the American Southwest. As a hiker, I’ve always been most drawn to lush forests, but I can honestly say I now have an appreciation for the grand, mystical, majestic beauty of the desert.

At Zion National Park in southern Utah I got to walk under my first waterfall, something I have always wanted to do. In this picture, a poor hiker is scooting around me, probably thinking, “Get out of the way, weird lady,” but I had to stop and take it all in. Standing beneath Emerald Pools Waterfall, I was so thrilled I cried. Can you see the waterfall hitting the back of my hand?

In Northern Arizona, iron-rich red rocks and distant horizons in every–I mean every– direction made me feel as if I was on Mars. The largest boulders in this picture are four times bigger than my car.

Desert Road Trip Aug 2016 - Cave Dwellers Arizona or Mars

Photo by Mr. Eve Messenger

Traveling through Navajo country, I developed an addiction to fry bread, which is used for sandwiches and tacos (and probably other things), but my absolute favorite was fry bread hot and fresh out of the oven, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Desert Road Trip Aug 2016 - Indian Fry Bread

And here’s the book I read in my hotel room each night. I had no idea The Winner’s Curse would be such a page-turner, but it really was, and Kestrel and Arin’s forbidden love story hooked me so hard. Marie Rutkoski’s book has everything. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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Happy reading and safe travels.

XOXO,

Eve Messenger

What’s Your Favorite Kind of Bookmark? #amreading

Hello, fellow book junkies! I popped into my blog today to spark a bit of discussion about bookmarks.

One of my favorite types of bookmarks are the homemade kind. A friend of mine drew an amazing bookmark for herself. It’s folded into four panels. On each panel is a Pegasus representing each of the four elements so, for instance, the Pegasus of fire has flames rising from its wings, etc. I covet that bookmark so much. I’ve dropped hints but. . .

If I were a better artist, I’d probably make myself a four-fold bookmark of Kell from ADSOM wearing each of four different coats.

Then again, I lose bookmarks like cuh-razy, so I’m probably better off not investing too much time and money into them. Still, it’s fun to have pretty and unique bookmarks to choose from. Lately the bookmarks I use the most include:

  • the bookmark I bought from a local museum–I would show you a picture of it but, I kid you not, I can’t find it right now. That’s how bookmarks and I roll.
  • whatever slips of paper are randomly lying around when I decide to close my book.

What kinds of bookmarks do you like to use? Do you receive lots of bookmarks as gifts? Are you one of those people who never needs a bookmark because you can always remember what page you left off on?

SHARE YOUR WORLD – 2016 WEEK 1

Little Kimono & Dad

Little me with the best dad ever. 

As a child, who was your favorite relative?

My favorite relative was my dad. When he got home after a long day of work, he made time to talk to me, play board games and word games with me, start tickle fights, and make me feel unconditionally loved.

If you could be a tree or plant, what would you be?

I’d be a big tree with wide branches overlooking the forest and seeing up into the sky. Woodland creatures would make their homes in me and be my friends.

What would be your preference, awake before dawn or awake before noon?

My preference would be to awake before dawn, though I rarely do this anymore. I love the quiet of early morning, running and cycling, getting lots of writing in before the day begins.

Would you like to sleep in a human size nest in a tree or be snuggled in a burrowed spot underground?

If it’s big, really comfortable, and not too high off the ground, I’d go for the human size nest in a tree.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I’m grateful that I “woke up” and starting reaching out to friends and family. I realized I was sort of cocooning, but I’m reconnecting now and it feels good. Next week I’m looking forward to the relief of being done with a couple of major events that have been zapping my time and emotional energy.

–Eve Messenger

Bon Voyage, Book Junkies and Writers #amwriting

I’m packed and ready to head out for a four-day, three-night writing retreat. My first one, all by myself. I booked a deal for three FREE nights at a hotel and, starting today at about 1pm, I will hunker down in a hotel room and work hard on my novel–a dark, modern YA fantasy I mentioned a few weeks back. Distraction-free for four days, I’m hoping to write enough to put a big dent in my CampNaNoWriMo  goal of 60,000 words for the month.

After writing all day, I’ll reward myself with a show,  dinner, and/or chatting and high-fiving with interesting people from all over the world at the blackjack tables. That’s right. I will be in. . .

Since I’ll be so immersed in writing my new book you probably won’t see me around for a while.

Just kidding.

Of course I’ll pop in and check  on you, my wonderful writer and book junkie friends (hotel WIFI permitting).

Speaking of book junkies. . . my Kindle Paperwhite is brimming with books to be read during the trip. Not that I’ll be able to get to them all , but it’s nice to have a choice, right? What We Need to Survive by Elena Johansen (writer and blogger friend extraordinaire) will definitely be the first book I read,  but after that what do you think I should try next?

Kindle TBR for the Vegas Trip:
What We Need to Survive by Elena Johansen
The Uninvited by Cat Winters Thanks for the recommendation Beth @ Betwixt-the-pages!
Sapphire Blue (Red Ruby Trilogy #2) by Kerstin Gier 
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh 
The Last Orphans by N.W. Harris (Thanks to Amanda @ cover2covermom for finding this great deal.)
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma  ( I was disappointed in 17 & Gone, but Suma is a good writer, so I’d like to give her another try.)
Gambit by C.L. Denault (Melanie Noelle Bernard, this book is on this list because of you
The Day We Are Born by Philippa Cameron

Viva Las Vegas!

–Eve Messenger

Top Three “Author Uniforms” Big-Name Y.A. Male Writers Wear #amwriting #amreading

I am a writer. I daydream. Sometimes I daydream about what it would be like to attend my own book signing or to speak at a conference. (My introvert palms are sweating about that one already.) The obvious question, “What would I wear?” got me browsing through photos of my favorite female Y.A. authors, whose outfits apparently run the gamut  from T-shirts and jeans to designer dresses. No help there. Then I noticed something interesting. Big-name male YA authors sport a kind of “author’s uniform.” If you’re a male (or female) author searching for a good public look, here are three options you might want to consider.

The Rock Star

I challenge anyone to find a photo of Neil Gaiman not dressed in black. (Costumes don’t count.) Gaiman’s “author uniform” (which he totally rocks) consists of a black shirt, black blazer, and black pants. Occasionally, Gaiman mixes things up with a black sweater, black trench coat, or black bomber jacket. Are you detecting a theme here? Gaiman prefers clothing that’s dark like his stories, one of my favorites being The Graveyard Book.
  

The Boy Next Door

Imaginative and prolific author Patrick Ness’s go-to author uniform is a polo shirt with zip-up hoodie and jeans. Hey, whatever works, as long as he keeps writing books like The Knife of Never Letting Go.

https://i2.wp.com/media.shelf-awareness.com/theshelf/2011Content/Patrick_Ness_-_Debbie_Smyth_081811.JPG   

It is worth noting that for gala events, Ness cleans up very nicely. Guys are so lucky to be able to slip on a gorgeous tuxedo and call it a day.

  https://i2.wp.com/www.thenational.ae/storyimage/AB/20130403/ARTICLE/304039990/AR/0/&NCS_modified=20130820143801&MaxW=640&imageVersion=default&AR-304039990.jpg

The Friendly Professor

Yep, that would be John Green, who meets with the public wearing a tieless dress shirt, blazer and jeans.

John_Green_(7492849834).jpg  https://i2.wp.com/www.penguin.com/static/packages/us/yreaders/books4boys/images/authorphotos/johngreen.jpg

Which author uniform is your favorite? If you were to attend an event as an author, what would you wear?

–Eve Messenger

Everyone Deserves to Do This

screenshot_2016-01-28-17-13-24_1

Something happened that took me out of the mad rush of my busy life and put me in a better mood. It forced me to slow down, be in the moment, and put thought into something I so rarely do: what I like about myself. For that I would like to sincerely thank Lila @ The Bookkeeper’s Secrets and her Miranda Sings Award nomination. Lila’s blog always gives me lots of delightfully bookish things to think about, and I hope you get a chance to check it out, too.

Rules

(1) Announce your win with a post, and link the blogger who nominated you.
(2) Include the featured image on your blog post.
(3) Nominate 10 bloggers (or as many as you can think of) and link your awardees in the post.
(4) List seven (7) things you love about yourself. (This can be about your appearance, your personality, your achievements, etc.)
(5) Don’t use negative connotation (i.e. Don’t say things like – “I’m prettier than an average person.” or “People have told me I’m smart.” You are pretty. You are smart.)

7 Things I Like About Myself

  1. I’m good with young children. My preschool students think I’m a rock star.
  2. I am a good writer with a great imagination.
  3. I have pretty green eyes with flecks of gray like flower petals around my pupils.
  4. When I set my mind to it, I can accomplish anything.
  5. I love cheering people on.
  6. I have really good aim, as in being able to toss M&Ms up into people’s mouths. or a wadded ball of paper into a trash can across the room.
  7. I am fun-loving and not afraid to get goofy.

I NOMINATE:

Dear nominees, if your bucket of awards and tags is already way too full, feel free to decline. And, by all means, please know that even if you’re not on this list, you are on it in spirit. If you’d like to give this award a try, go for it! –Eve Messenger

Jesalin @ –Blogging Everything Beautiful–

Nicole @ Sorry, I’m Booked

Sabrina @ SabrinaMarsiBooks

Reverie of a Glitter Aficionado

Nazahet @ Read Diverse Books

Michelle @ Michelle, Books and Movies Addict

The Orang-utan Librarian

Jane @ Family Rules

Erika @ The Book’s the Thing

Jorelene @ Page Chronicles

Mackenzie @ Mackenzie Bates Writes

Tina @ All of These Prompts