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

Reply Like No One’s Watching (Writing Tag) #amwriting

giantbook

 

Yay, I get to do a writing tag and answer questions thanks to my new writing friend, G. L. “Gwynne” Jackson. Gwynne has a lot of writing knowledge and offers great advice. I hope you get a chance to check out her blog.

G.L. Jackson’s Questions:

 1. It’s the old stranded on a desert island question! Which three books do you take with you? 

  • The Complete Works of Shakespeare because it will keep me occupied on the island for a good long while.  According to Goodreads, The Complete Works of Shakespeare is 1,745 pages long. Amazon says 2,016 (there you go exaggerating, Amazon). This book must weigh a ton. It’s probably what sank my boat.
  • Moby-Dick so I will finally finish it.
  • Whatever book comes floating my way. I like to be surprised.

2. Which author or authors would you cite as your inspiration? V.E. Schwab and Lauren Oliver.

3. What are some of your other creative pursuits beyond writing? Does blogging count? With a full-time job, part-time job, family to raise, and books to read, I’m afraid I don’t have time for other creative pursuits, but I used to be a songwriter.

 4. Tell me about the last TV show you binge-watched. What did you think? Sense8. I liked it!

 5. How did you get your start in writing?  I’ve had several “starts” in writing. In 1st grade, I wrote my first story (see exciting recap below). After college, I attended writing workshops where I learned a lot about craft. Then the “start” that finally took was an inspiring conversation with a friend. 

6. Do you remember the first story you wrote? Can you recap it? Umm, yes. A busy butterfly flies around to all the flowers and trees. A big wind comes, bringing with it a flying Christmas tree. I don’t remember what happens after that.

 7. Fast-forward 60 years into the future. What does society look like to you? (This is a big question, so feel free to narrow it down as you like.) I like to believe the human race figures things out and that the future is beautiful.

8. What’s your go-to guilty-pleasure genre to read? Thriller with a spicy sex scene.

9. Do you consider yourself to be an extrovert or an introvert?An introvert with decent acting skills.

10. What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to give to aspiring writers?Don’t believe the “tortured artist” myth. Do whatever you must to keep writing fun.

Tag, You’re It:

Let’s kick off this list off with three writing Kelly’s, shall we?

Kelly Deeny

Kelly Miles

Kelly F. Barr

Melanie Noell Bernard

Elena Johansen

Alyia J. Helms

Nicolette Elzie

Jennifer F. Santucci

The Rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link to their blog and Twitter in your post.
2. Answer the questions that the blogger who nominated you has provided.
3. Nominate up to 10 other bloggers or Twitter followers
4. Create ten questions for your nominees and notify them of their nomination.

Eve Messenger’s Questions:

  1. What are three things you do really well as a writer?
  2. When you daydream about “making it” as a writer, what do you visualize?
  3. Do you have a regular writing routine? If so, when?
  4. Dogs or cats?
  5. What’s directly to the left of where you’re sitting right now?
  6. When do most of your plot ideas come to you? In bed, on walks, in the shower, while driving, when reading other books?
  7. What’s your most recent writing breakthrough?
  8. Are you able to write in noisy environments?
  9. Have you ever attended a book signing event for an author you admire? If so, what was it like?
  10. Are you better at coming up with titles or elevator pitches?

 

 

 

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

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?

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

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.

Fellow Writer, What Puts You into a Creative State of Mind? 

Creativity

I’d be really curious to learn what stirs your imagination and creative spirit.  If it’s music, do you usually listen to the same music, or does the music vary depending on what you’re creating?  Reading great literature?  Exercise — rigorous workouts or leisurely strolls?  Habit, as in writing at the same time every day or in a particular environment?  Meditation?  Random things?

I’d love to hear from you!