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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Goals for 2017 – Writing, Reading, Relationships, Peace of Mind

goals-for-2017

Hello, fellow book junkies! Happy New Year! ‘Tis the season, so I’ll get this out there. In putting together my goals for 2017, I’ve kept things simple and focused on what will give me joy and peace of mind. Here are my:

Goals for 2017.

  • Finish writing & polishing YA dark modern fantasy manuscript by May 1, 2017.
  • Read more YA books featuring bi females and write a blog post about them.
  • Spend time with people. Nurture relationships.
  • Walk every day.
  • Keep going on Saturday morning hikes.
  • Read 96 books.
  • Devote more time to keeping the house looking nice.
  • Never, never, never, never give up.

–Eve Messenger

“How a Book is Made” Tag

typing-fast-jim-carrey

Thanks to The Orang-utan Librarian for yet another interesting tag. In this post, I’ll be exploring all things writing, even including a link where you can test your typing speed–post results in the comments section if you dare. 😉

1. Should you participate in National Novel Writing Month to create a book?

nanowrimo

 

Every writer should participate in NaNoWriMo at least once in zir life. Thirty consecutive days of grinding out as many words as possible establishes consistent writing habits, gets you out of the house, helps you discover great local places to write, creates bonds with other writers, pushes you to allow your imagination run wild and maybe, just maybe, gets you to the point where you can write The End at the end of an actual first draft.

 2. Self-publishing or traditional publishing?

Traditional publishing is what I personally strive for, primarily because the idea of having to add a full-time job of promoting my own book to actually writing books, plus working a day job to make ends meet seems utterly daunting. I’d like to have a publisher who can at least explain to me how best to promote my books.

3. Write one idea at a time or write all the ideas at once?

Capture all ideas that come to you, always. That doesn’t mean you have to turn them into books right away.

4. What genre is the easiest to write?

I’m not sure if it’s the easiest, but the genre that comes most naturally to me is young-adult speculative fiction.

5. Where do you need to write to get the work done?

Wherever there aren’t interruptions, and I’ve been getting better at writing even in environments where there’s some noise.

6. Where do you find your inspiration?

In books! I’m inspired by the stories I read and the way they’re written. Of course, I’m also inspired by events from my life, my perspective on things, and my many interests.

7. What age do you start writing?

I vividly remember writing stories in 1st grade.

8. What’s easiest to write? Short stories, stand-alones, series, etc.

Stand-alones. The idea of planning out a series makes my brain explode.

9. Do you mill your books or take years to write a book?

I can whip out a first draft quickly, maybe in a month or two, but ultimately I think I need a year or two to finish a book.

10. How fast can you type?

According to TypingTest.com, I type 95 words a minute.

11. Do you write in the dark or in the light?

Both.

12. Handwritten or typed?

Typed, but I love those rare occasions when I hand-write because I think the writing flows more organically, and when I type out the handwritten words afterward I’m always surprised by how many more words there are than I expected.

13. Alone or with someone else?

Alone, but I’m open to trying out a collaboration. Why not?

14. Any typing hacks?

Practice a lot.

15. Are you already published?

I had a poem published in an anthology; that’s about it.

16. When did you first consider being an author?

I don’t remember ever not wanting to be an author.

17. How many books do you have in draft form?

Four and a half.

18. Do you outline or no?

Proper outlining is a skill I’ve not yet mastered–but I really want to!

19. What’s your favorite note-keeping strategy?

I keep notes in my smart phone, notebooks, and Google docs.

dscn3888

20. What do you think about writing in different genres?

I love reading multiple genres but, ultimately, I’m most comfortable writing YA speculative. I am, however, totally enamored with the idea of experimenting with writing genre mash-ups.

–Eve Messenger

I Tag:

Rayne Adams
Melanie Noell Bernard
G.L. Jackson @ Dreaming in Character
Mackenzie Bates
Ida Auclond
Daisy in the Willows
Nicolette Elzie
Danielle @ The Caffeinated Writer

 

 

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.
Image result for cannon firing gif

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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September Reads. End of Month Wrap-Up #amreading

september-reads-2016-ver2

Hello, fellow book junkies! In September I had the pleasure of reading ten novels and, though a couple came close, not a single one was a five-star read. Whether that’s a reflection of the books or of me as a reader (returning to work this month was a definite distraction), is hard to say. Every book had strengths and memorable moments. Here’s a recap . . .

YA Paranormal / Urban Fantasy

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin – Creepy in a good way, original (and humid) Miami setting. 4/5 stars

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater – Part of what makes me love a book is getting to enter a brilliantly wrought world with outstanding characters. The Dream Thieves had this. So did the first book in the series, The Raven Boys, which I was so enamored with that maybe it was hard to love the second book as much. The Dream Thieves is still great and made me definitely want to read the rest of the series. Since one of my favorite characters is Blue, I’m especially looking forward to the third book, Blue Lily, Lily Blue. 4.5/5 stars

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older 304pp – Brooklyn girl gets caught in a world of ancient spirits who come alive out of painted murals. Intriguing concept, bold characters. 4/5 stars

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey Strong writing (author Melissa Grey graduated from Yale) but the plot’s too reminiscent of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone. 3.75/5 stars

YA Contemporary-Mental Illness

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia – Much funnier than I expected. Creative writing style, but not a super memorable plot. Saw the twist coming a mile away. 4/5 stars

YA Fantasy Romance

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh I go into every book with an open mind, but since romance isn’t my favorite genre maybe this wasn’t the right book for me. Disappointing. 3.5/5 stars

YA Suspense

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes  – Gifted teenagers help the FBI track serial killers. Enjoyable characters, interesting premise. I’ve read many suspense novels, so my standards are pretty high and this one was a bit predictable. Still a fun read. 3.75/5 stars

Adult Sci-Fi Horror

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch Vividly imagined, quick read, (almost too) screenplay-ready. Memorable story! 4/5 stars

Adult Romance-Humor

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion audiobook Joyful, often hilarious story of a professor with Aspergers who’s on a mission to find a wife. Cleverly written–I love how the MC is often the unintentional superhero of the story. Rosie is a fun character, too. 4/5 stars

Adult Historical-Empowered Women

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier audiobook  In the early 19th century, two bright women from different social classes bond over fossil hunting–in the early days when extinct dinosaurs were still thought to be giant crocodiles. Based on a true story. 4.25/5 stars

–Eve Messenger

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