5 Brainstorming Techniques for Writers: A Guest Post by Linda Craig

5 brainstorming techniques for writers‘Brainstorming’ is an idea-generating session where you come up with a plot, characters, and ideas that will define your novel. You can’t simply get out your laptop and start writing your next big masterpiece—you need to know the direction in which you’ll take your story. That’s where brainstorming comes into play.

Here are five brainstorming techniques you can use if you’re struggling to generate ideas.

1. Skim-Read

Many times your personal brainstorming sessions need a little kick. It may not be that you’re not in the right frame of mind, or that your creative side is failing; it may simply be that your mind hasn’t found an idea just yet.

You can try quickly skim-reading a book from your library. Sometimes just the chapter titles are enough to get you going. Needless to say, you should never copy another author’s ideas. But this technique can spark your imagination and maybe even guide your impressions in an unexpected direction throughout the brainstorming session.

2. Use Contradictions

Let’s say your hero has the best intentions and great personal qualities. During the brainstorming session, look for ideas and personality traits that contradict the ones you’ve come up with. Your readers won’t identify with an ideal hero; they want complexity, and you can deliver this through contradictions.

Alternatively, if you’re completely stuck, start by thinking about what contradicts the main idea or theme of your story. If, for example, you’re writing about everlasting love, you can add characters who distort the traditional concept of love in every single way.

3. Read Similar Stories

A successful novelist delivers a story the audience has never seen before. You don’t want to follow the trends and write about vampires or dystopian societies similar to that of The Hunger Games. Readers will tire of repetitive trends and only respect the original work.

However, you can’t create a story that sets itself apart unless you know what’s already out there. This will be a longer brainstorming session that will help you come up with an ideal plot. If you find another writer has already covered ideas similar to yours, you can think of ways to improve your plot such as with an unexpected turn. That’s when you’ll have some real brainstorming to do.

4. Use Active Imagination

Most novelists understand that fiction writing is closely related to psychology, so you shouldn’t be too bored to explore the concept of Active Imagination developed by Carl Gustav Jung. It’s a method that requires you to find a quiet place, close your eyes, and imagine other people in the room with you.

Pick some of the writers you admire the most. They can be from any period in history. You can choose people you know, historical figures, celebrities…whoever you like. Imagine them as they are with their own personalities.

You then conduct a meeting, but you should allow your creativity and intuition to take over the show. What do they think about the plot? How would they develop the main characters? You’re not purposefully imagining their responses, you are simply allowing them to speak and take part in the meeting. If you really get into the spirit of it, there may be times when they interrupt each other or get into harsh discussions.

This technique will help you come up with fantastic ideas for your story. It may sound crazy, but try it a few times and you’ll be surprised with the ideas your subconscious comes up with.

5. Try Rolestorming

With this idea-generating technique, you pretend to be another person and apply their thoughts to the idea at hand. This is similar to a primitive version of Active Imagination, and it’s almost like a child pretending to be Captain America.

You put yourself in the shoes of another person and think of what he or she might say about your idea. It can be anybody from the perfect reader to Beyoncé to Stalin. It’s up to you. Rolestorming may yield no results, but it will help you examine the issues of your plot from another angle, and may even awaken your imaginative side.

The last thing a novelist is, is boring. The creative writing process demands an unusual approach, especially when you’re forming your initial ideas. These brainstorming techniques will help you dig into the deep areas of your sub consciousness. That’s where your best ideas are hidden!

About the Author

Linda Craig is an eager traveller, editor at Assignment Masters service, and passionate blogger. Her favourite destinations are Brazil and Nepal. Linda is currently working on her PhD thesis. You can find her on Twitter at @LindaUKmasters.

7 Writers Share Their Writing Secrets

7 WritersWriting is a long, difficult journey (one that never really ends), and you tend to pick up a lot of things along the way.

Like always keep a notepad on your nightstand. Or act out scenes to help you describe them (even if it makes you feel like a crazy person).

I’ve asked 7 awesome writers/bloggers to share their writing “secrets.” What tips and tricks have they discovered? Read on to find out!

Secrets for Writers

Brett Michael Orr is a young writer and blogger from Australia. He has been writing for several years, and is currently working on a Young Adult Science-Fiction novel.

Drafting is always a difficult process. There’s a lot of pressure when you’re staring at the infamous white page, that this your chance to write a scene from scratch, and it can be paralysing. There’s also pressure on word count–if you’ve only written a hundred words, it’s easy to feel really bad about yourself.
     Here’s the secret though–your book will go through at least one, if not four or five, major edits and rewrites–and that’s before it arrives at a publisher. There will be many, many opportunities to edit and ‘perfect’ that scene. You can’t perfect a blank page.
     Just write, take the quickest path through the scene to move your characters where they should be, and move on. When you edit, you’ll be deleting (or adding) paragraphs at a time, so don’t agonize over your draft. After all, first drafts are meant to be rewritten!
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Heather from BitsNBooks enjoys writing Historical Fiction. Her research for her stories always allows her to learn something new.  She also adds, “my aim is to make people cry (is that mean?).” Not at all, Heather 😉

If you have an idea for something but can’t seem to get it right, put yourself in the scene. What can you see, hear, smell, feel? I don’t know if it’s a thing all writers do, or if it’s just a weird me thing, but I try to imagine what the scene would look like if it were being made into a film (one day…I can dream, right?).

I know this definitely won’t work for everyone, but I always know what my ending is before I get too far into a piece of writing. The more I write the more I realise that a story will grow and change of its own accord. I think it’s for this reason that I need to have an ending so that I can keep it largely on track.

It’s like going on holiday–your plane might get delayed and you miss a connecting flight, but you still want to get to a particular destination eventually, so you’ll make new plans according to that destination.

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E.K. Moore from A Cup of English Tea is a college student from the northwest of the United States. She writes an eclectic mix of genres and forms including (but not limited to): fantasy, realistic fiction, romance, magical realism, short stories, novels, novellas, flash fiction etc. She has finished five novels but has yet to be published. Regardless, writing is one of her favorite pastimes, and likely will be for many years to come.

Take breaks when you’re having writer’s block. Best options for me are hot showers or long walks to get creativity flowing again. For editing I recommend reading out loud. It helps you catch your own mistakes and often helps solidify first person voice if using that.

line dividerMichelle from The Writing Hufflepuff  lives in The Netherlands and has been making up stories for as long as she can remember; as soon as she learned to write she wrote them down. She mostly writes fantasy with a lot of angst and death, but also some lighthearted humor. She hopes to write for a living, but for now strives toward studying journalism next school year.

A lot of people give the advice that you should always write, even if you don’t feel like it. I would like to give the opposite advice: if you’re not feeling it, because you’re tired or for any other reason–don’t write.

Writing should be something you love, not a chore. If you’d rather lie in bed and watch TV shows all day long, then go do that. That doesn’t make you a bad writer, it makes you a writer who just rather relaxes that day instead of forcing theirselves to write.

Do write whenever you can and want to, though, but not because you have to, or because you’re not a writer or a bad writer when you don’t, but because you love doing it.

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B.A. Wilson is a Missouri librarian with a rather serious One-Click addiction. She enjoys reading and writing YA novels, consuming caffeinated beverages, and spending too much time on Twitter.

I like to carry blank name tags in my purse and coat pockets. When an idea comes to me, I write it down on a name tag. Once I get home, I peel and stick the note into my project sketchbook or outline. It saves me from having to rewrite or transfer notes.

I stole this idea (can’t even remember from where), but it’s great! When I’m writing or editing and either don’t have internet access or don’t want to stop my forward motion to research something, I insert the word FLIBBIT into my manuscript.

Sometimes I tag a note after it (FLIBBIT: research bomb construction). Sometimes I even use it for parts I’m dissatisfied with (FLIBBIT: This character’s name sucks. Try again), or for situations I don’t have a solution for yet (FLIBBIT: Fix gaping plot hole to correct timeline inaccuracy).

It’s far enough away from being a real word that it’s easy to spot. When I have more time to address the problem, I search for all the FLIBBITs in my manuscript and update, correct, or rewrite those sections.

It makes me feeling better knowing I tagged the issue, even if I’m not going to fix it immediately. That gives me the peace of mind to work forward, and I know never to send out a manuscript to readers without addressing all those FLIBBITs first.

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line dividerRae from What Happened to the Wallflower is a student at New Mexico State University studying English with an Emphasis in Creative Writing. She reads everything, writes strange things, edits, blogs, tweets, and drinks way too much coffee.

Okay, so it’s not really a “secret,” but I wake up at 5 a.m. on the weekdays  and spend until nearly 7 a.m. at my laptop, writing. This means that I don’t have the distraction of my roommate being awake, so my apartment is calm and quiet enough to give myself the kind of environment I can concentrate on my writing in.

It also gives me the added plus of making writing the first thing I do during the day, so I can concentrate on other matters later: school, work, homework. Scheduling my writing time like this has given me a lot more structure, and has forced me to be a lot more accountable toward what I write, and how much I get down a day.

line dividerBriana Mae Morgan has been writing for as long as she can remember. Genre-wise she has settled into YA and NA fiction. She is currently writing a novel called BLOOD AND WATER. You can find out more about her novel and get writing advice on her website, and follow her on Twitter.

I have a couple of tips and tricks for writing. One is a website, focus@will. It plays ambient music that helps me concentrate and really get down to the business of writing. Also, there’s Write or Die, which is great for helping me avoid distractions while I write.

Above all, what helps me produce is remembering not to get it right, but to get it written. After all, you can’t edit a blank page. Turn off your inner editor while writing and you’ll be amazed how much more you get done.

Have you ever used any of the tricks in this post? Do you have some secrets of your own? Share them in the comments below!

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8 Stories YA Agents and Publishers Want Right Now

8 StoriesNo clue what to write next? It might feel frustrating, but you’re actually in a great position. How so, you may ask?

Well, you have the opportunity to consider what agents and publishers want before you become attached to a new story idea. Think of it as fishing with bait as opposed to tossing out a net and hoping for the best.

Knowing what the people who are buying the stories want will definitely be to your advantage! Here are 8 stories you can use to hook an agent or publisher right now.

#1: Diverse Protagonists

There’s a huge need for diverse books, and publishers and agent are eager to get their hands on some. YA is flooded with way too many protagonists who are white American females–we need to see some representation of other cultures!

#2: Strong Male Protagonists

I honestly can’t even remember the last time I read a book with a male lead. I can’t even name five…the only ones I can think of off my head are Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.

There’s no denying it–YA is inundated with female protagonists. This is probably because the majority of YA authors are women. It may be challenging to write from a male’s perspective, but this is definitely something publishers are looking for.

#3: Stand-alone Novels

Believe it or not, we writers don’t have to make every story a trilogy. Publishers are actually getting worn out on trilogies and are looking for stand-alones, especially dystopians. The thinking behind this is it’s less investment on the reader’s part and frees up more time for them to read other books rather than commit to a whole trilogy or series.

#4: Fairy tale Retellings

Fairy tale retellings are really popular right now, and not just in books. There’s the t.v. series Once Upon a Time, and Disney is taking advantage of the trend with it’s recent film remakes: Snow White and the Huntsman, Malificent, the upcoming Cinderella, and the recently announced Beauty and the Beast.

If you can come up with a fresh twist on a classic tale you will definitely catch an agent’s attention.

#5: Steampunk

There’s not a whole lot of steampunk in YA, and I think that’s part of the reason why agents are looking for it. They’re getting tired of all the paranormal and even (dare I say it) dystopian stuff. It’s time to explore new territory.

#6: New Adult

This is a newly emerging genre, featuring characters aged 18-25 either entering or already in college. There’s not much NA out there right now because it’s so new, so agents and publishers are eager to find some captivating stories in this fledgling genre.

#7: Crime and Con Artists

There seems to be a spark in interest relating to crime, spies, con artists, and heists. Think Heist Society or the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter.

#8: Historical Fiction

With the avalanche of fantasy and dystopians out there right now, there’s not a whole lot of historical fiction. It’s definitely something agents are looking for, however. Especially historical events that haven’t been done a lot or bring a fresh, interesting take.

But What If…

So, what if none of these ideas are what you want to write? Don’t stress. Always write what you are passionate about, no matter what the trends of the market are or what agents and publishers are looking for. You have to love what you write above all else. And someone’s gotta start the next trend, right? 😉

What kinds of books would you like to see on the market?

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10 Tricks for Coming Up With Endless Story Ideas

Helpful strategies for coming up with #storyideas. Plus, keep track of all your ideas with a FREE organizer! Coming up with a story idea is a strange process. Sometimes inspiration may slap you in the face.  But most times…well, you’d be lucky for inspiration to give you so much a poke. Usually you have to coax little nuggets of inspiration from deep within the dark recesses of your brain.

What’s hiding in your mind-palace? Here are some tricks for luring out the plot bunnies.

#1: Look at Photos

I draw a lot of inspiration from photos, and they really help to get my creative juices flowing. Pinterest is an excellent source for photos. Simply search “story inspiration” (or something similar) under boards, and you will find great visual resources compiled by fellow writers.

I have created some story inspiration boards myself, which I organize by story topic. When you look at photos, ask yourself: what is the story behind it? What happened before? What will happen after?

#2: Brush up on Your History

If you love history this is a great place to find story ideas and inspiration. Choose an event or time period that interests you and read up on it. You’ll be surprised what cool facts you’ll uncover that would make an awesome story!

#3: Explore Mythology

Mythology has a wealth of ideas waiting to  be harvested. I use mythological inspiration in nearly all of my stories. A great starting point for finding interesting myths from all of the world is Encyclopedia Mythica.

#4: Writing Prompts

Writing prompts can be a good way to get you in a creative mood. I’ve written a couple stories from prompts lately myself. For ideas, check out my writing prompts board on Pinterest.

#5: Listen to Music

When I’m in the midst of a creative dry spell, I love to listen to music. In my case I love epic scores–they arouse a variety of emotions and I try to picture a scene to fit with the music (I highly recommend E.S. Posthumus if you like epic music). Songs with lyrics are also great as you can imagine stories that fit the lyrics.

#6: Daydream–Ask ‘What If?’

Take some time to just brainstorm. Look at the world and ask ‘what if?’ What if Hitler had won WWII? What if we could breathe underwater? What if your boyfriend turned out to be an alien refugee?

#7: Travel or Explore

Getting out in the world exposes you to different ideas and cultures and offers a wealth of inspiration. But you don’t have to go across the globe–you can explore your hometown. What would be different or unique about it to an outsider? Become a tourist in your own city and discover adventures you can take without leaving home.

#8: Get out in Nature

Humans have a deep connection with nature, whether we realize it or not. Exploring nature can help you relax and give you inspiration for settings.

#9: Browse the Titles of Other Books

This one is kind of weird, but it’s one I really like. I’ve actually written a short story using this method. Get on Goodreads or Amazon and look for books with interesting titles. When you find one that draws you in, try to imagine a story that could go along with that title.

#10: What do You Want to Say? What are You Passionate About?

A good source for inspiration is passion. Are there any issues, topics, or interests you’re passionate about? How could they inspire a story? For example, I’m passionate about horses and my first novel heavily involved them. I’m also passionate about the issue of human trafficking and want to write a story about this topic in the future. What do you feel strongly about?

Keep Track of Your Ideas!

Most importantly, be sure you keep track of all your fantastic story ideas! Always write everything down–don’t rely on your memory to keep track of ideas! A Word doc or journal are both good options.

Personally, I prefer to have a physical copy of my ideas for two reasons: 1) I brainstorm better with a pen in hand, and 2) I don’t trust computers. I always keep hard copies of my stuff because you never know when your hard drive might decide to go kaput and send all of your hard work into the abyss of nothingness. Yeah, no bueno.

So be sure to properly care for your ideas so they don’t get lost!

How do you come up with story ideas? Comment below, I would love to hear from you!

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