Monday, June 30, 2014

Does Your Brain Storm?




How do you generate and expand writing ideas? Do you brainstorm?

I do on occasion, depending on the project. Sometimes brainstorming is simple, like jotting down ideas, doing research, or talking to fellow writers. Other times it's more extensive, like using one of the following methods. 

Freewriting - Set a time limit (like five minutes), and write down anything that comes to mind. If you can't think of anything to write, write that down and then see what flows next. When the time limit is up, review what you’ve written. Some of the content won’t be useful, but it might surprise you to see that there may be good ideas. Save potential ideas and toss the rest.

Clustering (or Mapping) – Take a word or two from the topic, write it down in the middle of a blank piece of paper and circle it. Write related words around the main word/s, circle them, and draw a line from each to the main word/s.  For example, if the topic is teen cell phone use, related words might include texting, convenience, communication, data plans, billing overages, texting and driving, etc.

The Five W’s – Ask the questions that journalists do when writing an article. These include Who, What, Where, When, and Why. List these five words on a sheet of paper, then answer each one using thoughts about the topic. The answers do not have to be extensive, just write any thoughts that come to mind that might apply. 

The Flip Side – Consider the topic from a different angle. This is especially helpful if the topic is a controversial issue. For instance, if the topic is requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets, consider both sides. Why do people think it is important to wear a helmet? Why do opponents feel that they shouldn’t have to? 

Ideas are everywhere, but sometimes the brain needs a little nudge to get that storm going.

Do you use any of these methods? What helps you generate ideas and work through the process?

Happy writing,
Karen

P.S. Congratulations to Jeanette Levellie, the winner of Cathy Gohlke's Saving Amelie! Thanks to everyone who stopped by last week's post.


Copyright 2014 Karen Lange. No part of the text may be used without prior written permission.

Photo credit: Stock Exchange


33 comments :

  1. Brainstorming always helps me with any written project. I use it for blog posts sometimes as well and I have come up with many blog post ideas that way :)

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  2. I need to try those, especially the five W's. Think that one would help me the most.

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  3. I'm a doodler. Sounds crazy, but when I'm thinking about a story, I like to draw--nothing in particular. I sometimes then follow that with brainstorming.

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  4. Clustering sounds like a fun exercise.

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  5. I have done most of these methods. My favorite is freewriting.

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  6. Music on headphones and eyes closed works for me, as long as people don't rush in and demand my attention (which happens far too often).

    mood
    Moody Writing

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  7. My head is often filled with awesome thoughts at the most inconvenient of times - maybe I will try to capture them on my iphone - using it like a recorder.

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  8. I have an outline template with cues on the first, second, third act, facing the protagonist, etc. When a book idea hits me, at first it might be a small plot idea, or I just have a main character in mind...everything else isn't clear yet. Freewriting on my outline template helps me flesh out the story.

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  9. I probably should employ some of that as it might ground me a bit. My ideas are all over the place and I often lose a good one because I haven't written it down or I've jumped to something else. That seems especially true as I've gotten older and less organized.

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  10. Keith,
    It's interesting how our minds work, isn't it? Love seeing where ideas head sometimes. :)

    Alex,
    The Five W's is one of my favorites. I encourage my teen students to use it; it helps fill in a lot of gaps. :)

    Lee,
    I think that's a great idea! And if it works for you, then all the better! :)

    Diane,
    It's an interesting exercise. It's one my teen students use sometimes. :)

    Cecelia,
    You know, I haven't done much freewriting. I should try it one of these days, shouldn't I? :)

    Mood,
    I like music for brainstorming too, especially instrumental. So that happens to you too- I get people in and out of my office almost daily. I've nicknamed my house "Interruption Central". :)

    Anita,
    A recorder is a great idea. I too, get ideas at most anytime, and try to write them down if I can. But it doesn't always happen. :)

    Medeia,
    I've heard of those templates but haven't tried them yet. Sounds like a great solution. Glad to hear it works so well for you! :)

    Lisa,
    It's easy to be all over the place, isn't it? I too have found myself less organized in recent years. Not sure if it's because I feel overwhelmed maybe. Working to recapture it again. :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  11. Great pointers, Karen. I like, See it from a new angle.

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  12. Oooo, I really, really like these ideas! Could've used them yesterday morning when 'storming the brain' for a new column.

    Thank you!

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  13. Good points! I'm always glad to find more writing friends who understand my passion for the craft and learning. I look forward to visiting again!

    Sylvia
    http://www.writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/

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  14. Linda,
    Thank you. Glad you liked them! It's all about the angles sometimes, isn't it? :)

    Rhonda,
    I'm so glad! Thanks a bunch. Maybe they'll come in handy for next week's column, eh? :)

    Sylvia,
    It's nice to meet you. Thanks for visiting and becoming a follower. I too, enjoy meeting new writers. Will check out your blog!

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  15. I hate it when my brain is full of so many ideas, I cannot think straight. Thanks for given some tips on how to calm it all down.

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  16. Great tips! I've never heard of clustering. That sounds like an interesting technique.

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  17. Lilith,
    That's a good way to put it, calming your brain down. Sometimes mine is all over the place. :)

    Stephanie,
    Thank you. Glad you liked them. Let me know if you give it a try! :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  18. My brain definitely storms! Sometimes the only way I can calm it down is to turn music on very loud and dance until it clears! Great photo by the way! I used your first three techniques a lot when working with my third graders on writing. I often have to get that "garbage draft" down, write, and rewrite to understand what is trying to come out.

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  19. Oh the five w's is a great one, and the free-writing. I do 'brain-storm' in a sense. I do so in my head though. I often find once I start scribbling things on paper the moment passes. So I gather as much as I can and when the storming is ended I write down what immediately pops up; like unpicking a knitted item to make something else. :)

    shahwharton.com

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  20. I love your post title, Karen!

    Ideas come to me from daily life, graphics, prayer (a biggie), and the "what if" question. I do use your method of looking at things from different angles. I'm doing that right now with my WIP.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  21. p.s. on Wednesday . Hi Karen. Please stop by my post if you have a chance as it's on another writer. Thanks. Susan

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  22. My progress is big on the 5Ws. I love the questions that pop up all day long, especially during the news, or a badly written movie or TV show. Those are times when I wonder what happened to allow the writer to forge ahead on something that lacked excitement or authentic. Either that or I'm too critical of others. I hope not. It's just that lately I've noticed stuff being produced that doesn't measure up.

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  23. I LOVE the 5 W's, and the "what if" game. My hubby and I also play the acronym game (make up random words for each letter) to get the juices moving.

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  24. Fundy,
    I like to use these ideas with kids too. There are so many possibilities, aren't there? The garbage draft, or sloppy copy (as I heard it called years ago) just gives us something to start with and get going. :)

    Shah,
    Nice to meet you! Thanks for stopping by. I think us writers brainstorm in various ways, on paper and in our heads like you said. I like that analogy - picking apart a knitted item. That's exactly what it is sometimes. :) So many good ideas!

    Susan R.,
    Thank you! I toyed around with it all weekend and went with one of my original ideas. :) I like the angles, they provide so many good ideas. My methods are much like yours.

    Susan W.,
    I will hop over asap! Glad you stopped by. :)

    Joylene,
    I don't think you're being critical, you just have a good eye (and ear) for quality and consistency. I've quit reading a handful of books in the last year because they were just lacking somehow. Some stuff just doesn't engage the reader/viewer like it should. There's much to be said about learning the craft, you know? :)

    Crystal,
    I like the "what if" game, and the acronym idea sounds like great fun! There are so many things we can do to get our brains in gear, aren't there? :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  25. I do the five Ws. I love asking a question and then going from there.

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  26. Great post Karen. At the moment I went along with the editors suggestion and write what she suggested. But I'm on a learning curve. Thanks!

    Nas

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  27. Terri,
    It's a great way to get and expand ideas, isn't it? You never know where it will take you!:)

    Nas,
    Thanks so much. Glad you liked it. I seem to always be on a learning curve, lol. But I guess if we say we've arrived, then we're in trouble. ;)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  28. Hi Karen! First of all, Yay Jeanette!!
    I find that reading really helps jog the creativity out of me. I'll read an idea or theme from an author, and jot it down. If I get really lucky, the words just flow. If not, I'll take some time to think about the idea and why it seemed so important to me. I can usually get a least one idea that way.
    I like your "Flip side" angle. That does seem like 'pushing' the brain!
    Ceil

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  29. Ceil,
    I have to agree with you. Reading is one of the big inspirations, isn't it? Seems like I can get layers of ideas from reading the simplest thing. :) Besides, it's another great excuse to read, right?
    Happy reading and writing,
    Karen

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  30. I love the picture that goes with this post!

    I am a brainstormer. I write character sketches, timelines, and try to plot out what I want to happen in most chapters. Sometimes I stray from my brainstorming- but it helps me to get my ideas flowing before I start to write. Often after I brainstorm I will draw scenes that I will be writing about. Spending time on the details in my drawings helps me when I write. :) Oh- and I write with a co-author- so we do a lot of talking about the characters and the plot. :)

    Thanks for sharing this post!
    ~Jess

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  31. Jess,
    Thanks - I like that pictufre too! Got it from Stock Exchange. :) It is interesting to hear how other writers work and brainstorm. It often offers ideas for my processes. So glad you shared!
    Happy writing,
    Karen

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  32. Hi Karen .. I think my brain is in constant storm mode - never out of it .. but at least I always have lots of topics to write about - the decision is which one! But the thoughts you've expressed here are helpful to people ... planning can be essential .. especially for books, novellas etc ..

    Cheers Hilary

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  33. Hilary,
    Like you, my brain is ever storming. I don't think it is turned off, unless I am sleeping. And even then, it goes full steam ahead in my dreams. :) Planning is helping sometimes, and other times it's just good to let it go!
    Blessings,
    Karen

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Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your input. Have a blessed day!