Writing Tips: Do You Brainstorm? Maybe You Should.

May 19, 2011

After author Charlene Sands gave her inspiring presentation on Five Keys to Building a Better Book at my RWA meeting on Saturday. Author Leanne Banks gave a presentation on 15 Solutions to Help with Brainstorming and Ways to Get Unstuck. When I heard that her fifty-sixth book is being released this month, I thought I should listen up.

Leanne’s presentation was both funny and interactive. She made us think about problems in our manuscripts and what to do when we write our characters into a corner or just don’t know what comes next. I really hadn’t thought much about “brainstorming.” but as she counted off her ideas, I realized that I do brainstorm—I just didn’t think of it as brainstorming.

I loved her idea to write an autobiography of your main character. I do often write a character profile, but her idea gave more detail and could inspire new plot lines for a story. Along the same lines I’ve written personal letters to a heroine in the past when I couldn’t feel her telling me her story, and at the risk of sounding insane…she wrote back to me.

Another suggestion Leanne made was to create a collage for your book using different textures and mediums. Although I’ve never thought to make a collage, I do often collect pictures of clothing, homes or things that remind me of my characters and put them in a file with lists of songs, favorite foods, etc.

My favorite tip on her list is to “give yourself permission to write crap.” She said that perfect is sometimes too big, and you can always fix it later. I definitely do this. I write. And, I write. I will go back later and fix it if I need to…or cut it entirely…but I write. Very often just writing will move the story along and the characters will wind up where they are supposed to be. The story will happen just as it should—unless someday an editor tells me otherwise, but I’ll have to wait and see if that happens!

As I’ve said before, I like to write about settings where I’ve lived or at least have been, and preferably places I can get to easily. My current heroine lives nearby. I walk where she lives and works. I sometimes take the day and hang out where her world is happening in my head. I can feel her there. I can see her and the hero. I am inspired. It’s easy for me to research the area and the history if needed. I can find sub-cultures and understand area trends and the unique buzz to the world where my characters live. I can feel the textures, smell the air, the food, hear local conversation… immerse myself in her world. About once a week, I take my notebook and pen and spend the day in her world. It definitely keeps my pen moving.

Both Charlene Sands and Leanne Banks gave me a lot to think about this week. Their presentations reassured me that I’m on the right track, gave me techniques for making my writing better and gave me inspiration to continue.

Have you ever written your character into a corner…or just not known what would happen next? Did you use any special techniques to get the story moving again? Share your tips. Let us know where you find inspiration.

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