To Brainstorm Or Not To Brainstorm – 5 Tips To Remember When Brainstorming Your Novel

Yesterday I walked to my kitchen cupboard and opened it, only to stare at the contents looking for inspiration. I didn’t find any.

So, I walked to my refrigerator and opened it, only to stare at the contents…No inspiration there either.  There are sometimes when cooking dinner is an inspired event full of ideas, cravings and spices. Not. Yesterday.

Yesterday, I needed to make supper and all I had were a cupboard full of ingredients.

Have you been there with your writing? You have an idea of what you need to make a story. All the contents are there, but things aren’t flowing for you like they should.

Time to brainstorm. Here’s why: you have all the basic story pieces, but there is nothing in it that speaks to you as a writer. If it doesn’t speak to you as a writer, then it won’t speak to readers. Even if you are at the beginning and have plotted out this great idea you have, you still need to brainstorm to deepen it, or you will miss an amazing opportunity to create the spectacular.

Five Tips To Remember When Brainstorming Your Novel:

1. Start with the spine. By spine, I mean the three act structure of a book that helps you to lay out the character journey, romance and other plot components in an escalating tension building order that makes your story stronger. A great place to look for these tips is My Book Therapy Library of Articles.

2. Plan Blurting Sessions For Each Major Story Component. You should have a time when you blurt and record or blurt and write the different parts of your story. Each character, subplot, plot points and character change should be blurted about. It might go something like this:

Character:  What is your problem? What is your favorite fairy tale? What if you were….

Subplot:  How do you feed into the truth of the story? Why is it important? Who should tell this part of the story? What if …..

Plot Points:  What bad things can happen to my character? Who can cause them conflict? What internal plot conflict can they have? What external plot conflict can they have? Is there anything that can come in from the outside to complicate things for my character? What if….

Character Change: How are my characters going to be different at the end of the story? What baby steps can they make toward the change? What might make it hard to change? What if….

3. Brainstorm Unexpected Twists. For this point, I am not talking about huge story twists that you find an excellent example of in the book Exposure by Brandilyn Collins. That is an amazing full story twist. What I am referring to here are the small surprises or twists.  You can find these by taking your story plot points and asking yourself, What would most people do? Then do the opposite or something very different.

4. Plan A Mini Blurt Session For Each Day. Take ten minutes before you start writing to just start talking about what your going to write about. Ask yourself, Why is this happening? How does it change my character? What would make it deeper? This step often helps you to avoid blank page paralysis.

5. Brainstorm Some Possible Motivations For Your Point Of View Characters To Do Something Unexpected. Some examples: To hide their past, to protect a secret, to protect a loved one, to avoid embarrassment, etc. Remember, with your brainstorming you will have to be more specific about what secret or other motivation they have for their actions and what it might make them do that is unexpected.

Need more tips with brainstorming? Join me at the My Book Therapy Bleacher Chat on the third Monday of each month to learn and practice strategies for brainstorming.

Today we are brainstorming on my blog. Ask any brainstorming question and I will give you a few possible options. I invite everyone to join in to help each person brainstorm. What is your brainstorming Question?


About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

6 thoughts on “To Brainstorm Or Not To Brainstorm – 5 Tips To Remember When Brainstorming Your Novel

  1. My hero( a sheriff and he’s also the runaway’s baseball coach) is explaining why he has to call a 9-year-old runaway’s mom, telling the boy that you have to follow the rules. The runaway replies, “But you don’t always follow the rules.”

    What I need are plausible things the boy could’ve seen his coach and SS teacher do that show how the hero has maybe bent the rules. Never really break them, just bend them.

    One thing I’ve come up with is that one of the other kids on the team has a dad who showed up drunk at a bb game and the coach didn’t arrest him, but let someone take him home. Could the boy have thought the coach (sheriff) bent the rules by not arresting the guy? Would a 9-year-old boy be able to reason out that the sheriff has discretion in something like that or would he have a more literal understanding: the guy did something wrong, he has to pay for it? Thanks.

    Oh, and for the reader, I need other things the sheriff might do that shows him as someone who habitually bends the rules to fit his sense of justice. Nothing out and out wrong, but maybe questionable.

  2. Michelle Lim says:

    Okay, Pat….here are a few starters. Everyone can chime in to share more: He could have let someone off who was speeding, he could smooth things out for a teenage shop lifter, paperwork shifting…when the boy is around, hears from a pal about something the sherriff did for him or his family. Brings food to homeless teens who sleep in a warehouse, although they aren’t suppose to be there he knows they are. Doesn’t kick them out, just leaves them food. It is important that whatever you do to show that he bends the rules doesn’t make him unlikable.

    Another possibility is that the game has the rule for kids only pitching 72 pitches a week, but the other team’s other pitcher is out sick. Coach says it is okay for the other team to pitch their same pitcher. Or the game is typically called at the 90 minute mark, but maybe the coach lets the other team finish out their turn at bat…and the boy’s team loses because of it. There are tons of possibilities.

  3. Love these ideas. Brainstorming. Is. Awesome!

  4. Michelle Lim says:

    I love it too. Glad these ideas are helpful!

  5. Melissa Tagg says:

    Michelle, these are all awesome tips. I’m not able to get in on the brainstorming now (commenting while on the move), but loved reading your stuff…hope the brainstorming is a blast!

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