3 Tips To Successful Group Brainstorming


Photo by Kyryl Lakishyk

Group work in the writing community can be wonderful, or frustrating. It becomes frustrating when individuals aren’t on point when you brainstorm your story, or you end up following story threads that eventually won’t work in your story. But the rewards of a group brainstorming session can be substantial.

So, how do you get brainstorming sessions to be effective ways to expand your story options? Gather your courage to share your story with others and ask for their help.

Brainstorming with other writers.can bring new life to an author’s stories. The challenge is often in finding the right group to brainstorm with and keeping the brainstorming session focused enough to be helpful.

Over the past few years I’ve watched some brainstorming groups succeed and some fail. Each group that failed got bogged down in one of three areas. Here are 3 tips to successful group brainstorming from my observations.

3 Tips To Successful Group Brainstorming:

  1. Select group members carefully. Keep the group small- 6 or less to allow everyone time to bounce ideas. Find group members who use similar methods to write, providing a commonality of terms and knowledge.
  2. Identify the focus of the session. A complete book is too broad of a topic to brainstorm successfully in one session. Instead, focus on one thread of the story. This allows everyone in the group to focus on the area of greatest need. If the whole story idea is the focus, recognize that it may take a few brainstorming sessions to complete it.
  3. Record ideas and follow-up. During the brainstorming session, record ideas without passing judgement on them. Occasionally, redirect the conversation back to the thread you want to explore. Have a follow-up brainstorming session to further develop the ideas from the first session. This follow-up will deepen your story.

What works for you in group brainstorming?


3 Tips To Create Story World From Star Wars


Photo by Spydermurp

Star Wars has captured the attention of the masses for years. The story world is so rich that it seems to stem from imagination itself.

From books to block buster movies, the series amazes us time and again. Although I am not a huge speculative fiction fan, I do love Star Wars.

If an author could create an intriguing story world like Star Wars, they’d have a great shot at being a best seller. What can we learn from the creator of Star Wars?

3 Tips To Create Story World From Star Wars:

  1. Create Character Diversity – Star Wars is rich with a variety of different creatures and personalities. Personalities can be created from the rich pallet of your own world and put in the skin of the characters your create. Think of the Pod Racer Business man, he reminds me of a car salesman.
  2. Scene Diversity – Showcase the world your characters live in by setting scenes in a variety of places. In Star Wars we see a wide range of planets and terrains. It makes for a more interesting movie. The same is true with our story. Variety in scene locations allows the author to use metaphor effectively and build an understanding of the story world.
  3. Rich Artistic Experiences – All of the qualities of artistry can be found in colors, costuming, textures, sounds, music, smells and more. Star Wars brings this to life in amazing ways. An author can create an artistic pallet with story world as well. It will leave a reader clamoring for more.

3 Brainstorming Tips To Jump Start A Novel Scene – Survival Tips For Writer’s Block


Photo by Kyryl Lakishyk

Photo by Kyryl Lakishyk

Writer’s block can drain creativity and stump even the most prolific writers. The longer you write, the more likely you are to face this dilemma.

Brainstorming with writers to help them strengthen and deepen their novels has become a passion of mine. To help writers with these dilemmas, I’ve written 2 Brainstorming Books: Idea Sparking: How to Brainstorm Conflict in Your Novel and Idea Sparking: 30 Idea Sparks to Write a Novel in a Month.

Maybe you are struggling with the blank page and just need a boost to get you through. If you are staring at a blank page with no words in your mind, you may find these 3 Brainstorming Tips To Jump Start A Novel Scene helpful.

These Survival Tips For Writer’s Block are some that I have learned from others on my journey, or developed from my own experiences. Even if you are at a stuck spot in your novel, you can brainstorm your way into your next scene.

3 Brainstorming Tips To Jump Start A Novel Scene:

Photo by Bobbi Dombrowski

Photo by B. Dombrowski

*Brainstorm from a place of strength. Most of us have a favorite part of the novels we read, whether it be plot, characters, or setting. Start brainstorming the thread you love first. If it is characters, then think about how your character is feeling, what they see, what they are doing, etc. If your love is setting, then brainstorm where the scene takes place first.

By brainstorming from a place of strength you can eliminate that pesky writer’s block that often leaves us staring at a blank page.

*Brainstorm using the emotion of the character in the scene. Susan May Warren taught me this amazing tip through My Book Therapy.

Name the emotion a character is experiencing and build the scene from this place. Ask yourself what setting would be best to showcase this emotion. Think of what metaphor in that setting could mirror the emotion of the character. Add sensory details that personify that emotion and dialogue that supports it.

One of my favorite examples of this kind of scene is in the Movie Twister:

Notice in this scene how the barn is full of those farm implements that adds to the feeling of danger.

*Brainstorm using a simple sentence of what happens in the scene. This can be as basic as the character and a verb of what they will do. From there, determine what will stand in their way of accomplishing it. Then identify who will see this happen, where it will occur, and the sensory details.

An author friend of mine, Lisa Jordan, created a fabulous note card style guide for this to use each time. It has helped me multiple times in developing scenes.

What do you do when you have writer’s block?

5 Tips To Sorting Your Writing Ideas

Photo by Andrea Kratzenberg

Photo by Andrea Kratzenberg

Laundry and I have a love hate relationship. It loves to grow. I hate to do laundry. You can laugh if you want, but a house of six, three of which are young boys who love dirt, dares and sports can challenge even the most dedicated laundry expert. Which. I’m. Not.

In all my mommy wisdom, I have begun to teach my kids laundry basics. Hey, it sure beats my husband wearing pink socks whenever the kids help out with the laundry. As you can guess, the first major piece of wisdom I shared with my kids was how to sort colors before putting them in the washer.

As writers sometimes we come out with pink plot, just like my husband’s socks. What am I talking about? The simple mix-up that occurs when we sort our ideas incorrectly and place them in the plot.

Brainstorming is a powerful tool for writers, but sometimes we don’t know what to do with the ideas we have during a brainstorming session. We either put them in the wrong part of the book or add them to a book they don’t fit in.

5 Tips To Sorting Your Writing Ideas:

*Create a Dumping File on Your Computer. You may have some fabulous ideas while brainstorming that have nothing to do with this story. Put those ideas into an idea file to be used later. Recognize that writing is a long-term pursuit. You don’t have to use all of your great ideas at once.

*Create a Three Act Structure Grid on Paper. (It can also be on a white board.) As ideas come to your mind determine which part of the book they fit in the best. Stick the idea on a post-it note and place it under that Act of the book. Don’t worry about individual order at this time. If you prefer, Scrivener can be helpful in this process.

*Create a Character Scene Page on Paper. As you have ideas for individual scenes, put these ideas on a post-it note and place it on the page. After you have completed plotting your ideas from tip one, then you can create a story grid from these using a three act structure chart. (Once again, this works well in Scrivener.)

*Create a Dialogue Idea Page. As you brainstorm, if funny comments come to mind or powerful phrases. Write them down on a piece of paper with the initials of who will say them. This will help you come up with creative dialogue and a general sense for the way you want a certain character to talk. If a particular bit of dialogue stands out to you, but doesn’t belong in this book, save it for later.

*Sort Your Ideas By Point of View. It is important to ask yourself who would be the most powerful POV perspective for each scene. Also, giving each character’s POV a different colored post-it will help you to visualize immediately if you have a balanced number of scenes per POV.

What sorting techniques have you found helpful while brainstorming?

3 Tips To NaNoWriMo Success In Week One

Photo by Jose Bernalte

Photo by Jose Bernalte

Have you gone NaNoNuts yet?

NaNoWriMo is exhilarating, terrifying, and exhausting all at the same time. The journey is just beginning to your thirty-day novel. No time to slow down to question your sanity.

Staying on track to success in week one is not as easy as it might seem. There are all those words left to be written and it may seem insurmountable, but you can do this. Here are a few ways to get help:

3 Tips To NaNoWriMo Success In Week One:

*Focus only on this week. At the beginning the word count seems too high for success. Don’t look at the total word count. Just look at this week. Accomplish what needs to be done in this time block to avoid panic and wasted time fretting. Narrow it down even more by focusing only on one day. NaNoWriMo is really made up of 30 one-day adventures. Frame it that way in your mind.

*Plan little snippets of time for leisure. Even when you are writing a ton of words in a short time, you still need to make space for a relaxing break. Fifteen minutes here and there may revitalize your creativity and keep you sane even from the beginning. Take a walk, listen to music, take a bubble bath, whatever makes you feel refreshed.

*Write a quote of the week on a note card and post it by your writing area. Find an inspirational quote that you are encouraged by to keep you going throughout the week. Look on line, or write a few thoughts from your favorite mentor to look at when things get tough. Read it to yourself a few times a day as a reminder.

Final Idea Sparking 30 Ideas cover

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What have you tried to help you get through week one of NaNoWriMo with success?


3 Tips To NaNoWriMo Without Losing Your Mind – Idea Sparking Survival

Photo by Paul Simao

Photo by Paul Simao

National Novel Writing Month challenges all of us to dig a little deeper than ever before. Whether you are going for the ultimate challenge of writing a thirty-day novel, or you set the bar higher in your word count goal, it is an intense journey.

Add life’s many responsibilities, stress, and family obligations to create a recipe for CRAZY!

My first NaNoWriMo my children were ages 8, 5, 4, and 3. That year was an adventure in CRAZY-MAKING proportions. I remember binging on junk food to stay up until 2 a.m. writing. I didn’t make my goal that first year, but I made it over half way.

The following years I got smarter in my approach to writing a novel in a month. I planned ahead and found success more than once.

Believe it or not, there is a method to the madness of writing a thirty-day novel. Some universal characteristics marked my successful years. These are a few of the things that will keep you from losing your mind on the journey.

3 Tips to NaNoWriMo Without Losing Your Mind:

*Ask for help. Everyone needs help to finish a novel in thirty-days. Get take-out, take a day of vacation toward the end of month, get a substitute for your Sunday School Class, bring in more guests to your blog, find a sitter for Saturday, etc. Expecting yourself to the super hero of your world and the writing world at the same time is not realistic. Have compassion on yourself and ask for help.

*Partner with another writer. Finding someone else who is on the thirty-day novel journey at the same time is paramount to success. It will give you someone to moan, celebrate, and be accountable with who understands what you are going through.

*Plan ahead for success. Set goals, scheduled helpers, and find a helper in advance. If you have other writing responsibilities, get them off of your plate before November 1st. Write blogs ahead of time and delegate your responsibilities while it is still easy to get someone to cover for you.

Help your family be a part of your journey and involve them in the excitement. It will pay off later.

Looking for other resources to help you on your thirty-day novel journey?

Final Idea Sparking 30 Ideas coverMy newest release: Idea Sparking: 30 Idea Sparks to Write a Novel in a Month is a great way to help you spark your novel.  Why?

Idea Sparking: 30 Idea Sparks to Write a Novel in a Month accompanies an author on a thirty-day novel journey. Daily idea prompts assist authors in finding the inspiration to write. With personal experience insights and goal setting reflections, this book is the perfect resource for the writer who wants to write a novel in a month, or the author looking for a resource for their everyday writing journey. What you will find in this incredible resource:

*A weekly inspirational focus to get you ready to write

*Daily Idea Sparks to spark your creativity and get you writing

*Mini writing craft tips that enhance your writing

*Daily Mid-day Milestones with thought-provoking questions to improve writing habits

*Weekly Check-Ups to retune your process to set you up for success

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What have you done or seen other writer’s do to get through NaNoWriMo without losing their minds?

How To Ramp Up The Conflict Idea Sparking Style Part 2 – Examples From “Madam Secretary”

Photo by Craig Toocheck

Photo by Craig Toocheck

Netflix Junkie here again. Oh, and did Madam Secretary ramp it up again with Season 1: Episode 12-13. Let me say that it is not good for my waistline to watch a show with such amazing looking food all the time at these White House galas. Sigh.

Just what is the series Madam Secretary about:

Madam Secretary is chalk full of How To Ramp Up The Conflict Idea Sparking Style examples! Last week we looked at the use of other strategies used in this series. These last few episodes have a few more examples I’d like to share with you.

How To Ramp Up The Conflict Idea Sparking Style 2 Examples:

*Villain Bedside Manor / Proximity Strategy: (Episode 12)Madam Secretary’s husband is on secret assignment with the NSA in previous episodes. One of his tasks was to place a bug in the home of a man named Kraus who was believed to be associated with terrorists.

Now, done with the operation, hubby is out to dinner with his wife when Kraus shows up. Not knowing of their previous association, Madam Secretary invites him to eat at their table. Talk about using Villain Proximity to ramp up the tension.

*Skyscraper Escalation Strategy: (Episode 13) There is an appalling incident with a foreign diplomat and he claims diplomatic immunity. It is not enough that the Secretary of State has to risk upsetting another country’s leaders.

They involve a new military base’s well-being and the possible persecution of military forces. By adding the military base and personnel’s well-being it escalates the stakes sky high. By adding greater stakes it ups the conflict intensity and by making us care it also ups the tension.

What is your new favorite TV series?