Writing a novel can be such a pesky beast. And sometimes it seems creativity just flies south for the season, and we become stumped about how to catch it again.
You may have a great idea for a book. You may start out writing like a lunatic, putting out page after page of fabulous fiction.
And then hit a wall.
Or, get through the beginning and middle, and then problems arise with how to bring it all to a satisfying conclusion.
Or, you know where you want it to go, but the start of it has you stymied.
At a litany of junctures when writing a novel, you can face that wall or chasm and just not know where to go from here.
And that happens to not only those who write from an outline, but those who write from discovery as well. Sooner or later, you’ll encounter a deep pothole and not know how to traverse it.
So what’s a writer to do?
Before we start the actual brainstorming, first off, get clear on the structure of novels, which is how yours needs to play out in the end, no matter the genre.
I know—this doesn’t sound like a creative step, but oddly enough, having the framework handy allows your creativity free rein, as you’re no longer on that tightrope without a net. You can see clearly where your book is struggling. Where it’s sagging. What needs to happen at every juncture.
This is about the arc of the storyline. It’s where major plot points need to come in, and then the minor ones leading into the major ones, to keep your story moving.
And don’t worry—this can and should change. It’s to get you going in the right direction.
Now, here are 4 tips for how to brainstorm your way through your book:.
- Ask ‘what if’ questions.
What if my hero gets fired?
What if his wife leaves him?
What if his dog turns into Cujo?
What if he finds out his sister is really his mother?
The list of these is endless, and none are too outlandish. In fact, as with all brainstorming, the more “out there,” the better. The point is to let your subconscious mind—the part that does the creating—fly into the stratosphere.
- Get to know your character. Write scenes, short stories, etc., which put your main character in difficult/odd/bizarre/whatever circumstances, and see what she does.
By going with her “off stage,” so to speak, it takes all of the pressure off of you. Because, this isn’t part of your novel. It doesn’t need to be perfect, or even good. This is a simple exercise to see her in a different light.
Ideas will come surging in as to where she can go in the novel. Different turns she can now make, as you’re armed with new knowledge about her.
- Write in long-hand.
Not only does this put you in a stream-of-consciousness brainstorming session, but the act of actually hand writing the letters requires more work from your brain than does typing. The result is it keeps your brain sharp. And, it encourages more creativity.
Even better, a 2012 study on pre-literate kids found that when they handwrote their letters, they activated the brain’s reading circuit. Now we’re cooking!
- Return to Structure
I know, the boring part. But now you’re armed with lots of ideas. So let’s brainstorm your scene.
Ask yourself these questions (and write out the answers on a 3 x 5 card) before going into the scene (before you write it):
How did the conflict come about?
What were its roots?
How is each person involved?
How is the reader involved?
Who, Where, How long in Story time is the conflict to last?
We need at least 4 twists and turns
What is the Disaster at the end of the conflict?
What is gained?
What is lost?
These tools work at any time in the process, whether before you write a word, in the middle, at the end, or in major revision.
Creativity can be elusive, but many ways exist to court her back to her lovely, giving self. Soon you’ll be racing along again with all of your skills providing the wind beneath your wings!