Monday 18 June 2012

Brainstorming: How Do You Do It?

The trouble with having Shiny New Ideas is that they then require brainstorming into more than just an idea. Or a glimmer of an idea, as they usually begin for me.

For me getting from idea to draft usually works like this:

- Have Idea for Story or a Character, but usually a Story idea based on a 'What If?' question or a situation
- Toss idea around in my head for quite some time, thinking about it but probably writing nothing down, except maybe a note to remind me of it (like LIVE UNDERWATER or CLONES or what have you.)
- Think about Inciting Incident to happen to character or more likely, what character I am going to put into the situation I have thought of, and how she/he would react. Try to work it to a very rough outline.
- Write a bit of it, maybe a chapter or so.
- At some point, I run this by others - either the initial idea, if I have trouble getting it further, or the first pieces of writing, so I can get some help/feedback.
- Plot it Out
- Write a Draft

How do you go about it?
Do you start with a character, or a plot?
Do you brainstorm with others at the first stage, or not tell anyone?

I have had lots of ideas lately but cannot work a single one up even into that rough outline stage which is becoming frustrating. I
would love to know how you go about it. I would also love to know - how many ideas do you dismiss and never become more than ideas? Do you keep them for later?


  1. It depends. Sometimes I have a character, like for my WIP Ghostslayer. I came up with the character Kaelyn, who slayed ghosts for a living, as opposed to exorcists, who only banish them. For my WIP Soul Thief, I had both a character - Halfling Angel of Death - and an idea, someone stealing people's souls.

    The trouble is I often have too many ideas. Take the Soul Thief series for example. I have enough ideas for 15 books, which is, of course, way too much. But I fell in love with these characters, and I keep coming up with inspiration for events to happen to them.

    With other books, I come up with the plot first. Like my debut novel, Fractured, which started with the plot, and its sequel.

    It's hard turning an idea into an outline though sometimes. For one of my WIPs, this was a breeze. I kept coming up with inspiration and my characters tumbled from one event into the other. For others, it's hard. It took me halfway through Ghostslayer before I could come up with an outline. Before that, I was just writing whatever I felt like it - although the book seemed to be going nowhere, and needed an outline. Then for Soul Thief, the outline came up within a day's time. It was really easy, and I have the plot outlined chapter by chapter for the next two books as well. For the book I'm currently writing, I had a starting and end point, and nothing in between, but boy, that's fun to write sometimes as well. I added characters I never thought I would, conflicts I never imagined I would, and so much more. Sometimes writing without an outline is fun.

    My brainstorming usually happens with just me, first. I get inspiration from dreams, or just at random. I usually brainstorm before going to bed, then fall asleep, and if I'm lucky, dream about it. Then in the second stage, I consult others and ask for help with issues I've come up with or plot holes. Third stage is the hardest - getting that outline down.

    Phew, long comment! I really enjoyed your post!

    1. Thank you so much for your long reply!

      Really interesting that sometime the character comes to you and you go with that and see where it takes you. I find it so hard to write without a clear plot/outline, it's so interesting to me that you took off with it and saw where it took you.

      Getting the outline down, the butt in chair time, can be the hard bit!

    2. You should definitely give it a try! It's actually pretty amazing what you can come up with when you're just writing, and not following a tight outline schedule! :)

  2. I go through something similar. Since I'm on my third book in a series, the characters always come first. But once I've completed a decent outline, I run it by my critique partners, just to be sure it doesn't suck. (And they would tell me!)

    1. I think having critique partners go over an outline is a good idea to weed out what does and doesn't work, and hee, great that you have partners who would tell you! It's good to get pointers at that pre drafting it all out stage I think.

      Am very impressed you are that far into a series! Thank you for commenting.

  3. I'm also quite similar. Though usually when I have the idea I will write down a couple of hundred words of the opening scene and then brainstorm the whole story. I usually also don't run the idea by anyone unless I get stuck or am unsure about something. Once I get an idea I usually stick to it but it changes and evolves a lot.

    One thing that usually helps me is that whenever I have time not to actively need to think about anything specific (i.e. car rides, falling asleep, etc.) I will think about my story. That usually results in quite some good ideas, which is why I always have a little notebook with me!

    1. It's such a good idea to think about it in those in between times and to remember a notebook. The 'notes' bit on my iphone often ends up with random 'ADD THIS BIT' notes in it due to my lack of a notebook. Am going to put one in my bag tonight ;)

      Thank you for commenting!

  4. Like you, I tend to come up with a "what if" first. If I like the what if, I'll make a note of it somewhere. I don't like to work on more than one novel at a time, so the idea might sit for a while. It's possible I'll go back to it from time to time, poke it around, see if I can draw more of a story out of it. But I don't really try to work on it too much until the current project is done. When I have the time to develop the idea, that's when I'll see if the idea has legs--can I actually develop a good story out of it? Do I have characters for this (I sometimes think up characters, but I rarely build stories from characters--I usually keep them wandering around my head until the right story comes along), or do I need to develop characters? And so on. If I can't extract a great story out of the premise, then I'll set it aside. Maybe one day I'll come up with a story based on the idea, or perhaps I'll have another idea that would fit with it.

    That's sort of, roughly, how I work.

    1. Am very interested that you start with a what if too and then see if you can get a story from it. Also interested that you might have a different idea that might fit with it. I keep a notebook of ideas but I probably don't look at them enough to revisit them later and get value from them!

      Thank you so for commenting.

  5. I find my process is largely the same as yours, though I never quite imagined it as an actual process like you have. I feel I'm more the type to think of an idea and then just start writing it out, figuring things out along the way. I find it's not difficult for me to keep track of the plot(s) in my mind and I can usually figure out errors (unless I'm totally blind to them). I find that when I've had an idea and plotted it out I've never done any actual writing. For me, plotting gets in the way.

    1. That's is interesting that the plotting gets in the way for you - is it because in some way the story is then 'told' and so there isn't the same impetus to get it out?

      I really admire anyone who can write without a plan, I would feel completely stymied!

  6. I'm kind of like you. I usually get some sort of bit of an idea, then toss it around for awhile in my head. (Although I now have a folder in my computer labeled 'ideas' so I don't forget!) Then, when I'm ready I just sort of dive right in. I'm not an outliner. Usually the ideas will come to me as I go. :)

    1. It is a very good idea to an 'ideas' folder on your computer - I am still scribbling them in a notebook!

      I admire anyone who can just write without outlining, I just get ... stymied if I try to do that.

      Thank you so much for visiting and commenting!


Please comment, I'd love to know what you think! :)