Sunday, 26 June 2011


brain·storm (br n stôrm ). n. 1. A sudden clever plan or idea. 2. A sudden, violent disturbance of the mind. v. brain·stormed, brain·storm·ing, brain·storms ...

I don't believe I've ever had a 'sudden, violent disturbance of the mind', unless it was the time my hubby accidentally chopped off my favorite ivy at the side of the house, or maybe when the driver in front of me stops suddenly or doesn't signal. But I have had clever ideas on occasion, mostly when I least expect them--just before I go to sleep or standing in a lineup at the grocery store. Good reasons to always have a notebook and pen on you.

Brainstorming helps writers take advantage of their natural thinking processes by gathering their brain energy into a storm that hopefully transforms into words that lead to vibrant writing. It can help when you're devoid of plot ideas, inspiration, or too tired or anxious to write. In this case, brainstorming can stir up the dust, whip some air into our stilled pools of thought, and get the breeze of inspiration moving again.

There are also times when you have too much chaos in your brain and you need to bring it to some conscious order. Brainstorming can force the mental chaos onto the page, getting rid of the 'junk', so your thoughts will have more clarity.

If I can't brainstorm with my critique partner, my favorite method is freewriting: writing whatever comes into my mind. I turn off my internal editor and my inner critic and just write. I set a time limit (15 minutes) or a space limit (two pages) and write until I reach that goal.

There will be a lot of filler and unusable thoughts, but there are usually some gems in with the junk. Even if the gems are sparse, I've quieted the noisy chaos or greased my writing gears so I can begin to write about an idea.

Freewriting is just one example of a brainstorming technique. Does anyone else have any techniques that work for them?


  1. Good blog! Usually, when I'm out and running around and busy as hell, is when I think of something that needs to be put into my plot or some dialogue for my character. That's when I take out my mini-tape-recorder and talk into it. Grocery shopping can be a real thrill for some who overhear me brainstorming ways to dispose a body when I do this. LOL

    Brainstorming with a critique partner :) is one of my favorite ways, and also with my husband. Bouncing ideas off of him, most times he just listens, but being able to talk about it, often times will help a plot problem.

    Writing anything for a few hours is also a technique I use, and I save it in case some day it may come in handy.

    I look forward to hearing how others brainstorm.

  2. I carry index cards and a pen wherever I go - never know when a brilliant idea is going to pop. If you are looking for "outside the box" brainstorming ideas...I'd say go to places that you would never normally go. Like the shooting range, or a wrestling match, or a hot rod event, or dressage event, or have a beer at the bar at the local driving range ... you get the idea. Normally when I'm working or writing, I sit on my couch or at my desk. Sometimes I sit in a coffee shop. But if you go to places you would never normally go, then all sorts of stuff starts to happen!

  3. Sure-- I make lists:

    Things I hated when I was five
    Colors my sisters like to wear
    Why are those people limping?
    What is dead in the fridge and why?
    What are the worst-ever lyrics to songs you still enjoy?

    Then pick off an item from a list and go somewhere with it... use it as a song title (I write songs), a poem subject, the opener for a short character background moment... the subject of flash fiction.

  4. I always have that tiny notebook with me and will jot overheard conversation snippets. These will give me ideas about the origins of what the convo was really about. I also get ideas from watching the news and reading mags.

  5. My gosh, I used to talk about so many of these brainstorming techniques when I was teaching, but now that I'm writing full time, I hadn't thought much of them. But I will now! Thanks so much for getting those ideas back in my head.