Saturday, October 10, 2015

NaNoWriMo: Plan Ahead - 10 Brainstorming Tips

Including today, we have 22 days until NaNo starts!

No wait! Come back! It's okay - take a deep breath, everything will be all right. Don't freak out. Planning a novel is a big undertaking but, like most overwhelming things in life, taking it one step at a time and planning ahead usually alleviates some of that stress.

Today I'm going to share ten brainstorming tips for your NaNo novel. Even if you're a "pantzer" (think: someone who flies by the seat of their pants to write their novel) it can't hurt to write a few things down ahead of time...right?

10 Brainstorming Tips

1. Write, draw, or paint it out
Depending on what form of expression you prefer, this first tip is simple. Put your ideas out there. I use a white board and paper but it's really up to you.

I recommend having these things (though this isn't a complete list):
  • Character names
  • Character descriptions (this can be as simple or complex as you like)
  • Goal, conflict, motivation for your characters
  • Basic plot arc (see #9)
  • Location details
  • Minimal research you may need on hand
  • Key ideas & themes
2. Talk to someone
Felling drained of great ideas? Talk with someone! No, this doesn't have to be a writer - literally anyone will do. Last week my community group and I started talking about my writing and they gave me some pretty interesting ideas for some plots - granted a lot of them were slightly far-fetched, but it was inspirational. Steal from your friends. If they aren't writers, chances are they won't mind a bit if you use their idea. Maybe ask to be sure though...

3. Think on it
For those of us with busy lives this is hard...but take time to think. Showers are my favorite time to brainstorm, but this will work anywhere/anytime. Be wary of thinking too much right before bed though...those pesky ideas will keep you awake.

4. Take a walk
Explore your neighborhood or local park/hiking trail. I find being outside to be extremely stimulating to my mind.

5. Listen to music 
This can be combined with the walk or separate, but music can be a fantastic inspiration. I've got a whole Spotify playlist devoted to my scifi/dystopian novel and all I need to do is listen to a few songs to get my thoughts flying in many  directions.

6. Seek inspiration 
This may seem redundant, but sometimes inspiration doesn't just fall into your lap. Sometimes you have to search for it. Aside from what I've already listed, I've also found these things helpful: news articles, asking "what if" questions, starting with one idea and asking why, reading great books, looking at photos for inspiration...the list goes on.

7. Don't take your first idea
This is more on the technical side of things, but as you're brainstorming situations, don't just take the first thought that comes to mind. Allow your characters to fail (tweet this) and then show your readers how they find a new way--dare I say a better way?--around the issue.

8. Dig deeper
Remember those 22 days? Use them! Don't just let yourself dawdle up until the night of October 31st. Take the gift of time you have (even if that's 10 minute's a day) and plan. Explore motivations and dig deep into the minds and hearts of your characters. (tweet this) Chances are if you know them, they will tell you what happens.

9. Perfect form
There are a lot of ways to structure your novel and a lot of great books about these methods. You may not have time to read them all by Nov. 1st, but I would recommend taking a look at some of their ideas (whether that's through Google or Pinterest research or talking with your writing pals). I tend to use the Three-Act structure in its simplest form at the onset of my novel.

*Check out these awesome books about structure: Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell (fantastic read), How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson (I've heard great things about this), Story Trumps Structure by Steven James (on my list), Plot Versus Character by Jeff Gerke (own it and it's in my TBR pile!).

10. When all else fails...fake it
 This may completely discredit the rest of these 9 tips, but at the end of the day you may find yourself a dried up well just waiting for someone to toss in a penny of an idea. If that's the case, it's okay! You can still make it. Pick your character names and when November 1st hits, write. That truly is jumping in the deep end, but it's about the process not necessarily the product at this stage.

What do you think? Which of these is your favorite tip? Have you used them before? Got any to add? Put your suggestions in the comments below so we can all share in the learning experience.