Friday, November 9, 2012

The Art of Brainstorming

I've got a sweet friend visiting with us today. Michelle Lim  is the brand new author of a self-help brainstorming book for novelists Idea Sparking and is a sweetheart of a friend! From the first year I ran into her at the business center at ACFW 2011 and visiting with her again this year at ACFW 2012, I've loved getting to know her more. She's called the brainstorming extraordinaire of My Book Therapy and I'm excited she has agreed to guest post for us today!!

Does your story spark with conflict?

Brainstorming comes as naturally to some writer’s as eating peanut butter on peas. For others, brainstorming comes easily enough, but they stop short of the best idea when they find one that will work. Whether you are a plotter or pantser, brainstorming can propel your story from good to great.

My new book Idea Sparking: How to Brainstorm Conflict in Your Novel packed with brainstorming tips, Idea Sparking strategies, diagnostic plot tools, and personal application exercises shows you how to build conflict and story twists.

Idea Sparking Cliffhanger Formula

Inspiring readers to stay up all night to finish a book is a goal of every writer. One tip I teach in my book is the Cliffhanger Formula.

A cliffhanger is basically the last line or two at the end of a scene or chapter that leaves the reader hanging. It is easy to spend loads of time trying to come up with the perfect cliffhanger, but there is one way to make it less painful.

Creating a Cliffhanger in Three Easy Steps:

Step One: Identify the problem your character has going forward from this scene.

Step Two: Stop writing the scene before you have resolved the problem.

Step Three: Add a line to give it punch. Why does it matter?

Let’s apply it to this story clip:

Sally sprinted toward the bank. The clock struck twelve. Five minutes before the deadline. She entered the bank lobby and approached the teller. Just in time.

1. Identify the problem: Sally is running of out time.

2. Stop writing the scene before you resolve this problem.  So, you should stop the scene at the line: 
Five minutes before the deadline.

3. Add a line to give it punch. Why does it matter? If she didn’t make it in time, her husband would die.
Finished Clip:  

Sally sprinted toward the bank. The clock struck twelve. Five minutes before the deadline. If she didn't make it in time, her husband would die.

Cliffhangers are merely made up of the ending problem of the POV character and the stakes. Not all of your scenes will be as dramatic as this one, but you should try to find the strongest cliffhangers to end your chapters.

You can find Idea Sparking: How to Brainstorm Conflict in Your Novel HERE.

What is typically your biggest plot or brainstorming dilemma?

Casey, thank you so much for inviting me to visit your blog. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you through My Book Therapy and American Christian Fiction Writers.

Today is the last day to enter my Idea Sparking Blog Tour Contest for a Free Kindle Paperwhite. Leave a comment to enter. The drawing and party will be on my blog next Tuesday, Nov. 13th.

Michelle Lim is the author of the new book Idea Sparking: How to Brainstorm Conflict in Your NovelAlso a romantic suspense author whose manuscripts have earned recognition in The Rattler Contest 2012, the Genesis Contest 2011, and the Frasier Contest in 2010. Michelle is the Brainstorm/Huddle Coach at My Book Therapy and serves as Vice President of MN N.I.C.E., a local chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers. Check out her blog at:


Latayne C Scott said...

I had a major cliffhanger in a WIP recently. This novel, about the Civil War, got to committee with a major publisher and was turned down, and my agent suggested I begin telling the story at a different point in the plot. I began rewriting it, but ultimately had to put it aside when two things happened: my husband was hospitalized, and I had to finish a non-fiction book on a tight deadline. Months later, I came back to the novel and read the last lines I wrote (and I had even put them in bold font): "Aaron must have had the surgeon’s ability. Only the. . ."
And I have no idea who Aaron was.
Latayne C. Scott

Jeanne T said...

Michelle, you are truly gifted at brainstorming. As I work revisions, I'm finding a few flat scenes. I'm looking forward to reading through your book to figure out how to add conflict to them. Thanks for sharing your insights!!

Michelle said...

Lol! I do that kind of stuff a lot too. Forgetting names. Thanks for sharing part of your journey.

Janet Kerr said...

Hey Michelle,
I have been watching for your post all week. It is so great to see your here. Your book is on its way to me in Canada. I am looking forward to using it to add conflict to my story as soon as I get it!

Michelle said...

Thanks, Jeanne. Enjoy reading.


Michelle said...

Jan, thanks for being a faithful follower! Enjoy the book.

Cherry said...

Well, I'm not sure if this is what you were thinking about, but I sometimes have these "dilemmas":
I sit down to make a plot for a story, and then after some time, something else pops into my mind, something that would change a lot of things compared to the original plot. And then I just sit there, trying to guess which one would be the best with regards to the events after.
I hope I am understandable :$

Sophie T

Pepper said...

oh Michelle,
So glad to have you here! And I LOVE brainstorming with people...especially about THEIR ideas! That's so much fun!!

Thanks for the cliffhanger formula. I'm always searching for ways to keep the readers reading :-)

Julie Steele said...

This is great and just what I needed for my writing this weekend!

Peace, Julie

Casey said...

I'm SO GLAD to have Michelle and her amazing abilities here this week. Michelle, I think I'll be emailing you soon, I'm afraid I'm hitting...the dreaded wall. ;-) But anyway, great tips, great knowledge, I'm so glad we've had the chance to chat at ACFW and now here! :-)

Michelle said...

I can so relate to that, Sophie!

Michelle said...

I love to brainstorm, too. So glad the cliffhanger formula helped!

Michelle said...

So glad, Julie. Happy writing!

Michelle said...

Thank you so much, Casey! Looking forward to getting your email.