Monday, January 28, 2013

Four Brainstorming Tools for Those Wandering in the Land of Writer’s Block by Lindsay Harrel

So glad to welcome Lindsay Harrel to The Writers Alley today! She has a GREAT post for you!

We’ve all been there. The Land of Writer’s Block, that is.

It’s a scary place, full of evil creatures that cackle at you for your ineptitude, and vines that suddenly grow up from the ground to choke the confidence right out of you. A place that leaves you digging in the dirt for gold because you just can’t seem to reach them thar hills in the distance.

In fact, do they even exist?

 Yes, they do! And you can get there, I promise. There’s a well of creativity inside of you just waiting to be tapped. You just need the right tools to do it. 

Tool #1: Freewriting

Let’s travel back to ENG 101 for a bit. Remember when your teacher would ask you to write whatever you felt like for ten minutes straight? It didn’t have to have a theme or be grammatically correct. The only rule? You had to keep writing, even if all you wrote was “I can’t think of anything to write.” Because, hey, that often leads to waxing philosophic about what you do and do not know about life, right?

If you feel absolutely bone dry and don’t know what to write about, just try some freewriting of your own. You may not use anything produced in that exercise, but it gets the creative juices flowing. And who knows? You may subconsciously stumble across just the thing you need to fix you scene or dream up a plot twist.

Tool #2: Interviewing

Ever feel like you have no idea what your characters would do in a certain situation? Does everything you can think of feel untrue to who they are as people? Well…why not ask them what they’d do? Yep. Rock it like the journalist you are and conduct an interview.

Susan May Warren and the awesome peeps over at My Book Therapy recommend this technique and it works great. Ask your character what motivates her, what lie she believes, what one moment in her past defines her, and what her greatest dream is.

Just don’t be surprised when she answers you. *wink*

Tool #3: Storyworld

When I’m plotting a scene, so often I think about what happens and who is involved. But maybe you’re drawing a complete blank and you don’t know what comes next. Have no fear—storyworld is here to save you! Say what?

Yeah, so you don’t know what happens, but do you know where the scene is set? If not, imagine a creative setting. Then begin to build the storyworld in your head. Ask yourself what it looks like, smells like, feels like, tastes like, and sounds like. Then begin to figure out who is there, what is happening, when and where it’s happening, and why it’s happening.

Tool #4: Your Phone (or Skype)

How does your phone help you brainstorm? Because you can use it to call up a writer bud and talk through your ideas with them.

For my current work in progress, I got on the phone for three hours with my critique partner, Melissa Tagg, and she basically came up with the hook for my story. I was almost there, on the cusp of a great idea, but she came through and helped deliver it to me. Getting someone else’s perspective is just as helpful in the beginning stages of a story as in the revision stage.

So, although you may feel like a permanent citizen in the Land of Writer’s Block, just remember—there is an escape! Use the tools you’ve been given and soon you’ll be livin’ it up in the Hills of Gold.

Your Turn: How do you deal with writer’s block?

 Since the age of six, when she wrote the riveting tale “How to Eat Mud Pie,” Lindsay Harrel has passionately engaged the written word as a reader, writer, and editor. She has a bachelor’s in journalism and a master’s in English, and is published in the Falling in Love with You anthology released by OakTara in October 2012. Lindsay lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband of six years and two golden retriever puppies in serious need of training. Connect with her on her blog or via Facebook or Twitter (@LindsayHarrel).


Heidi Chiavaroli said...

Great tips, Lindsay! I especially love the idea of interviewing characters. Great fun!

Beth K. Vogt said...

Love all these ideas, Lindsay -- especially brainstorming with another writer (or 2) and interviewing my characters.

Jill Weatherholt said...

These are great ideas, Linday! Interviewing a character always gets me writing again. Thanks!

Elisabeth Pettifor said...

Sometimes it works to just take a break, though if you're on a contract with a deadline coming up, you certainly don't have as much freedom to do so. But if you're on your first book, like me, that's how I deal with it. I use that time to go back into my research books or just random books that have nothing to do with my subject matter whatsoever. Sometimes an idea comes in the strangest of ways.

Melissa Tagg said...

Yay for seeing LInz at the Writer's Alley.

I so agree with your tip about brainstorming with a friend or critique partner (and not just because you happened to give me a shout-out there--thanks, friend!)...but because it works! Your input and listening ear when I've been all muddled up in my plot has been amazing. Same with the coaching and help I've received from MBT peeps.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Thanks for sharing your ideas, Lindsay!

Will keep them in mind for future writers' block occurrences!


Julia M. Reffner said...

I usually do freewriting and interviewing my characters. The storyworld is a great idea and one I need to incorporate. Thanks! Great post, Lindsay!

Ashley Clark said...

Linds, I love this post! Brainstorming is always so fun, but also so stressful for me because I'm always worried about missing a better story, if that makes sense. Your tips are excellent ways to turn the creativity on and the inner editor off! Also, you are SO right about getting on the phone... When I'm brainstorming, I usually nag Angie to death with text messages of ideas I've come up with, or send late night emails! It can help SO much to get another perspective to round out your idea. Great post! :)

Gabrielle Meyer said...

Love all the ideas, Lindsay! One of my best tools for writer's block and bringing my story to my husband - AGAIN! Sometimes he'll say to me: "You know, I've already heard this story premise three times." And I'll say: "Ya, but I'm working it out." Then he patiently listens and gives me feedback. It's nice to have a man's perspective. I also love interviewing my characters. It's the best way to get into their head and hear their voice. Thanks for the tips! It's fun seeing you at the Writer's Alley!

Mary Vee said...

So loved seeing you here on the Alley today. Did I hear you singing?

Great ideas. I love brainstorming with other people. Hate doing it with just me, myself, and I. We get to be redundant.

Karen Schravemade said...

Thanks for this, Lindsay. As a long-time resident of the land of Writers Block, I needed these tips. Great advice.

Jeanne T said...

Hey Linz,

I'm checking in late, but I love your ideas for climbing out of the Valley of Writer's Block. I most often find myself talking with a friend or interviewing my characters to move beyond. But, sometimes, reading another author's novel refreshes and inspires me to write myself out of that valley.

Lindsay Harrel said...

Hey all! Thanks for the warm welcome. Sorry I couldn't pop in sooner, but I just got off work. :P So glad you found these tips helpful. I loved the other ones suggested!

Ruth Douthitt said...

Great tips! I am having my students brainstorm their stories this week. It's so much fun to help them work through those blocks. Freewriting is a big help!

Lacie Nezbeth said...

Like everyone already said, these are great, Lindsay! And not writing related, but equally important...I love your headshot. Very pretty! :)