Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net


March 16th, 2010

I thought that somewhere, somewhen, I had written about the brainstorming method that has served me well over the years, but after spending way too much time looking back over blogs and searching emails, I can’t find it, so I guess it’s safe to talk about it again.

The subject came to mind after reading the blog of a fellow Maui writer, Toby Neal:

At the time I listened to this lecture I’d begun Hawaiian Orchid and was about halfway through it. I was stalled, losing interest and faith I could finish it, and out of ideas. But I wrote a question on a 3X5 card: “Who’s the bad guy?”

It wasn’t two hours later when I had the answer! I ran to my computer and feverishly typed out the entire showdown scene. I’d never been so galvanized. But it was way too soon in the book, so I began writing down other questions, or even just the glimmer of an idea, like, “Gunfight Scene” which I thought would be cool to have but had no idea how to do, write, or work in. The ‘answers’ would appear, almost like magic.

I like the sound of this technique and I intend to try it out sometime soon. The method I’ve used is similar but it’s a step closer to traditional brainstorming. Very simply, it involves sitting down with a pen and paper and writing down questions about the story and the characters, and then trying to answer them. Absurd answers are fine, so long as they are answers. Oh yes–and the pen keeps moving. Try not to stop writing. This is where it becomes the same as traditional brainstorming. The big difference is that instead of writing anything that comes to mind, the mind should stay focused on story problems. If answers aren’t coming to the question just asked, try asking different questions!

This technique doesn’t always work, but when it does, it works really really well. I don’t think I could have written my early novels without it.

Oh–and despite often-heard opinions to the contrary, typing works just as well as handwriting for me–sometimes better.

Posted on: Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 at 8:37 am
Categories: Writing.

2 Responses to “Brainstorming”

  1. MP Says:

    Definetly a great tactic, works for even the most stubborn stuckage. I like to write the questions down on paper as well, preferably while pacing. Bizarre, I know, maybe it just reinforces the mad writer trope? Hah!

    Honestly though, I have way more problems with structure and pacing, things that can’t reallly be answered completely with rhetorics.

  2. Jeffrey Gershom Says:

    Hello Linda,
    I’m a visual person so for brainstorming I get a sheet of paper and place what I’m concentratiing on at the center of the page. After circling it, I branch out with other related ideas and circle them as well and then connect them with a line. I keep doing this with other ideas and see how they relate to one another. If they do, then I connect them with a line. In time, I might get an idea in how to proceed with the story. Otherwise, I probably just have a big mess on the paper!!

    By the way, I don’t suppose you remember my name; it’s been about 15 years. You were my instructor for a SF workshop by Writer’s Digest. I lived in Omaha, Nebraska at the time. A lot has happened since then, things that will be a well spring to draw from for my writing.