You may remember, from years ago, your English teachers teaching you how to brainstorm before writing a story or even a research paper. They had helpful little diagrams where you could write in your main idea and supporting details or you could just go all willy nilly and free form, jotting ideas on the paper. Have you ever tried it since leaving a school setting?
Brainstorming is something both plotters and pantsers can take advantage of. The ideas come and, in my opinion, it’s rare that you’ll know the whole outcome of the story before you sit down to write it. Brainstorming can help the plotter figure out the direction they want their novel to take. For the pantser, it can be good to go in with ideas you may want to hit, but I also think it’s a good way to move forward on a story if you’re stuck. Stop down and take a few minutes to jot down ideas about your plot line or your characters or the relationships they have. It could spark a new idea or direction for you to take.
Just be sure to remember that just because an idea comes out during brainstorming, that doesn’t mean you have to use it. Think of them as suggestions from your subconscious.
Do you brainstorm before or during your writing? Have you found it helps your process?
If you’re not into free form, here are some brainstorming diagrams that could help you:
I’ve always said I’m a pantser, one who doesn’t outline or write a synopsis before writing. I get an idea, maybe jot a few notes, typically having an ending in mind, but then I’m writing the rest by the seat of my pants. Outlines and the such seemed constricting to me, as if someone would be holding a gun to my head saying “HEY! You outlined it this way. No deviating or making changes!”
Obviously that’s not going to happen (at least I hope not!), but I guess it’s how I’ve felt.
This morning I awoke with an idea for a story. Something prompted me to get up and write a synopsis for it. The story, from start to finish, down on paper or, well ya know, computer screen. I was shocked at myself. I do not work like that! Maybe it’s because I just wrote the synopsis for Heavyweight (although that story is already done) or maybe it’s just because all the parts of the story came to me for a change. I’m not really sure what happened but I’m kind of glad it did.
I won’t know until I sit down to work on the actually story itself (tentatively dubbed Driven) if the plotting was a good or a bad idea. I won’t know if I’ll feel stifled creatively or not, but I think I can make it work. I’ll have to be able to forgive myself if it goes off on a different course (we know characters can often act out in ways we don’t expect) but I feel like having the synopsis will give me a place to go to if I get stuck. We shall see.
I think the lesson here is to be open to doing things in different ways. If the mood strikes you to do something unusual to your style, give it a try anyway. You could find out that it works better for you. You could find out that it makes your story flow better and has you staring blankly at your screen less. You won’t know if you never try.
Have you made major changes in your process? How has it helped or hurt in the long run?