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How to effectively brainstorm new novel ideas

7 February 2017

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The blank page; a novelist’s worst nightmare. What to fill it with? In fact, will the words ever return?

Inspiration can often be found in the most unusual of places, but sometimes you have to be far more proactive in seeking it out.

That means turning to a technique most commonly used in business: brainstorming. It’s something of an overused term these days and usually conjures up images of besuited individuals gathered around board room tables musing over strap lines or product ideas. But for a novelist, brainstorming can be a very useful tool indeed.

In this post, we’re going to look at some great brainstorming techniques that will ensure you always have a healthy roster of story, character and plot twist ideas filed away.

Always keep a notebook nearby

The process of brainstorming is something we often carry out without prior thought. Think about it; how many times have you sat at your desk, leaned back in your chair and pontificated about a potential new character? That’s brainstorming in action.

The crucial step you’ll need to undertake is capturing the ideas you come up with, and that requires a notebook that is ever present. For you, that might be your smartphone, or a traditional notepad and pen, but whatever it is, keep it at your side always, for whenever ad-hoc brainstorming strikes.

Build and keep an ideas box

Your notebook is the tool you’ll need to capture the ideas that form from casual brainstorming, but sometimes, you’ll think of something that absolutely needs to be placed somewhere specific for safe keeping.

This is where the ideas box comes in. This is a physical place in which you can store anything and everything that might one day prove useful for your writing endeavours.

Make it out of an old shoe box, biscuit tin or (if you’re handy with the odd tool) from scratch. Put some love into its creation, and your ideas box will become something you absolutely treasure. Hide it under the bed, or deep within a cupboard for added reverence and, whenever you need some inspiration, simply head for those ideas you once stored away for safe keeping.

Brainstorm about something entirely unrelated

Novel ideas do come from the funniest of places, which is why brainstorming doesn’t necessarily need to be focussed on the project you’re currently writing. Instead, pick a completely random topic and think deeply about it.

From such sessions, you’ll come across ideas for new projects and, possibly, some that will aid your current novel. It’s a brilliant and surprisingly effective brainstorming technique.

Have a laugh

If you’re really struggling with a certain chapter and feel that you’re falling down a literary black hole, you can do a lot worse than turn to humour.

Rewrite the chapter, but with a far more humorous tone. Brainstorm ideas that are purely for comic effect and see what transpires. It’ll reinvigorate your writing and some of it may just stick.

Final thoughts

Brainstorming isn’t solely reserved for the board room; it’s perfect for novelists and aspiring writers. Make it a regular part of your week and the ideas will begin flowing judiciously.

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