Author Solutions, authors, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, self publishing, writing

3 brainstorming techniques that can help you capture the best ideas for your book

One of the keys to writing a good book is making sure your manuscript contains the best of ideas or story you want to brainstorm ideaconvey. That means you need to make sure you include all the main ideas and supporting concepts for a nonfiction book and all the key plot points and characters in a fiction book.

Brainstorming before you begin writing can help you capture scattered thoughts and explore new ones you might not have considered. You can brainstorm about your book in general to get started, or you can brainstorm something more specific, such as a particular character, the setting of your story, or a chapter. There are several brainstorming techniques that are useful for writers. Here are a few to try that could help make your book even better.

Ask Questions

Instead of focusing on the answers and what you know, think about questions you could ask about your topic or plot or a character. “What if” is a great place to start. What if the character was from another planet? What if no one spoke the same language? What if you wrote a workbook to accompany your non-fiction book? “What if” can lead to a number of new ideas.

Another way to approach this technique is create a sheet that has six categories: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Then start writing down questions that need to be answered. Who are the antagonist’s allies? What is the one thing the main character cannot live without? Where will the story unfold? Give yourself a time frame, and write down as many questions as you can. At the end of the brainstorming session, dig deeper into some of the interesting questions that arose.

Create a Mind Map

Mind mapping can help you explore new directions and new ideas for your book.

Mind mapping can help you explore new directions and new ideas for your book.

To expand your basic idea, try the technique known as mind mapping. Mind mapping is a technique used to organize your brainstorming ideas. Start with a circle in the center of a blank page (use a large sheet of paper, a whiteboard, or even a sidewalk and chalk). In the middle of that circle, write your main idea or initial thought, and then branch off from there. Draw other circles branching from the first one, filling them in with related ideas or subplots. Continue expanding on each subsidiary idea and then on ideas subsidiary to the first sub-idea. Continue quickly, creating more branches and associations. At the end, your page will be filled with a mind map of ideas that will help you develop your story.

Make a List

The first two brainstorming ideas are intended to create a breadth of ideas around a topic, but making a list will help you explore the depth of a topic. To start set a number as your goal for your list. It could be ten, or 20 or 50. The number doesn’t matter as much as the commitment to create the list. Then write a statement or idea at the top of the page. For example, at the end of the book, the main character will ______________. Then start making a list of all the possible things that could happen to the main character. Most of the ideas on the list won’t be viable, but the goal is to just open up your thinking to find that one really killer idea on the list. Don’t worry about the quality or order of the items you are listing, just get them out onto the page. Then go back and review your list when you are done. You will probably be surprised at some of what you listed, but look for that one idea that can make your book really special.

Have you used brainstorming techniques?

I trust these three simple ideas are helpful to you, but perhaps there are other techniques you have used in your writing process. If so, please share those in the comment section and I will post for the other readers to see.

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Author Solutions, Editing, Indie book publishing, writing

5 helpful things aspiring writers can learn from our dog, Charlie

Eight years ago we brought a chocolate lab into our home who answers to the name of Charlie and I find him to be a most interesting and delightful animal. As I was observing him a few days ago, I realized there were a number of habits which he has that would actually be beneficial to writers.

Have a routine

Watching Charlie's routine is a a reminder of the habits writers need to develop to get to their goals.

Watching Charlie’s routine is a reminder of the habits writers need to develop to get to their goals.

One of the keys to accomplishing your goals is setting a time on the calendar to write and keeping it like an appointment. Charlie has times like that. Every morning, he expects me to take him out about the same time and feed him about the same time. I don’t know if we have trained him or he has actually conditioned us, but the most important thing is he is committed to the same activities each day at almost the same time without fail. Aspiring authors who try to fit in writing around their other activities almost never get to their goal.

Aspiring authors who try to fit in writing around their other activities almost never get to their goal.

Be naturally curious

We can walk the same path. We can sit in the same room. We can follow the same schedule, but Charlie will always take time to take in a new smell or find a new toy or pause to watch the actions of a child he does not recognize. Writers should do the same. Pause to take in new information and sense experiences because you never know how it might help your writing have greater depth and interest.

Be observant of the things around you

This is similar to being naturally curious, but one thing I have seen is Charlie always notices a sound or smell or animal or person that is different from what he normally sees. Writers would benefit from the same attention to observation. From those new sensations and inputs, you may find inspiration for a more robust description of a scene or an approach to dialogue or something else to improve your story or writing.

Find a favorite spot to write and you will be more productive.

Find a favorite spot to write and you will be more productive.

Find a favorite spot

I have written about this quite often. My personal experience and conversations with other writers have confirmed that where you write can impact what you write. Some people need complete quiet. Others need the stimulus of a public space. It really doesn’t matter where you write, as long as you know the place where you write best. As for Charlie, he has certain places, often where the sun is coming through the window, where he likes to hang out. Not sure how productive he is in those spots, because he tends to nap there, but the principle is the important thing to remember in this case.

It really doesn’t matter where you write, as long as you know the place where you write best.

Celebrate the accomplishment of the day

Writing and rewriting is a long journey with stops of self-doubt along the way so it is easy to give up, but don’t.  Learn to celebrate the accomplishments of the day. Even if you just write a couple of pages or change the dialogue in a scene, focus on that.  Charlie is happy if all he gets to do in a day is run and chase sticks. He gets excited by what he got done that day. Writers can learn from that.

So if you have been stuck or laid aside your manuscript, hopefully Charlie’s routine will inspire you to get back at it and accomplish your goal.

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Author Solutions, authors, self publishing, writing

Overcoming 5 Common Roadblocks That Keep Writers From Finishing Their Books (Part 1)

RoadblockHaving an idea for a book is really easy.  Starting a book is easy, but writing to finish is difficult and very few people actually reach the goal. Why is that?  I believe it is because the path to a finished book has many obstacles.

Why do some authors get published and others do not?  Well, I have authored three books myself, but more importantly, I have had hundreds of conversations with authors. It is from those chats that I have seen five common roadblocks that prevent writers from getting the manuscript to finished book.  Here is that list and some ways you can overcome them.

  1. Forgetting why you wanted to write the book
  2. Losing the discipline of writing regularly
  3. Losing sight of the day you want to hold your book
  4. Doubt creeps in.
  5. Unclear what you will do when you are done writing.

Forgetting why you wanted to write the book. There is usually some moment of inspiration or impetus that causes an author to want to write.  It is very easy along the way of doing the hard work of completing the manuscript to forget that reason.  Motivation is tied to remembering why.  So it is a very, very simple thing to do, but take a piece of paper and write down why you wanted to write the book in the first place.  Put that paper where you can see it every time you sit down to write.

Motivation is tied to remembering why

Losing the discipline of writing regularly. One thing I have seen that is common to all authors who are successful in self-publishing is they determine the best time to write and they block that time on the calendar.  Every author who I have spoken to usually has a time that is better than others for them to write.  Most authors can write more in one good hour than in three hours when not in the right space or time.

I remember one time I was sitting with an author who is quite prolific.  She has published more than 30 book and I wanted to test this theory with her.  I was having lunch with she and her husband.  I asked her the question, “Is there a particular time that you find yourself more productive in writing?”  Before she could answer the question, her husband said, “5:30 in the morning.”  He knew being married to her that there was a time when she was more productive than not.  So that is an important thing to remember, and what I find is if you try to write only when you have time, you will not be as successful. Other things will rush in and fill up the most productive time you have for writing.  So make an appointment with yourself on your calendar and block that time.

I will address the remaining three roadblocks in my next post. In the meantime, use the comments section to let me know if you think there are any other roadblocks I did not address. (To Be Continued)

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authors, helpful hints, Indie book publishing, self publishing

Stan Lee of Marvel Comics shares from his experience on The Author Learning Center

Earlier this year, the Author Learning Center, https://www.authorlearningcenter.com/ was launched to provide writers and authors resources on writing, publishing and marketing books. Recently, a number of new features were added, but perhaps most exciting is the number of notable authors who are providing their insights on the site. Watch this interview with Stan Lee of Marvel Comics fame. It is quite inspiring.

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