Beating Writer’s Block: Brainstorm

Brainstorm

If you find yourself facing Writer’s Block, there’s one simple solution that always comes in handy: brainstorming. This exercise is a common practice among writers, though usually it’s done at the beginning of a project. We’re going to use it in this post to help get past the specific problem you’re facing.

You’ll need: a blank sheet of paper, preferably without lines; an easy to write with pen or pencil; a means to count down five minutes; and the time to sit without distraction for that same period of time. Got everything you need? Then let’s get started.

Action Time! In the middle of the page, write down what it is you’ll be brainstorming.

This might include: imagery for a poem; a scene in a novel, short story or script; a topic in a non-fiction book; or a crisis faced by a character or a group of characters. The list goes on, but in terms of the vaguest definitions of problems authors have with Writer’s Block, those are four of the biggest issues. I know from experience how difficult it can be trying to figure out a scene, especially if it began as a result of inspiration rather than out of a plan, or the trouble that might be faced when putting a character in an impossible situation.

When you have your word or phrase in the middle of the page, circle it. Your timer should begin now. Give yourself five minutes. From that central word or phrase, write down as many different ideas as you can, even if they don’t make a whole lot of sense. Include every thought that comes into your head when you look at the problem. Think of it as a word association game. If you need to throw in a character into a difficult scene, write that down. If you need to figure out a transition from one chapter to another, and one option is to include a whole new, unplanned chapter, write that down.

I try to write down 8-10 main points, and see how each might be expanded on in the remaining time. When the five minutes are up, look at your brainstorm more closely. Highlight the ideas that you might be able to use, and ignore the others. See if any of your ideas might work better together than they would in isolation. Take your time with this part of the exercise.

When you’ve finished, attempt to write the next part of your book. Remember the old caveat about first drafts: they are very rarely the finished piece. You can return to the scene later and fix it. That’s what revision is for. The most important thing with a first draft is to finish it.

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About Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll is a writer, born, raised and still living in Dublin. By day he's a student and bookseller, by night he writes fiction and uses social media.
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