>Brainstorm Away with These Three Fun Techniques

>Now that you have an idea, where do you go with it? Some ideas may blossom all on their own but others may need some time and a little prodding. To help you out, I’ve reviewed three of my favorite brainstorming techniques.

Clustering
I love this technique. There’s something about the circular thinking that gets ideas to connect. This is what you do:

Write the initial idea in the center of the page and circle it. Branch off of that circle and write the first thing you think of related to the first idea. Then, if you think of something related to the second one, branch off of it. Or, continue branching from the first idea. As you spread across the page, you may find it’s hard to stop. Ideas can come rather quickly with this method, and with all of them before you in no particular order you may see things come together that will surprise you. But that’s the fun of it.


Below is a small example of clustering I did for one of my older stories. It’s a lot of fun so go crazy.


Listing
My mom was a master lister and often approached problem-solving by making lists. I tend to default to list-making, especially when I’m in a time crunch (I listed for this entry while at a friend’s house). But it works equally well when you have all the time in the world, and can help you access connections that are buried deep. This is what you do:

Write down the main idea. Start writing (underneath or next to it) all the things you think of without editing or second-guessing. Even if it sounds preposterous – write it down. Even if it doesn’t seem at all related – write it down. Never dismiss anything at this stage. You don’t know where ideas will take you. Trust your instinct to take you where you want to go.

In the process of searching for examples to show you, I found a lot of lists in my notebook. This is one good example from a couple of years ago.

Freewriting
This is one of the very first brainstorming methods I ever used. By free associating and not thinking too hard, your first idea may take you to surprising places. This is what you do:

Write down the first idea. Set a timer for however long, say 10-20 minutes. Start writing. Don’t think, don’t edit, don’t follow grammatical rules. As my mom always told me, just put pen to paper and go. Don’t let your mind inhibit the process.

When you start out with one of these techniques you may feel uncertain about where to start. But once you get going, idea will lead to idea and you’ll be turning pages before you know it.

Next week: Maybe you’ve come up with several directions to take your story. Or maybe just ideas for several different stories. Which do you choose? Some tips to help you along next week.

Get Writing!
This week use one of the brainstorming techniques above that you haven’t tried before or one you don’t use often. Your goal: Discover one idea that takes your story in a surprising direction, or one story idea that takes you in a surprising direction.

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