Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Brainstorming – A Great Tool for Writers!

By Debby Giusti

Have you looked in your tool box recently? If so, I hope you found a very important tool for writers, namely brainstorming.  

Brainstorming works on the premise that two heads are better than one. Articulating ideas without a censor overrides the negative voices within and allows creativity free rein. It also feeds into the quantity leads to quality theory that I mentioned in my March blog with the ceramics’ class example from Art and Fear (David Bayles and Ted Orland, 1993).

American advertising executive Alex Osborn developed the technique in the 1940s, and since then, brainstorming has been used in business boardrooms, in academia, in the arts and even in the world of romance novels to generate a wide range of new ideas. Known as the Father of Brainstorming, Osborn eventually published his technique in 1953, in a book titled, Applied Imagination, which is still considered a leading work on creativity.

What's in your tool box?

According to Osborn, an important key to success was to “hold back criticism until the creative current has had every chance to flow.” He believed that a greater input of ideas led to a better final solution and encouraged thinking outside the box to free the imagination and open new avenues of thought so innovative solutions could be achieved.

The amazing writers in the class I host in my local community are
hard at work. First they brainstorm a story and then do hands-on
exercises that apply the lessons taught to the storyline they created.
I first learned about brainstorming in a high school leadership group of which I was a member. Our advisor introduced the technique and walked us through a few practice sessions. I quickly saw the benefit of pooling ideas, unleashing creativity in a non-threatening environment and working together to achieve a goal. The process was energizing and often electric as we shouted out our ideas and saw how we could build on previously mentioned suggestions to achieve a creative solution to the problem or question posed. The technique worked, and we used brainstorming to come up with everything from homecoming themes to strategies to enhance student participation in extracurricular activities.

Chocolate always improves creativity!
Fast forward many, many years to when I joined Georgia Romance Writers and came in contact with published authors for the very first time. Until then, I had thought writers worked alone with little or no input from others.  You can imagine my surprise when, after a monthly Georgia Romance Writers’ meeting, I heard published authors mention their quarterly brainstorming retreats. Within that group were such notable writers as Deborah Smith, Sandra Chastain, Nancy Knight, Virginia Ellis, Donna Ball and Deb Dixon of GMC fame.  They talked about building on one another’s ideas to end up with storylines far more satisfying than they could have created on their own.  These were successful women who, at that time, had published more than 200 books with millions of copies in print.

I should add that the six GRW authors mentioned above brainstormed their way into the publishing industry when someone in the group threw out the idea of creating a small press where Southern voices could find a home. The way I heard it, Deb Dixon discussed the feasibility of the project as they drove to the beach for a week long brainstorming retreat. By the end of the week, BelleBooks was born. 

BelleBooks Editor, Deb Smith (L), with Deb Giusti at
the Death by Chocolate Party, RWA 2015.

Seeing the Belles' success, it didn’t take me long to realize I should follow their lead. Soon thereafter, I began to meet with other GRW members to brainstorm stories. At each gathering, creativity was encouraged, and the results were amazing. Whether we were discussing our own books or someone else’s story, we all benefited from the sessions, honed our storytelling craft and became more adept at developing compelling plots and engaging character. 

These days I brainstorm the major storylines for my books with my critique partner, Heartwarming author Anna Adams. Later, I’ll fine-tune specific plot points with my family as we gather around the kitchen table or with my husband when we take our daily walks. 

So how does it work?  Here are some basic guidelines for a multi-person brainstorming session:

1.    Gather a group of folks—three to six people—who are interested in fleshing out story ideas. 
2.    Allot at least thirty minutes to brainstorm a manuscript before moving on to the next one.  Assign a timekeeper so every story gets equal time.
3.    The first writer presents a general overview of how she plans to develop her story and asks for input in certain areas.  For example, if the writer’s having trouble with character development, she might ask for character traits and motivation that would make her heroine react in a specific way.
4.    Criticism or negative comments hinder creativity and should be put on hold.
5.    The group throws out ideas, sometimes in rapid succession.  Often one comment/idea will dovetail with another or will spark a new direction for exploration.
6.    Thinking outside the box should be encouraged. 
7.    If the focus becomes skewed, the writer can redirect the discussion to a path she believes would prove more fruitful, once again, using positive comments rather than anything negative or critical.
8.    At the end of the time period, the writer reviews the suggestions she feels have merit and thanks the group for their help before the next writer takes her turn.

While I find group brainstorming sessions to be highly productive, variations of the technique can also be used for solitary use.

Free Writing

Free writing or stream of conscious comes under the brainstorming header. It’s most productive when we’re writing fast (producing a great quantity of work), not editing (holding back judgements or negative criticism) and allowing our imagination to run free, all of which we did during Speedbo. 

Clustering or Mapping

I use this technique when I need a title for one of my stories. On a large sheet of paper, I jot down a central theme or concept for the story, such as Soldier or Murder. Then I rapidly add words that somehow can be associated with either the story or key word. When I run out of ideas, I circle winning combinations and use lines to connect the various circled words that would work in a title.

Possible Titles: Military Murder, Murder on Amish Road,
Deadly Inheritance, Plain Danger and History of Death.


Listing is another brainstorming tool. Decide on two or three headers that apply to the problem needing a solution. Under each header, jot down words that come to mind, without using a filter. Don’t stop until you have 20 or more words under each header. Now draw lines between words in each column that relate. Can you find an interesting combination that provides a unique answer to the problem at hand?
Listing provided the following title suggestions:
Plain Inheritance, Antebellum Harvest, Community
of Danger, Plain Danger, Lost Treasure,
Old World Danger, Old World Inheritance,
and Lost Inheritance.
Donald Maass in, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, uses a variation of this technique in one of his exercises on story development. He asks those attending his writing workshops to write down a list of story ideas, such as an important turning points in their work in progress. The first ten ideas, or so, will be fairly commonplace, while those at the end of the list tend to be fresh and innovative. Maass suggests that the last few ideas will be unique plot points that are the hallmark of a breakout novel.

Quiet Brainstorming

Folks always like to improve on something good, and there’s lots of talk in industry circles about the downsides of brainstorming, such as participants being inhibited by others or teams moving too far off course during the sessions. To overcome those problems, some companies are inviting their teams to sit quietly with paper and pencil and come up with their own ideas during a certain period of time. The ideas are then passed on to the next person for  additional input. Eventually, the composite ideas are looked at and evaluated for merit. By combining ideas and dovetailing various concepts that overlap, a finished product can be achieved.

Whether brainstorming as a group or by yourself, the technique helps to energize your Muse and enhance your creativity. Need a place to hold your brainstorming session? Consider your local library. Reserve a private room for group sessions or find a comfy chair or nook for your own private creative time.

Leave a comment about how you use brainstorming to be entered in a drawing. I’ll be giving away a copy of my latest Love Inspired Suspense, STRANDED, along with a surprise gift for the winner.

In honor of my eldest daughter’s birthday today, I’m serving an assortment of cakes and ice cream: Red Velvet, Chocolate Inside Out Cake, Devil’s Food, Pound Cake, Rum Cake and Carrot Cake along with vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream. The coffee and tea are hot. Enjoy!

Happy writing!

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti

Leave a prayer request at my blog:


Colleen Brennan has one goal—take down her sister’s killer.  But chasing after evidence leaves her in the path of a tornado and stranded in an Amish community. With the killer nearby, Colleen must depend on the kindness of Special Agent Frank Gallagher. Although the army officer is recuperating from a battlefield injury, he wants to help the beautiful woman he rescued from the tornado’s fury. He can tell she’s hiding something important. But getting her to reveal her secrets may be his most dangerous mission ever.

Order your copy in digital or print format: Amazon.


Missy Tippens said...

Debby, what great ideas! I love the flow charts you showed. Your examples were really helpful! I have a really hard time coming up with new titles.

Oh! And just for fun (a moment down Memory Lane)... I used to work as Sandra Chastain's office assistant. And one of my jobs was to transcribe those brainstorming sessions with Sandra, Deb and Deb and the rest! (Back in the days of cassette tapes). Talk about interesting! I learned a lot and really envied their brainstorming group. :)

Mary Curry said...

I thought I was going to be first, but Missy beat me to it. :)

I'm up late trying to get my words in because I spent the evening battling a mouse that I could hear but couldn't see. Not that I really wanted to. *shudder*

So, since it's so late, I had promised myself just a free write of ideas to tweak my WIP and up the tension.

Since it was after midnight, I thought I'd stop by here first for some inspiration. I found it and how timely the post was. :) Thanks Debby.

Loved all the little todbits of history from GRW too.

Mary Curry said...

I shouldn't post after midnight.
Tidbits, not todbits.

Marianne Barkman said...

Well, I wish I could be a fly on the wall or a mouse in the wall and listen to those brainstorming sessions!

Terri said...

Debby - perfect timing! I'm in serious need of brainstorming now. I love it when ideas are tossed out fast and furious. They lead to such interesting places.

Terri said...

Oh, I love the pic. Blue is your color.
I also discovered a problem I have, I don't have a big read toolbox on wheels. Just a small handheld one. 😉

Terri said...

That should be red not read. ;-)

Heidi Robbins said...

I love that you showed how brainstorming can be effective in a group or individual setting. Great advice here.

I'm on a clean-eating diet so I'll binge at this virtual dessert feast- a little of everything for me, please ;)

Lyndee H said...

So God-driven that I'd awaken in the middle of the night tonight to work on refining my character study and when my 'free writing' ground to a halt, I came to Seekerville and read your post! Off to try another of the techniques you mentioned. Thanks for the encouragement, Debby! Looking forward to reading your latest! It's on my shelf right now.

Mary Preston said...

We have brainstorming sessions at work. Lots of fun & invaluable.

Cindy W. said...

What a great post Debby! Thank you for all the useful information. I'm afraid I don't have writer friends around me to brainstorm with but sometimes my husband gets his creative juices going and we bounce things off each other. It does help a lot.

I would love a copy of your new book! Thank you for the chance to win a copy.

Have a blessed day everyone!

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

ALL THAT CAKE!!!! Oh, I am the happiest of happys around ALL THAT CAKE! Thank you!!! :)

I love brainstorming. Not everyone does, but it fires up my brain in new directions, and then I start the "what ifs????" and that leads one thing to another.

I only do it with Beth and the Seekers for the most part because I have a list of story ideas to fill the next three years right now. So if God gives me time, I'll be plenty busy!

And I always gaze ahead to what I want to work on next year, and that way my brainstorming has an "end game". Debby, thank you for these great idea road maps!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cindy W., use an online group! I don't have anyone here either, so my online writing friends are my go-to folks. I'm also short on time, so cozy meetings don't make the short list, but with the huge network of writers we have here, maybe grabbing hold of a few Seeker friends and brainstorming would work!

Jackie said...


Thanks for some great ideas. I just met with a couple of ladies on Sunday to brainstorm. Your list would have made our time stronger.

I also like your list methods. Thanks for sharing.

That's a great picture of you by the lake. Have a great day!

Rhonda Starnes said...

Thanks for the post, Debby. I love brainstorming. I teach 7th grade ELA, and we use various brainstorming techniques often when we're writing.

I've not found a local writer's group to join. I'm a member of ACFW, but sadly the closest "local chapter" to me is Atlanta which is a little over three hours away. However, I don't let this stop me. I sometimes have brainstorming sessions online with writing friends, and this past Saturday, I called upon a family friend who I felt could help me with the problem I was working on. We met for lunch at a Japanese place and brainstormed characteristics for the serial killer in the manuscript I've entered in Blurb2Book.

Waving from Bama, where I'm afraid it's going to be another rain soaked day. Too bad I have to go to the day job, as it would be the perfect day to stay home and write. Actually, every day would be the perfect day to stay home and write. But alas, I've gotta pay the bills.

Debby Giusti said...

Missy, I forgot that you worked with Sandra. How fun to listen to their tapes. If only we could hear them now!

Those gals were--and are--amazing!

Debby Giusti said...

Mary, did you get the mouse? Hope so!

I know you're pushing to find time in your day to write. Perhaps I should say in the night since you have a full-time job. The downside of being on contract is the looming deadline, right? So proud of your success!!! Won't be long until your debut is out! Woot!

Glad you can use some of the info!

Tina Radcliffe said...

You know, I have never been successful with brainstorming. BUT I WANT TO BE. SOB!!

Debby Giusti said...

Marianne, I did a post some years ago and transcribed a brainstorming session. I'll try to find the link.

This morning, I have Bible Study so it will have to wait until the afternoon. Stop by later. Okay?

Tina Radcliffe said...

Loving those pictures, Debby! I didn't know you taught a class!@

Debby Giusti said...

Sipping coffee and waiting for my eldest to call after the little ones are at school and the tiny one is up.

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth!!!

Would anyone like some cake and ice cream?

Debby Giusti said...

Terri, with your Blurb2Book success, you need a very large tool box! :)

So excited for you. Brainstorm away. If we can help, let us know!!!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Heidi,

I'm piling your plate high with yummy sweets! :)

My cp and I brainstorm ideas, and although we're only two people, the sessions are very productive. Even jotting down ideas alone can help to free the imagination.

Debby Giusti said...

Thanks, Lyndee. Sorry you were up in the middle of the night. I awoke and couldn't get back to sleep...but unlike you, I stayed in bed. Probably should have done some work.

Hope the info helps!

Thanks for getting my book! Hugs!

Debby Giusti said...

Mary Preston, glad to learn that your company uses the technique. Some of the research I found seemed to downplay the benefits of brainstorming. But then, various strategies for success peak and wane. And as I mentioned, everyone has a new idea of how to get things done.

Preslaysa Williams said...

Excellent post, Debby! I have recently discovered the power of group brainstorming. This past weekend two writer friends helped me get past some plotting problems. It was such a great help. I also make lists of twenty ideas if I'm brainstorming on my own. Oooh, and I'd love to be entered in the drawing!

Debby Giusti said...

Cindy, my hubby helps me too. He's more creative than he thinks he is, although sometimes he tires of my frequent questions about plot points. :)

You're in the drawing!

Debby Giusti said...

Ruthy, glad you're enjoying the cake!

Thanks for encouraging Cindy to brainstorm online! Perfect!

Debby Giusti said...

How wonderful that you have a brainstorming group. Do you critique each other's work, as well?

I'm always energized after a brainstorming session, even if we're not working on my story. Freeing the mind to think outside of the box helps my creativity and builds enthusiasm for writing.

Debby Giusti said...

Rhonda, so proud of you and your success with your Blurb2Book entry. Smart to brainstorm and so glad you have a friend who likes to help!

Are you near Birmingham? They have a great RWA Chapter. I was a member for a number of years. Lovely ladies, and a few great guys too. Not sure if any write inspirational fiction, but you might find a few folks who want to critique. Just an idea.

Debby Giusti said...

Tina, we can brainstorm at the Writers' Police Academy...if we have time! Okay?

Mary Hicks said...

Great Ideas, Debby! Thanks.

The charts are a good visual to aid in organizing ideas.

I long for a writers group close to me, but I don't see that happening.:-)

Debby Giusti said...

Tina, I say that I host the class. It's held at my church, although folks from the community are part of the group. My next session will be May 11. I host every other month. Brainstorming story ideas helps the folks see how GMC fits together and the importance of conflict, especially internal. They're very creative, and we always have a fun time when we're together.

Debby Giusti said...

Preslaysa, glad brainstorming helped. I find that sometimes folks need to up the conflict to make the story a better sell. Brainstorming helps to fine tune that conflict, IMHO!

Rose said...

Hi Debby,

I've never been a part of a brainstorming group, but in addition to being productive. It sounds like fun.

Rhonda Starnes said...

Thanks, Debby. I'm actually about an hour and a half to two hours from anywhere in Birmingham.
I live closer to Huntsville.

I actually live in the tiny town of Grant. We are known for our school. Kate D. Smith, DAR School was founded by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1924. I wish I wrote historical because it would be a great setting for a book.

I've not joined RWA, yet. Being unpublished, I have to take this journey one step at a time. First step was writing a book and entering a pitch contest, second step was joining ACFW, third step is Writers Police Academy in August...

Anita Mae Draper said...

Debby, l've been sitting here trying to solve a problem and forgot that one of the reasons the Inkies got together was to be a support for each other in all ways. l don't need to solve this alone. I just need to send an email and ask for help. Thank you. :)

Debby Giusti said...

Mary, love your new pic!

Pray God sends you a group...just one other writer would be wonderful!

Debby Giusti said...

Heading to church for Bible Study. I'll be back soon.

Keep chatting and eat some cake! :)

Becky Dempsey said...

I used to do brainstorming activities in school, but haven't employed them for my writing as of yet. Thanks for the ideas :)

I'd love to be in for winning the book and some cake sounds delicious!

Myra Johnson said...

Love your brainstorming ideas, Deb! Especially for coming up with titles. Those can be so hard! I am definitely going to try your suggestions next time!

Jeanne T said...

I love this post! Your ideas for brainstorming got my blood moving. :) I haven't had the privilege of being a part of a brainstorming group like you described, but I've heard great things come from them. :) I often brainstorm with one of a few writing friend who have "the gift of brainstorming." She helps me see different facets that could enhance or clarify my story.

I've never considered how to brainstorm titles. LOVED your suggestions! :)

Missy Tippens said...

It is rainy and dreary here in Georgia today. And I have a cold--sneezing my head off. Ugh.

AND, we're trying to fit in my daughter's regional tennis tournament between weather fronts. But it keeps getting pushed back a few hours. I guess that's better than going to the courts and waiting for them to dry. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Maybe for a post someday I'll share some of the brainstorming I've done with the Seekers. I keep all the suggestions in my story file, then highlight parts of them that I can use. It's been fun! (Of course I'll get permission to share those ideas first!) :)

Wilani Wahl said...

this is helpful. I have seen some authors use facebook to get ideas for a story they are writing.

Helen Gray said...

I had been struggling with some story details and asked a friend to try brainstorming with me. I was tentative at first, but as we kept at it, we both became more comfortable. Now I rely on her help when I'm plotting a new story.

Great post! Thanks.

There's fresh coffee.

Donna said...

I often use the mapping idea. I have never thought of using it for titles. That is a wonderful idea. Thanks, Debby!

Oh, and a Death by Chocolate party? Genius!!

Meghan Carver said...

Good morning, Debby, and happy birthday to the eldest daughter! Don't enter me in the drawing. I already have and have read Stranded. Excellent story!

Thank you for sharing so many brainstorming techniques. It's interesting to me how often in the writing process, through revisions and title decisions, brainstorming is needed.

Linnette R Mullin said...

Great post, Debbie! This is so very helpful! I haven't been able to figure out how to brainstorm with my local writer's network and you've given me 2 or 3 really great ideas. We have a mixed group of fiction and non-fiction writers so it's often hard to incorporate something for everyone. This is an answer to prayer, Thank you!

On another note: I've really missed my Seeker friends and hope to be more faithful in visiting you all. (((Hugs))) for each of you! Thanks for all you gals give to the writing community!

CatMom said...

LOVE your post, Debby!!
Since I've pretty much always worked alone, the only brainstorming I've done has been when you and I have met for lunch, and you've graciously offered suggestions for my current WIP (and---I must add, your suggestions have been wonderful, and in two instances helped me strengthen my plotline tremendously!).

Happy Birthday to your daughter! The desserts you've brought look delicious, so I'm setting out a bowl of peaches in case anyone wants peaches on the pound cake. :)
Hugs, Patti Jo

p.s. Love that photo of you in blue by the lake - - beautiful!! Also, no need to enter me in your drawing, as I already have your book! :)

Susanne Dietze said...

Great post, Debby! I love the charts you shared--I'm a visual learner so this was good for me to see.

Brainstorming is such a gift! Now I'm excited to get a group together!

Julie Lessman said...


As an artist/graphic designer, my husband has been heavily involved with brainstorming for a long time, and he always says the cardinal rule is there's no such thing as a bad idea."

Not sure that's true, although there are some crazy ones when he and I brainstorm together, which we do often. I really do like brainstorming with him because as a male, his ideas are so different than mine and always very creative and unique.

I have to say, as a closet recluse, I LOVE the idea of quiet brainstorming. I had a nun in my high school tell me once when I was heading up the Penny Queen Carnival that she realized I work better alone than with others because I have trouble delegating work to others since I don't like to put them out. Which is why the quiet brainstorming appeals to me. I don't feel like I'm putting anyone out.

Great post, Deb!


Sandy Smith said...

Debby, I was especially interested in your use of clustering to find a title. I am terrible at coming up with titles. I will have to try this.

I use brainstorming when writing short stories, especially when I am writing a story to match a theme. I get out a notebook and jot down all possible story ideas that would fit the theme. I do the same thing whenever I need a plot point as well.

Jan Drexler said...

Thanks for a look inside a brainstorming session, Debby! I done a little bit of brainstorming with a couple people, and it's been helpful.

I like your flow charts, too.

I'm adding to my toolbox today!

Debby Giusti said...

Sorry I was gone so long. Had thought I might leave class early, but we're studying the prophets--today was Jeremiah--and it was so good that I knew I was supposed to stay.

Thanks for your patience!

Debby Giusti said...

Rose...with your RITA nomination, of which we're so proud, I'd say you're doing everything right!

Hugs and huge congrats!

Debby Giusti said...

Rhonda, I'm thrilled to learn that you'll be at the WPA!!! Tina and I will be there as well.

I love Huntsville. Such a delightful town. There's a great RWA chapter there too--the Heart of Dixie. They hold a wonderful Readers' Luncheon each May that you might want to check out. I used to attend. Now May is always busy.

How interesting about your school. Yes, great fodder for an historical! Janet, are you listening?

Debby Giusti said...

Rhonda, one more thing...

GA hosts a great Moonlight and Magnolias Conference in ATL, each OCT, the first weekend. The cost is usually not too high, and the programs are good. I'll be presenting on Brainstorming. Just FYI!

Debby Giusti said...

Anita Mae, that's why the Seekers got together as well.

So glad you have that writing support. You're a great group. Hugging all the Inkies. Give them my love!

Debby Giusti said...

Becky, glad I planted a seed...

You're in the drawing. Hope you enjoy the cake and ice cream. :)

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Myra,

I also call on family members for title suggestions. My eldest--the birthday girl--is especially good with titles.

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Debby,
Great tips! And they will come in handy as my critique partner and I are meeting in less than 2 weeks for our first ever Writer Retreat! And we plan to do some serious brainstorming!
Will print a copy of this to take along!

Debby Giusti said...

Jeanne, loved seeing your FB pics about the recent writing retreat you attended. Would love to learn more about what you did. All workshops? Share a few tidbits if you have time! Pretty please. :)

Debby Giusti said...

Sorry you're not feeling well, Missy! Sending chicken soup along with birthday cake.

Yes, more rain. We've very wet in GA!

Debby Giusti said...


I've checked the FB comments to see what folks mention. Interesting, isn't it!

Debby Giusti said...

Helen, thanks for the fresh coffee.

You're right. It's a great tool to use once you've found a group or person with whom to brainstorm. Often just a little bit of a change can make a story come to life. Glad you found such a good partner.

Debby Giusti said...

Donna, let me know if you're successful using mapping for a title.

Death by Chocolate is the Mystery and Suspense Writers' Chapter of RWA's big awards ceremony they host each year at the National Conference. Lots of chocolate goodies are served. YUM!

Debby Giusti said...

Meghan, so thrilled for your sale! Woot! Would love to have you share a bit of your story...and about getting The Call!

Debby Giusti said...


Good to see you in Seekerville again. We've missed you. I know you've been busy!

Glad you have a writing group. Non-fiction folks often can be good brainstormers too.

Debby Giusti said...

Thanks for the peaches and for your sweet comments, Patti Jo!

Stay dry! Will the rain ever end?

Keli Gwyn said...

I've never been part of a brainstorming group. I do, however, brainstorm with Gwynly frequently. When we enjoy one of our walks on our wonderful trail, we'll often bounce around story ideas. He's come up with some wonderful ones.

I've done some brainstorming with my writing partners as well. Many heads make the creative process more fun and lead to better stories than I could write on my own.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Susie,
Love your picture here...and the ones of you holding your debut on FB. Super excited about your success!!!

Congrats and love!

Debby Giusti said...

Julie, my hubby provides that male POV too, which is good to have.

I know your hubby provides lots of inspiration for your stories.

Good to know that you work better alone. I know a number of the BIG, BIG authors rely purely on their own creative Muse. That puts you--and them--in good company!

Debby Giusti said...

Sandy, love your mention of using brainstorming, ie listing, for your short stories. I'll try that. Thank you for the tip!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Jan,
It's fun to pick up a new tool, isn't it! I'm going to use Donald Maass' turning point technique for the climax in my WIP. I always like what he has to say.

Debby Giusti said...

Susan, let me know if it helps or any changes that work better for you.

How long is your retreat? I know it will be productive!

Debby Giusti said...

God bless creative husbands, right, Keli!

Sherida Stewart said...

Thank you, Debby! This is just what I need. I thought brainstorming with others for solving plot problems was cheating. I believed ALL the ideas needed to be my own. I can see how these sessions would be helpful and can be used by those of us without area writing groups. I'll be contacting my CP to do brainstorming sessions online.

Please enter me for Stranded. Sending birthday wishes to your daughter as I enjoy each flavor of cake! Yum!

Connie Queen said...

It sounds like so much fun to have a brainstorming session.

I've never been to one but I have brainstormed w/critique partners and sometimes family. Most of the time I can come up w/the best solutions just by talking about my story w/others. They don't get out the words, "How about..." before I interrupt and say, "I've got it!"

I'm not really that bad, but close...

DebH said...

hi Debby
as a graphic artist, i'm very familiar with brainstorming - both group and self. I've applied it some to my writing, but I really liked your list thingy and the title mapping ideas. Must squirrel that away for the next time I need to use it.
I think a brainstorm session is due for my KV editing. Not enough conflict to last the MS length requirements. *sigh*
Sometimes I wonder if I'm just cut out to be a novella writer...

name in draw please. I do so love your books. I love how you honor those who serve our country via the military. My hubby (ret Navy - BM1) has a soft spot for those who recognize the value of someone who's put in the full 20+ in the Services.

and Happy Birthday blessings to your daughter. thanks for the virtual treats. Yum!

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

Hi Debbie! These are great suggestions to get that little muse's behind in gear. I was actually just discussion brainstorming sessions with a friend, in regards to the TV show FaceOff (it's a movie makeup and effects show on SyFy). The contest was down to three contestants, and they were all given a concept for their final project, and a team of eliminated contestants to help. One of the final three contestants was having a hard time with one of the characters she was creating, and her coach and a few other people helped her shape it into something totally different.

While this was great, this character actually became the one that the judges loved the most, and secured the contestant the win. In some ways, I wonder if she would have won or had success if she hadn't had the group to brainstorm a better way for her. And should they get credit for making her project so much better than it would have been?

Is there any way brainstorming sessions could be construed as stealing someone's idea?

Thanks, and have a great day!

Sarah Claucherty said...

Debby, I love free writing and brainstorming! My thoughts wander off for a stroll through the quieter trails in my mind, and I find new story lines, research directions, or ideas for analysis papers for my college classes.

I'd love to be entered in the drawing!

Mary Connealy said...

My family actually has a running joke about brainstorming.

When we are talking about some decision, where to have Easter or anything like that, it inevitably gets sort of silly at some point and one of my daughters will hear some really off the wall idea and she'll say in a really JUDGMENTAL WAY..."This is brainstorming so there are no wrong answers."

And that is her way of saying, THAT IS SUCH A WRONG ANSWER!
And we all laugh.

Now we all say it.

Mary Connealy said...

My local RWA chapter has an annual retreat and this year there were a few teaching sessions but mostly we just divided up into groups and brainstormed.

Each member of the group, mostly four in a group, got 1 hour and 15 minutes. Which I just though was ridiculously long.
But it was great. What we found out was we'd pretty much said every idea we had after about 30 minutes. This happened all four times.
At that point we'd sort of get silly, start tossing out strange, wacky ideas and it was GREAT! Our best, most exciting ideas came in the last 15 minutes.

I'm not sure why, but for some reason at first we were more serious and more logical and constrained in our brainstorming, then, when we felt 'done'....and got 'silly' that's when the real creativity came alive.

We all came away wanting next year's retreat to be the same.

So if you're brainstorming I can't stress enough to give each person a NICE slice of time. And keep it relaxed and (in the words of my daughter) remember 'this is brainstorming, there are no wrong answers.'

Mary Connealy said...


PS your comment is a horror story waiting to happen.

Have I ever mentioned I hate mice???

Janet Dean said...

Debby, thanks for the terrific suggestions for brainstorming in a group and alone! Your post is definitely a keeper. I tend to even critique my brainstorming. Sigh. I need intervention for my addiction.

Love the cake-fest! Happy birthday to your daughter!


Debby Giusti said...

Sherida, I felt the same way when I joined GRW. I thought sharing ideas was a form of cheating. Of course, I had a lot to learn. :)

You're in the drawing. Hope you and your cp have fun brainstorming ideas!

Debby Giusti said...

Connie, you see the solution probably because you've given yourself permission to think creatively, which is what brainstorming does. Just talking about the problem frees your mind and allows it to come up with the answers you're seeking.

Love how the mind work!

Oh that God!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi DebH!

You mentioned not having enough conflict in your story. Are you talking about external conflict? If so, remember that the protagonist can be drawn into the adventure with a goal in the beginning that leads to the bigger goal or conflict (external) that will carry him through to the ending. Michael Hauge talks about this in films. The hero may initially need to apprehend a local punk--that's the opening goal. But searching for the punk leads the hero to a far larger criminal element that may be targeting women...and eventually the heroine. So that initial somewhat limited goal changes into a much more urgent need to find the bad guys. The external conflict at the onset may be that the hero needs to find the local punk to prove himself to his superior. When the stakes increase and he's forced to go after the more deadly gang of thugs, the conflict has to increase. Now he's got to stop the villains before another woman dies, perhaps, or before his girlfriend is killed by the thugs. Everything escalates and changes a bit as the danger increases. His standing with his superior pales in relation to the new need, new goal and new conflict to find the killer and save the women.

All that to say, can you add to the initial conflict? Start with what you have and then make the need even greater, more deadly, more threatening?

I think of a novella as the second half of a full-length manuscript. The climax remains the same, but the amount of "story" prior to the climax is shortened. Does that make sense?

You can write novellas. You can also write full-length story. I know you can!

Debby Giusti said...

Stephanie, you brought up an interesting point. There should be an understanding with the brainstorming group that they will share ideas to help one another. If a person has an idea that she/he wants to write, he/she probably shouldn't share that idea. In other words, what's shared is fair game in the world of brainstorming. Although remember that we could each be given the same basic plot, and we would each write a different story.

An interesting point to debate though. :)

Wonder if Vince will weigh in? It sounds like something he would like to discuss.

Debby Giusti said...

Sarah, you're in the drawing. Sounds like you use brainstorming often. Good for you. I like your tool box! :)

Debby Giusti said...

Mary, thanks for sharing about your retreats and needing enough time to free the creativity. Kind of like Donald Maass suggests in his exercise.

Also love your family wrong answers! :)

Debby Giusti said...

Janet, I'm smiling at your mention of critiquing your brainstorming. Too funny!

Did you see Rhonda's earlier mention of the DAR built school in her local town of Grant, AL? Food for thought and fodder for one of your stories, perhaps?

Jackie said...

Debby and Tina,

I hope you share about your experience at the Writers Police Academy. One of my sons said he might start writing and go with me sometime. He actually is gifted in writing, so you never know.

Deanna Stevens said...

Lists! As a reader/reviewer, I too have lists.. All my Paper back books, some TBR e-books,books reviewed. TBR list, wanted book list.. AND a list of new authors I want to read :)
please toss me into the drawing please..

Debby Giusti said...

Jackie, we will share the info. How fun for your son to start writing.

The WPA is in WI this year. Last year it was held in NC. Really very different from other conferences. Lots of great info and hands-on experience. Every year is supposed to have something new. Folks just mixed and mingled. No one tried to sell books, although some of the bigger stars had theirs for sale. The rest of us just focused on cop stuff. :)

Debby Giusti said...

Deanna, you sound very organized! I'm impressed.

You're in the drawing! :)

Jeanne T said...

Debby, Rachel Hauck shared about what My Book Therapy is calling SEQ. The Story Equation. It begins with knowing a character's dark moment from their past and discovering more about their character from that. The LIE they believe, the FEAR that comes from the dark moment and the LIE. The WOUND that comes out of the dark moment. She talked about how sometimes flaws come from the dark moment. Also,being able to discover what the character wants can come from that dark moment.

Knowing these can help us know our characters and build a plausible story, organically. It's hard to encapsulate all that Rachel taught on, but it was good stuff. :)

Debby Giusti said...

Was Rachel the only presenter, Jeanne? The pic of your location was lovely. Pretty inside too?

Rachel's talk sounds like Michael Hauge's wounded past and journey to a character's essence, which I love! So good.

Know you enjoyed the retreat! Thanks for sharing!

BTW, Rachel is always great! Hugs!

Vince said...

Hi Debby:

This morning, as I was reading your post, I had a comment all worked out about ways to brainstorm by yourself. Then, as I read on, I found that you did a better job explaining these techniques than I would have. Excellent post.

I brainstormed on ad ideas every week for years. My boss would often start the session by saying that my brainstorming efforts might best be described as a 'tempest in a teapot'. That was his idea of motivation. (Guys are like that.)

I might add, however, that we liked two books at the time that were very helpful.

"A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative', by Roger von Oech.

And for the pantsers out there, this book:

A Kick in the Seat of the Pants: Using Your Explorer, Artist, Judge, and Warrior to Be More Creative," by Roger Von Oech.

Please include me in the drawing.


Tanya Agler said...

Debby, Thanks for your post. I always learn so much from you.

I'm planning on attending October's M&M. Maybe I can find some brainstorming partners then.

Thank you so much for sharing your examples.

Olivia said...

This is such a great blog! I am going to use the list method for brainstorming on my own. I am not a member of a writer's group in Middle Tennessee as I can't make the meetings but would love to join a critique group online for brainstorming if one evolves from our Seekerville community. I would love your new book Debby, so please enter my name in the cat dish or the hat please.

Chill N said...

So much information here, Debby. Super ideas with solid examples. Thank you.

One of the fun things is to see how 'outlandish' we can get with brainstorming ideas ... sometimes those prove to be the best ideas to pursue.

Aside: Wonderful picture of you :-)

Nancy C

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Vince,
Thanks for the mention of the two books. More for our resource shelves!

Working in advertising sounds so exciting to me. Lots of brainstorming as you mentioned. I know you were an asset to your company.

You're in the drawing!!!

Debby Giusti said...

Tanya, you're so sweet! Glad you'll be at M&M. I know the conference will be wonderful. Wish I could attend the meeting this weekend. Family commitments are keeping me at home. Enjoy the workshop!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Olivia,
You're in the drawing!

I hope you find a great brainstorming and critiquing group online. Keep putting out the word that you're interested. Set a short initial time frame. So you'll work together for a month and see if it's a good fit. Then everyone can reevaluate. That way you have an out if the dynamic isn't good.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Nancy, thanks for your sweet comments.

Yes, the wild ideas are sometimes the best. My cps at one point suggested that my heroine be pregnant. I initially said no, then I reconsidered and accepted their suggestion. The book almost wrote itself because of the unborn baby that the heroine was trying to protect. Great motivation!

You're in the drawing!

Pam Hillman said...

Debby, I love brainstorming in person with a group of people. The energy is amazing. :)

Carolyn Astfalk said...

Great post! I"m going to save it. I use some of these techniques independently but hadn't really thought of it as brainstorming.

Cara Lynn James said...

Sorry I'm so late to the party! I like to cluster because I can see the big picture. Brainstorming is fun but not not too great at thinking on my feet. But my critique partners are!

Mz.ZeyZey said...

You've listed some great techniques here, Debby. I've used many of the solitary ones to brainstorm for my books, but haven't done much formal group brainstorming for my writing. I'll have to try this with my critique partners sometime!

Edwina said...

These are great techniques, Debby! I've used Mapping several times to help me focus on problems, solidify ideas or just get back on track.

Please enter my name in the drawing!