As I’m currently in the brainstorming-editing-brainstorming-rewriting-brainstorming-WAITING FOREVER TO EDIT MY RECENTLY FINISHED WIP!-stage, I thought it appropriate to talk about ferrets and how ridiculously adorable they are.

Aha! Weren’t expecting that, were you? Just kidding. Today I’ll introduce you to my two favorite brainstorming techniques; one of which I’ve used for ages and another I just recently fell in love with.


I’m sure many of you have tried this, but if you haven’t, for the love of all things bookish, TRY IT!

The What-If game is very simple. I’ll describe it in steps, because steps are fun.

STEP ONE—THE MAGICAL QUESTION: sit down with a blank sheet of paper and a pencil (or pen or marker or crayon or keyboard or what-have-you) and at the top you write the miraculous words “What if…?”

STEP TWO—DOT: Now make a bullet point (or star or heart or fish because you can).

STEP THREE—BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT, THINK: Close your eyes, take a deep breath and let the question hang. What if…what if what if…what if ALIENS INVADED THE EARTH AND THEIR ONLY WEAKNESS WAS…WAS…FERRETS! Ok, that one might be a tad bit ridiculous, but write it down anyway. There’s no such thing as anything that’s too out there for the What-If game.

In all seriousness, this really works. Start with an idea, a basic idea (What if I wrote about pirates?) and see how far you can push it. What if their Captain was a crazy, egotistical half-wit only someone as insanely talented as Johnny Depp could play convincingly? What if he didn’t have a ship? A crew? What if the world was flat? What if they sailed over the edge?

This can go on forever people, FOREVER! And it’ll help you uncover some gems you may not have thought of otherwise. Trust me.


As I mentioned earlier, I discovered this technique very recently, but it’s quickly becoming a favorite.

The idea storm is simple and best done on a sheet of notebook paper or on a program that lets you write literally all over the page, like OneNote. I still think pencil and paper will work best, though. It helps with the whole freeing, creativity thing which is what you’re going for here.

So! I was inspired by the Wordle word clouds online and thought it’d be fun to make one by hand, except instead of writing words that you use often, you write words that relate to whatever you’re trying to write. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Step by step, here we go!

STEP ONE—PAPER: Get your notebook paper out and turn it SIDEWAYS. I don’t know why this helps so much but something about writing over the lines instead of conforming to the shape of the page really gets your right brain going.

STEP TWO—THE FIRST WORD: Write a word somewhere on the page. It can be as big or small as you like, except it’s probably best that you don’t take up the whole page (unless you want to cram the rest of your words in tiny little letters around it. Actually that might be fun. Maybe I’ll try that.). Anyway! If all you know at this stage is that you’re writing a dystopian novel, then go ahead and make your first word dystopian. Maybe you want to make your antagonist sympathetic. Write that. Maybe you only have a name. Go ahead and slap that baby down.

Great. Now you have the first word.

STEP THREE—GO CRAZY: This is pretty self-explanatory. Go crazy. Write all over the page. Write in funny angles if you want, different sizes, above and below the red line, around the holes in the page, it doesn’t matter, write wherever you’d like. The goal is to fill up the page with ideas, words, thoughts, names, even full sentences that pertain to your new WIP idea. If you’ve got some symbol in your head, go ahead and draw it. There are no rules here. Use funny colors, use pens and pencils. Doodle if you’d like. Just think about your idea and get it down.

Best part is you can use either one of these at any stage of the game. Don’t have a novel? Start with this. Stuck in the middle of a scene and don’t know how to end it? Whip out the paper and get your brain storming.

I challenge you guys to try these at least once. Who knows? You might just find you like these methods too.

These are obviously only two of many different brainstorming techniques. What do you do to get your ideas on paper?


Laura Pauling said...

What great ideas! I'm right in the middle of brainstorming too!

Gabe (Ava Jae) said...

I'm glad I was able to help! I know these two have helped me tremendously in my brainstorming sessions. :)

Good luck!

Deri said...

Awesome tips! I love the "what if" idea. I will definitely give that one a try. I tend to over think my premises, and often forget to ask "what if?" :)

Jesi Lea Ryan said...

Great tips! I'm going to try that word cloud thing today. Also, at a writing conference recently, I took a Tarot for Writers class. It showed how doing tarot readings on your characeters and help you brainstorm ideas for them. It was pretty cool!


Gabe (Ava Jae) said...


Awesome! Definitely give it a try and let me know how it goes! :)


Tarot readings on your characters. Huh. I never would have thought of that. Interesting!

I'm glad you're going to try it out. Hope it helps you as much as it's helped me! ^_^

Jennie Bennett said...

Love the ferret idea, you should bank on that while you can, lol!
I always like to start with a free write. I sit down for a half hour and just write like mad thinking of anything that comes to mind. It's great for getting new ideas :)

Lyn Midnight said...

You have ferret brain. :D Anyway... I love the what if game. Almost as much as I love the Glad Game! Let's try it then. What if... what if... what if... (I'll drag this as I think, lol) what if... what if... dogs could mate with cats? Nah. What if... faeries really existed and looked like gnomes? What if... ants invaded the arth? What if... planets are not planets but marbles on a floor? Ok, I'll stop. :P I love wordle too but I'm hitting a ferret-I mean brain-wall. Will come back to it later. ^_^

Gabe (Ava Jae) said...

I had ferrets on the brain yesterday when I wrote this. There is no explanation. I just did.


I've done free writing sessions! They can be especially useful when you're low on ideas, so true! Thanks for sharing, that's a good one!


Push through the wall, you can do it!

I love the What-If game too, which is why I just HAD to feature it on today's post. I like that last one about planets. Cool image. :)

Emily Casey said...

I like the What If exercise. That's a neat idea, and great for brainstorming new story ideas. I'll have to give that one a try.

Angela Ackerman said...

I LOVE the what if game. And the next time I'm stuck, I will totally fill in the blank with 'ferrets'. LOL

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Kate DeAmour said...

I totally use the cloud thing but call it mind-mapping. That's the way my brain works. lol... all over the place. The only kind of outline that can work for me. (I have an app on my phone for it too called thinking space [android])

One thing I love to do with the mind map is create characters instead of stories and then through the extensive character development a story emerges. It's amazing how my characters come to life this way. I find my stories are more real and emotional when I start with the character instead of a plot idea. Plus then I have a well-developed character... and I know so much about them! :)

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