#11 Three Ways to Brainstorm the Next Great Novel
A Kryptic Blog Post?
Brainstorm The Next Great Novel: A Short Story
A young woman clocks into her minimum wage waitressing gig, not only exhausted but utterly defeated. She clutches the twentieth rejection letter from a publisher in her gloved hands and shoves it into her tattered handbag, adding to her sorry collection of failures.
Her first slams her locker and she stars at the fading grey paint a moment holding back tears. Despite knowing its futility, she attempts to rub the numbing fatigue from her eyes. ?Your writing is fine, but?? the words linger in her mind as she smiles and serves her first customer a steaming cup of coffee. He thanks her and continues reading his paper. ?We regret to inform you….? Shaking the thoughts away, she dedicates herself to her work.
That evening she places a defeated head on the cold window pane of the London 8:20 head for her home where she dreads relieving the nanny. Cook, dishes, iron, homework, bath, bedtime, make more promises she can?t keep, and then back to the drawing board. Her mental list haunts her as she closes her eyes and dreams of a different life. The train shuffles and wakes her up.
She dreamt something marvellous in the few minutes she dosed off and rummages through the mess in her handbag for a pen, then for her notebook. It’s on the counter at work, some pages filled with work orders others with her random musings.
Determined, she continues to dig through her belongings and stumbles upon napkins she took from work last week. This will do fine. The pen scrapes across the thin tissue paper, but the idea flows freely of a boy with a lightning bolt scar sitting on a train headed to a strange school in a world in which he feels utterly alone. For the first time in weeks, she smiles.
The Brainstorm A Novel Factory
Writing is hard enough and uncharacteristically competitive without having to face endless rejection. To add to the hardship, writers must seek novelty in a world where nothing is novel. The task is daunting and breaks the spirit of many aspiring authors like the waves on the harsh cliffs of Dover.
And yet, we all embark on this mad journey with nothing but sunny optimism and an inexplicable fire that burns somewhere deep within our souls, because as a writer, you must write, but you must write about something, preferably of substance.
Three Ways to Brainstorm The Next Great Novel
Here are my go-to methods for brainstorming the next great novel:
1. Read the Previous Great Novel
We stand on the shoulder of giants and are products of a great tradition built by countless authors before us, so it is imperative that we embrace this tradition and read extensively. All great writers are great readers. Study our predecessors religiously for in so doing we learn to discern the great novel from the mundane. These works of art inspire us and become a base from which we draw power, so as you read, take notes and capture ideas about settings, characters, description, writing, dialogue and anything else that catches your eye. With this, you have the beginnings of greatness.
2. What If Once Upon A Time
Don?t play a dangerous staring contest with a blank page. Write down:
- ?What if? or
- ?Once Upon A Time? or
- ?What if Once Upon A Time.?
Complete the sentence and keep adding sentences until your have a fully formed story idea you can use. This is the essence of scenario planning. Here is an example:
?What if the world was coming to an end because the ozone layer was disintegrating. Imagine the government charged a beautiful young scientist with saving humanity and what if during the planning of the exodus, aliens drew humans into an intergalactic war. ?I would say you have the makings of an extraordinary story.
3. Catching Dreams
Many literary titans dreamt up their novels. I have, and you can do so too. Make yourself receptive to ideas by posing the challenge to your inner author to come up with a story. Get a notebook and pen and place it on your nightstand and fall asleep thinking about great stories in the genre you want to write. Allow yourself to dream and when you wake, jot down the ideas as best you can in a sleepy haze. In the morning, or when you are next lucid, flesh out the ideas into a workable story. You are brainstorming the next great novel.
The Big Takeaway
When you put your marvellous creative engine to the task, make yourself receptive and continue practising this process, you unleash your inner muse. It is akin to a dam bursting at the seams. Once you open the floodgates, the ideas, like the gushing waters, begin to flow. You must unlock this part of yourself by giving your inner storyteller permission to do so. Like me, you will have an endless source of new and wonderful stories to tell the world. Then the real work begins.