The Self-Brainstorm

Writer’s block is a bitch. There, I said it. I’ll sit down to write, my Snuggie on, my recliner kicked up, and a Dr. Pepper within arm’s reach and—nothing. I could sit for hours, but still have a blank page in front of me.

This post is about the partial solution I’ve come up with. I call it the Self-Brainstorm, and although I haven’t heard of anyone else using it, I’ve found it dead useful. Here’s an example (from planning for Chapter 3 of my latest project):

Okay, so for this chapter I want Ana to meet with her handler. But something has to happen. Can’t just be a normal meeting. Ideas:

Someone sees her meeting with him. No, too early for that. Well, unless it doesn’t blow her cover. Hmm, let’s see. What if Evan sees her? That could be interesting, sort of use it as foreshadowing. Still isn’t action though. What happens?

An attack? Some sort of theft or something. No

So no attack. Does it have to be violent? Could it be Evan walking up to them, thinking Ana’s being attacked

No, he’s defending his turf. Mark’s pretending to be a dealer, and the place where they meet is in Evan’s father’s territory. He scares Mark off, sells some actual drugs to Ana. Maybe this triggers her descent?


The method’s pretty straightforward: you converse with yourself about the questions that have to be answered, and write down any and every idea you have. Personally, I keep working until something excites me. It could be the setting, something that happens (as in the example), or just something the readers are going to find out about one of my characters. Since I implemented this, I don’t always think of something to write, but lightning strikes a lot more often. Better, I’ve started doing this even for the chapters in which I assume I know where the story’s headed, resulting in some fantastic (if I do say so myself) twists.

So give it a shot, the next time you’re staring at that white screen. Tell me how it goes. With any luck, this method will prove as useful to you as it has been for me.

Do you think this method could be improved? Do you have any other strategies to combat writer’s block? Let me know in the comments!

Inspired by this post.

9 thoughts on “The Self-Brainstorm

  1. That’s exactly what I do. Only if it were my characters, I’d have the whole thing figured out i.e. they go to a meeting and then something happens, but then they’d never make it to the meeting because they had other ideas. This is why I rarely get writers block in the first place – I just start writing and I’m taken on a journey that has nothing to do with me. 😛

      1. I make a plan and then my characters amend it. I rarely have any control over where my stories go.
        My stories are never plot-driven. They’re always character-driven, and believe me, they can drive.

      2. I think that’s the ideal. I definitely enjoy novels where characters are actors instead of victims (Ayn Rand calls it naturalism vs romanticism).

  2. I think it’s a bit like learning to drive or something.. You think you are never going to get it and then suddenly it just all falls in to place.

    I am a panster and so probably waffle on far too much anyway…

    Thanks for visiting me by the way…xx

  3. I do this all the time, I’ve got so many pages and notebooks filled with conversations I have with myself and things that start like, “Maybe they discuss driving off a cliff a la Thelma and Louise…” I can never end stories, so that’s my go-to thought. Great post! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s