Embrace the power of the written word and discover how your flair for writing could lead to an exciting new career as a journalist, magazine editor or children's author. Australian College of Journalism is part of Open Colleges, Australia's leading provider of online education. Read more
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4 Brainstorming Strategies for WritersRead More
Need new ideas for your blog or can’t figure out how to get your protagonist out of a bind? Don’t panic. Even the best writers get stuck sometimes, and when it happens, a good old-fashioned brainstorming session is often just what you need to clear the fog and unearth new ideas.
Here are a few brainstorming strategies you can try the next time you need a creative boost.
Try free writing
Free writing or blind writing is exactly what it sounds like; instead of worrying about getting the perfect words down on the page, you just start writing whatever comes to mind.
Don’t worry about whether it’s off-topic or makes perfect sense and don’t pause to edit or rewrite. The main point of this exercise is to let your thoughts flow freely. Setting some sort of goal, whether it’s 600 words, 10 minutes or X number of pages, can help you to push past the mental block and express what’s on your mind without over thinking it.
Use mind maps
Mind maps can help you to visualise and develop ideas that might otherwise be too vague to articulate. The idea is to take one central idea or concept and then link it to as many related items as you can. By the end of the exercise, you’ll have an in-depth collection of phrases, themes and other elements that can work together to help you build your story.
Although there are many ways to go about it, at its simplest, mind mapping is done by drawing a circle with the topic or idea in the centre of a blank page and then using lines to connect as many related items as possible to this circle.
This technique, known as starbursting, focuses primarily on generating questions. It’s especially useful if you already have an idea of what you want to write about, but aren’t sure how to execute it.
To use this technique, draw a six-pointed star on a blank piece of paper and write your idea or topic in the centre of it. Next, write down the six essential questions of journalism (who, what, where, when, why, and how) in each point.
Now you can start to come up with questions for each heading. For instance, if you have a particular topic in mind for a blog post, you could ask things like “Who will benefit from reading this post?” or “What do I hope to accomplish with writing it?”
Once you’ve written down as many questions as you can think of for each heading, you can set out to answer each one as best you can.
Do some research
We usually only think of carrying out research when we have a particular question or need to learn more about a topic we’re unfamiliar with, but even if you know your subject in and out, research can help you think in a new direction.
For fiction works, it can be helpful to read up on the culture, social structure and customs of the country or city where your story is set, while for non-fiction, simply refreshing your memory of certain events or people can shed some light on whatever it is you’re stuck with.
Aside from using search engines, the library can often be a good source of information and you’ll often unearth information there that isn’t readily available online.
3 strategies for finding a title that worksRead More
Whether you’re writing a novel, short story or magazine article, the title is one of the best tools you have at your disposal to hook editors and readers.
So how do you find a title that personifies what you’re writing and captures your audience’s attention? At times, the right title might present itself from the very beginning, but as most writers will tell you, it usually involves hours of brainstorming, research and experimentation.
If you’re still new to the game, here are few strategies you can employ to find a title that works.
1. Make it quirky
When you don’t want to give too much away, a quirky one liner is often a good way to spark curiosity. Think of titles like “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society” or “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” They both hint at what the book might be about, while still maintaining an air of mystery.
A subtitle can also help you clarify your meaning. For instance, “Lost On Planet China,” may not immediately tell you what sort of book it is, but the subtitle “The Strange and True Story of One Man's Attempt to Understand the World's Most Mystifying Nation, or How He Became Comfortable Eating Live Squid” immediately tells you that it’s a travel book.
2. Include the names of people or places
Utilising unusual character names can add an element of mystery or quirky touch. Titles like “The curious case of Benjamin Button” or “The secret life of Walter Mitty” work well because the names are memorable. They wouldn’t stand out nearly as much with more commonplace names like “John Smith” or “Anne Thompson.”
Including the name of a city or country, on the other hand, can help to set the mood of your piece and give readers an idea of what to expect, such as with titles like “I dreamed of Africa” or “The Last time I saw Paris.”
3. Use a strong one-word title
Sometimes a good one-word title can make a much stronger statement than a longer one, especially if your book or story has a very clear theme. Think of famous titles like “1984,” “Divergent” or “Atonement.” They’re simple, straightforward and most of all memorable.
One thing to watch out for with one word titles, however, is that your book doesn’t get lost in the crowd. For example, a quick Amazon search for books by the name “Haunted” brings up seven books by different authors on first page of search results alone.
It’s the same for numerous other titles, from “Missing” to “Forgiven.” So if you do choose to use a one-word title, first make sure it hasn’t been done to death. Finally, once you have a better idea of the sort of title you want, whether it’s mysterious, descriptive or short-and-sweet, it’s time to begin experimenting with different combinations. You can get as much advice as you want, but at the end of the day, the only way to land that perfect title is through trial and error.
Start by writing out a list of 20 or more different titles that come to mind and try varying the structure and word usage each time. You might throw every single one of them out, but by the end of the exercise you’ll probably have a much better idea of what you want, or at the very least, what you don’t want.