My Workspace

I am a firm believer in that if you want to write or get something done, you'll find a way to make it happen. When people tell me "I can't write unless I have..." I tend to struggle to not roll my eyes. A couple of weeks ago, I saw Lin-Manuel Miranda tweet that he wrote large chunks of the second act of Hamilton while in his mother's laundry room. Particularly with the technology we have today, or just plain old pen and paper, you can write anywhere.

Granted, depending on your art form, this isn't always possible. If you're a sculptor, you can't take your supplies with you in your backpack everywhere and work on your project while standing in line at Starbucks. I get that. But, for a lot of us, if we're willing to be flexible, we can work anywhere.

That being said, I do understand the idea of having the ideal work space. Somewhere you can go if you want to sit down and have an intense creative session. A place where everything is organized and set to your liking. Because I'll also admit, that while I love the fact that I have my writing sync'd to my phone and I can jot down lines for my novel anywhere I go, if I want to have a deep writing session, some places are more suited than others. 

Also, I love desk and office supplies. Any excuse to go and shop for them is good in my book.

workspace blog.jpg

Over the past year, I made it a goal to create my ideal writing space. The place where I can let my imagination wander as well as be productive. It's now become one of my favorite spaces in my room.

The Desk

As I looked around for desks, I was tempted by vintage writing desks. You know, the old roll -top ones, or those which had grand hutches and intricate woodwork. I could paint it a funky color and make it all pretty and fancy. But, as I was thinking about it, I don't do well when a desk has too many drawers and nooks and crannies. Ideally, they'd help me with organization because I'd have a place to put everything. 

In reality- I'd just fill it all with junk and never clean anything out ever and it'd look like a disaster.

So, as I looked around on Pinterest for ideas, I fell in love wit hthe idea of the Parsons desk. It's the most simple of a desk as you can get. No drawers, no hutch, just a plain flat desk. Yet, it still looks classy in it's simplicity and perfect for small spaces. 

I found mine at Staples for $60, put it on hold online, and picked it up within the hour. I was even able to put it together on my own, which is always a plus.

The Chair

For me, picking out a chair was one of the most difficult parts. I'd heard horror stories about writers having back problems because the chair they sat in the most as they worked wasn't good. I have enough back and medical problems as it is - I don't need my writing to add to the list!

Being so short, it's difficult to find furniture that fits me perfectly. Especially chairs. The seat can be too deep where my knees don't hit the edge correctly, the way the backrest hits doesn't always support where I need it to, etc. Then, since I have such a small space to work with, I couldn't have a huge executive chair. On top of it all, I also needed a chair to stay in my budget. Yes, I could find comfortable and workable chairs, but they'd be several hundred dollars. Not realistic for me.

Finally, I found this one at Office Depot. It was in budget, small enough for my space, but still comfortable. 

DSCN4138.jpg

Organization

Now, with my desk being this simple, I did need a small space to place essentials like pens, paper, stationary, mail, etc. For this, I picked up a white desk organizer. It has four slots where I can put those basic essentials I need for day-to-day. 

Because of the simplicity of the organizer and the desk, I've decided to add more fun and punch to these essential items. Lately, if I find I need more pens or pencils, I find ones I think are fun or pretty. It sounds simple and silly, but quite frankly, I'm more excited to get to work when I can use that really pretty new pen I just bought.

DSCN4137.JPG

Yes, I realize how ridiculous I am.

Then, below my desk, I placed a white basket where I put all of my other extra papers and notebooks. When it gets too full, I know it's time to clean it out. I've also added a plastic file organizer where I can fit bills, taxes, and other important documents. It also doubles as a footrest!

The Planner

Last year, I attempted to jump on the bullet journal train. I loved how customize-able it was, and I also have always really loved journaling. 

I soon learned it wasn't for me. I was always jealous of the people who could draw well and put pretty doodles in their journals and try as I might - that's just not the art form I've been gifted in. I missed having everything laid out for me. 

DSCN4077.JPG

So, I went for a traditional planner for 2017 and it's been awesome. It has all of the calendars and essentials I need to stay organized. Then, with extra note paper, I can make the other lists I'd want to use in a bullet journal. Add some cute stickers and washi-tape, and I can make it look super cute!

The mug is empty because I already drank all of the coffee. Obviously.

The mug is empty because I already drank all of the coffee. Obviously.

The Decor

Yes! I consider the decor essential too. Sometimes, you just need something pretty or fun to look at while you try to think of your next idea. 

Again, I went with something somewhat simple. If it's too busy, it can be distracting. Thankfully, all of the items on the wall were gifts or something I had received in a monthly subscription box. On my desk, I have a couple of seasonal items. 

I will be adding another larger simple piece of art to fill that blank space, but considering I just moved things are still being unpacked.

I will be adding another larger simple piece of art to fill that blank space, but considering I just moved things are still being unpacked.

The only thing I've kept "busy" is my bulletin board which is to the side of my desk. This is where I pin up all invitations, greeting cards, photos, ticket stubs, programs, etc. I've collected over the year. Then, at the end of the year, I take them all down and place them in a shoebox labeled with the year. 

 

There you have it. My workspace for when I want to sit down at home and get some intense work done. What's your ideal work area?

My Writing Process - Outlining vs. Discovery Writing

Welcome to the second in the "My Writing Process" series! The first post was about brainstorming. That's simply getting your ideas together. Today, I'll share with you my thoughts on actually planing out a novel and the story. 

13247502_f520.jpg

There tend to be two categories writers place themselves into for this. There's the outliners and the "pantsers." (AKA- discovery writing.) Either you plan your novel out, or you just wing it.

The reality is, most writers are a mix of both. I know I am. It also depends on the project I'm working on. Some books I feel like I need to know exactly what happens when. Others, I let myself figure it out along the way. Although, I tend to go for more outlining. For the project I'm working on at the moment, I'm winging it a bit more than usual. Which is slightly scary. Some elements of this book I knew I had to know exactly what happened. The rest, I'm only planning one step ahead of where I am currently in my writing process. I have the first few chapters plotted out, but the everything else I have no idea!

Outlining

When I outline my novel, there are a few different methods I've tried. 

The 9 Block Method

I found this one through the YouTuber KatyTastic. (One of her vidoes is below) You divide your book into three acts, each with three sections, and three chapters in each section. This would create roughly 27 chapters. (It sounds confusing, I know. But it isn't!) All of these roughly are just about setting up, creating conflict, and resolution. Beginning, middle, and end. Act one is setting up the story, act two is building up the conflict, act three is the climax/resolution. Then each act has a bit of a "mini" story inside of it with set up, conflict, and resolution.

Katy explains it far better than I do, and when I first started to outline this way, I had to refer back to her videos several times. (You can watch one of them here!) Now that I've gotten the hang of it, it's easy. It's a fairly commercial method of putting together a story and I like to use it when I'm getting stuck on plot. (I'm TERRIBLE at plot. Give me fun characters and witty banter all day. When I have to actually decide the things that happen to them and how it all fits together, it's the struggle bus for me.) It helps me to see how I can keep the story moving as well as eliminate things which don't add anything to the story.

The Snowflake Method

This one is about starting small, then getting bigger and bigger. You first start with a simple, short sentence, summarizing your novel. Then, you write a paragraph. Then three paragraphs (particularly if you're doing a 3 act structure.) Each paragraph having roughly five sentences each. 

Once that's done, you move onto creating something similar for each of your main characters. 

You can probably see where this is going. You keep going until it gets bigger and bigger then you're ready to write your novel. I'd continue, but you can follow this link to learn more. This method is good for people who like to take notes and write things out, vs. having a bullet point outline. I like to use this when I'm focusing more on my characters vs. the plot points.

Classic Story Structures

There's also several structures for classic story lines. Rags to riches, quests, the hero's journey, voyage and return, rebirth, and overcoming the monster. If you look at different genres and compare their story lines carefully, you'll see some basic plot structures and it's a good way to get yourself going. Figure out where the main "beats" of your story need to be, then go from there. You can see many of these on my Pinterest board

The Pros of Outlining

You have an idea of where your story is going, and it helpful if you find yourself stuck or from keeping your book from taking it's own course. I especially find it useful during the revision phase because then you can weed out what is and isn't needed in your book. But we'll talk about revisions in a later post.

The Cons of Outlining

Some people get married to their outline and don't let their story grow and breathe. Personally, I found this to be the fatal flaw in the ending of the TV show How I Met Your Mother. The creators had a specific ending in mind when they first plotted out the TV show. But as the show grew and changed, the ending did not. So, when we got to the finale, it was a disaster. Years later, I still become irrationally angry if I think about it too much, because everything else was so well done!

Others don't like to outline because they feel like it constricts them and they can't be as creative as they'd want. 

I always say, feel free to outline as much as you want; just be sure you're willing to be flexible. 

Discovery Writing

There's not a whole lot to say about this method, other than it's the "figure it out as you go" philosophy. You start writing and see where it takes you. This lends itself to being more organic. It's easy to say that this is more "creative," which I don't agree with. There's definitely creativity in outlining as well. 

The Pros of Discovery Writing

No bounds! No limitations! Do what you want! Discovery writing is awesome for people who don't like structure. If a random plot twist comes to you, you don't have to worry about re-doing that outline you worked on for hours and hours. You just go with it. Sometimes the surprises can be the best parts of your book.

The Cons of Discovery Writing

You may not know where your book is going. For me, this is the scary part because it's easy to get stuck. This is the beauty of planning. If you don't know what to write, you can just take a look at your outline and see what's coming next. 

It's easy for your book to lose track of where it's going. You may find yourself with scenes you don't know what to do with, characters who don't have a purpose, and when you get to the end you have no idea how to tie it all together. 

 

Overall, a majority of writers are a mix of the two methods, or it will vary with each project. I had one book where I had it heavily outlined and I relied on it for every step of the way! For projects like the one I'm currently working on, I have some details set and a few moments I want to be in the book, but beyond that I'm just seeing where the characters and the story takes me!

Brandon Sanderson, a popular epic fantasy writer, says he very much relies on his outlines. But then I've heard of authors such as Agatha Christie who claimed she didn't know who the murderer was until she reached the end of the book!

Basically - you do you. 

September Reading Round Up

I'm not sure about you, but September completely flew by for me! That might be partially because the last week of the month my family and I ended up moving to a new condo. (Long story and another blog post for another time.) But even before then, the whole month rushed by! 

Anyways - time to check in on what I read this month! Compared to others, I didn't read quite as much. I completed four books and I'm currently reading two.

Some notes on how I review:

I rate books on a 5 star scale. One being the lowest, five the highest. Most of the books you see me review will get at least a 3 star rating because I enjoyed it. Usually, if I'm not enjoying a book, I don't finish it, and therefore won't have much of a review. Then, I also have included trigger warnings for those who find those helpful. If there are any I have missed, please let me know. 

These are all of my personal opinions on each book. If you would like plot summaries, click on the title of the book and it will lead you to it's Goodreads page. 

Also, when you see my use of the word "trope," do not take it as a negative comment, particularly with romance books. It is simply a term to express different standards in the genre. (Ex. friends to lovers trope)

Arena by Holly Jennings

26184145.jpg
  • Genre: Sci-Fi/Sports
  • Format: Library e-book
  • Rating: 3.5 Stars

I'm not sure what I was expecting with this book, but it definitely wasn't what I read! At first, I almost put the book down after only a few chapters, but I kept going. So, I definitely encourage others to do the same. Arena is an interesting mix where Hunger Games meets sports team story meets video games meet issue novel about drug abuse/recovery meets romance. The first two-thirds of the book I felt focused more on the drug abuse/recovery elements, then the last third focused in on the classic sports team story where you are rooting for them to win the championship game. It also featured a female Chinese-American protagonist and delved into Taoist philosophy, feminism, and racism. 

The thing is - I know nothing about sports, video games, drug abuse, or being Chinese-American. Therefore, I don't have room to comment on any of those topics. If anyone does have knowledge in these areas and has read this book, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

It was good and I'd be willing to read the next one. But, I'm also not rushing to find it either.

  • You'll like this book if you also enjoy: sports; video games; Taoist philosophy; futuristic sci-fi; Enders Game or Ready Player One; hate-to-love romance trope
  • Trigger Warnings: Drug abuse/recovery; early in the book there is a scene where characters sleep together while under the influence of drugs and alcohol; sudden death; violence

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

29749085.jpg
  • Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Rating: 3.5-.75 Stars

I adored the Wonder Woman movie, so I was excited for this new release! DC Comics commissioned several popular young adult authors to write novels about classic superheroes as teenagers. This is the first in the series, although, I believe each of the novels stands alone. 

This was a fun superhero adventure story. I liked seeing Diana as a teenager in Themiscyra and her relationship/role in Amazon society. It was also fun seeing her wander around modern-day NYC. I loved the positive female friendships and the Greek mythology as well. I've heard some people say there wasn't enough action for a superhero novel, but I didn't mind much since my eyes tend to glaze over when I read action sequences. 

I enjoyed this book, but I didn't love it the way I was hoping I would. I'm not entirely sure why since there wasn't anything particularly bad/wrong with the book or the writing. But I definitely recommend. 

  • You'll like this book if you also enjoy: Wonder Woman; superheroes; feminism; diverse casts; Greek mythology
  • Trigger Warnings: mild violence; death

Gunmetal Magic by Illona Andrews

12288282.jpg
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
  • Format: Library Mass Market Paperback
  • Rating: 3.75 Stars

Gunmetal Magic is book 5.5 in the Kate Daniels series and is a novel which focuses on Kate's best friend, Andrea. This was another fun read full of shape-shifter courtship shenanigans, snark, magic, and action. The only thing is, it just made me miss reading about Kate and Curran. (Although they do have several appearances and there's a novella about them at the end of the book!) Still, a good read for fans of Kate Daniels.

  • You'll like this book if you also enjoy: Kate Daniels; urban fantasy; paranormal romance; snark; action; on again off again couples
  • Trigger Warnings: violence; shaper-shifter courtship rituals/traditions/habits can appear to be more "aggressive" than others, while Andrews does a great job of showing when it's consensual, it can come off as possessive/unhealthy

Magic Rises by Illona Andrews

11544421.jpg
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
  • Format: Library Mass Market Paperback
  • Rating: 5 Stars

Then I was able to immediately dive into a full-on Kate Daniels book and it was perfect! This series is top-quality urban fantasy. The characters are interesting and complex, the world building and mythology are always well done and well researched, and the sarcasm is on point. Kate and Curran continue to be one of my OTPs. This book brought us away from Atlanta, so it was fun to see another part of the world and society. More complexities and depth were brought to Kate's family too which I found really interesting! The relationship drama was a bit eye-rolly, but since it was Kate and Curran I'll let it slide. 

  • You'll like this book if you also enjoy: Kate Daniels; urban fantasy; romances that focus on a long-term relationship; snark; action; magic 
  • Trigger Warnings: jealousy in a relationship; emotional manipulation; violence

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J Maas

31450852.jpg
  • Genre: Young Adult (I'd argue that) Fantasy
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Rating: 5 Stars

I am a HUGE Sarah J Maas fan and the Throne of Glass series is one of my favorites, so this was one of my most highly anticipated books of 2017. 

Originally, this was supposed to be a novella, but then it turned into a full novel. Some people have wondered if they can skip this book. I say don't since there are plot points which will be very important to the final book coming out in 2018. 

That being said, I was also very nervous about it. The focus of this book was on Chaol's recovery from paralysis and Maas doesn't have the best reputation for her representation of marginalized groups. But, I thought this book was her most well-thought out and you can tell she really wanted to do well by the disability community. You can see my full (with spoilers) review on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2114999039?type=review#rating_134110326

Some people thought this book was slow and could have been cut down, which is valid, but I didn't mind. I find Maas' writing style so easy to read, that even her 700 page books fly by! 

Adult Content Warning: Sarah J Maas' books are marketed as young adult. Which, for the first couple books in the Throne of Glass series I'd say is accurate. However, as the books go on and the characters get older (none of them are teenagers by the time we get to book four) the content also becomes more mature. I say at the very latest by the time we get to book five (Empire of Storms) the books are no longer young adult. I would argue her other series, A Court of Thorns and Roses was never YA, even if it was marketed as such. Not that teenagers can't read them, that's up to them and their parents. But, the romance scenes become much more explicit. Although, in this book it's much tamer than in some of her others.

  • You'll like this book if you also enjoy: epic fantasy; hate-to-love trope; Sarah J Maas; fae lore
  • Trigger Warnings: paralysis; violence; loss of a sibling; spiders; flashbacks to child abuse

Currently Reading

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

23264671.jpg
  • Genre: Dark Fantasy
  • Format: Hardcover

I was a huge fan of the first book in this series, Nevernight, so this was another one of my most anticipated of 2017. It takes place several months after the events of the first book and I'm really enjoying it so far! It's a bit slow, but I remember that I felt Nevernight was as well at first. 

  • You'll like this book if you also enjoy: assassins; dark fantasy; gladiators;
  • Trigger Warnings: can I say the whole book is a trigger warning?; graphic violence; graphic sex scenes; slavery; abuse

The Diviners by Libba Bray

13641916.jpg
  • Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
  • Format: Audiobook

This book has been on my "to be read" list for literally years. I tried to read it last year but never finished, but a friend told me the audiobook was excellent so I'm trying it that way this time around. Everyone I've talked to has said this book is amazing, even if it's slow at first, and it seems right up my alley. I've enjoyed other books by Libba Bray so I'm excited to finally finish this one and hopefully continue with the other books in the series!

  • You'll like this book if you also enjoy: paranormal; ghost stories; 1920s
  • Trigger Warnings: ghosts; overall creepy feel

What did you read this month?

Mid-Month Update September 2017

All week I've been trying to think of what I wanted to blog about. I miss the "old days" of blogging where it was all about tags, rambling about life, and sharing random pictures. I think some of the other bloggers I used to follow then feel the same way. Then, something changed. Everyone had to write posts that were "The Top Ten Ways..." or "Let Me Give You Advice About..." or "Listen To Me Talk About This Important Topic." All of those are great. But, I think I kind of got burnt out on it. 

Yet, when I brainstorm what blog posts I want to write, I can't get my mindset out of the "make your post on brand!" Which then leads me to "What is my brand?" and "What is a brand anyway?" I think about how no one wants to hear about my boring life.

But then, I look at my favorite bloggers. The people I've followed for years, the ones who maybe left for awhile then came back, or the ones I stopped reading and have come back to. You want to know what my favorite posts a lot of times are? When they're just about life! 

I saw one of these bloggers, Brittany from Palms and Palmettos, did a "Mid-Month Update" just about things in her life going on at the moment. So, I'm stealing that idea! I have to break this bloggers writers block somehow. 

  • My sister had her baby shower this past weekend! My family came in on Saturday and we all went to a White Sox game. (They actually won, which was a happy surprise!) Then on Sunday was the shower. We were running late the entire weekend, but it all turned out well. My sister got SO MUCH STUFF and all of it was adorable. Particularly all of the nerdy onesies I bought. But I might be partial. It's becoming more and more real that she's having a baby and we're all ridiculously excited. Only two more months!
And even more stuff piled up after I took this picture. It was awesome!

And even more stuff piled up after I took this picture. It was awesome!

 

  • I am beyond ready for fall. I'm not the biggest fan of summer. It's too hot and muggy to want to be outside, but the air conditioning inside is so cold I'm walking around with warm socks and a blanket. Granted, we had a decent summer this year. But when I saw that later this week we might be getting up to the 80s - I was not happy. I've been loving it being in the 50s-mid 70s the last couple of weeks and I want it to stay that way! I haven't even been able to bust out a scarf yet! But, I'm drinking my Pumpkin Spice Lattes like no one's business. At least there's that.

 

  • I've decided that I have far too many friends who live in hurricane areas. This past week has been stressful because NONE of them evacuated and I was freaking out. Which, I fully understand that my stress is NOTHING compared to what people who were living down there actually experienced. But, I vote that everyone I know who lives in hurricane areas come and move up here. Yes, Chicago has terrible winters and gangs galore. But we don't have hurricanes which cover our entire state. So... I say it's a win.

 

  • At the start of the month Sarah J Maas, one of my favorite authors, released the next book in the Throne of Glass series. I'm complete trash for SJM. She definitely has problematic elements in her books, but I love her stories and have connected with her characters and I can't stop reading. And I binge her books like crazy. They can be over 700 pages long and I'll still finish it in a day or two. I have a problem. But anyway, I LOVED her newest book and it dealt with a character who had become parlayed and I was so happy with how she handled it. I thought it showed how much SJM is trying to listen to people's criticisms and she wants to be respectful and thoughtful. AHHHH it makes me happy. I'm so stinking proud of her. So, I posted a full review about it on Goodreads, which is rare for me. The response I've gotten is crazy! It has far more likes than any of my other reviews and I've been getting multiple friend requests each day since I posted it. It's been exciting for me. You can read the review here (and yes, it does have spoilers. Sorry!): https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2114999039?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1
Image 3.jpg

 

  • I haven't had the chance to sit and write my novel for awhile. Well... that's not entirely true. I have time after work where I can sit and write. But, I'm so tired when I get home my brain can't function anymore. All I do is lay on my bed, watch Netflix, and read. Besides, my desk chair is covered with laundry at the moment and I don't feel like putting my clothes away. How do you all deal with fatigue? Cause it's really putting a cramp in my writing routine.

 

  • Have you noticed how all of these amazing female artists are coming out with new songs lately? Kesha, Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, even Aly and AJ! I've been loving all of them. But do you know who I've been LOVING? Demi Lovato. I've never disliked her, but I've never been over enthusiastic about her music. I'll listen to a song, enjoy it, then move on. But OH GOODNESS her new ones I have on repeat and I can't get enough!

So, that's my life at the moment. Nothing outrageously exciting outside of my sister's baby shower. My mom's birthday is coming up though, so my sister and I have to make plans for her now! What's going on in your life? 

My Writing Process: Brainstorming

A few weeks ago, I had posted on my Facebook page asking what people would like to read about on my blog. One of my friends said she thought it'd be interesting to read about my writing process. 

I decided to do a writing series where once a month I share one element. I'll be breaking it up into seven categories. They are:

  • Brainstorming
  • Outlining vs. "Pantsing"
  • Characters
  • World Building and Setting
  • Drafting
  • Critique Partners and Beta Readers
  • Revising

On social media once, I remember in regards to writing process, one author (I can't remember who! I'm sorry!) said they know how to write THIS book. Then, when they start a new book, they learn how to write THAT book. Because each project has a life and process of it's own. 

I've found this to be true. While I do have certain tendencies with each project I'm working on, they are all vastly different from one another. One aspect of my writing process may have worked for one project, but it may not work for another.

That being said, I'll be sharing my process for the most current novel I'm working on simply because it's the freshest in my mind. I'll refer to previous projects as well, but my focus will be on this one. 

If you follow me on Twitter/Instagram, you may have noticed I've been chatting about this new idea for the last several weeks and referring to it as "Vampire Snow White." Mainly because I don't have a title for it. I'll refer to it the same way here and sometimes shorten it to VSW. However, beyond my basics of the process, I won't be revealing anything else about this book such as plot points, character names, etc. Because you know...

River-Song-Spoilers.png

WHEW. Talk about a long intro. But, from here on out with the remainder of the series I should be able to get to the point quicker.

Here we go! My brainstorming process.

Image originally found on my Instagram @eehornburg

Image originally found on my Instagram @eehornburg

Getting Ideas

Interestingly enough, the way I got my idea for VSW was from a writing friend of mine. Someone had shared something with her about "What if Snow White was a vampire?" and she shared it with me saying "This sounds like something totally up your alley." Well... she was right. The character, the setting, how I could tie in vampire lore with the classic fairy tale - for some reason it all "clicked" in my head.

This is not how I usually get ideas. Here are a few suggestions to help you get your brain going:

  • Keep asking "what if...?" A lot of my stories even before VSW have been inspired by fairy tales. I just expand on them. "Yeah, but what if this character was...?" Or even asking "why?" Something like "But why would mere jealousy cause the evil queen to want to go as far as murdering her step-daughter?"
  • Searching around on the Internet. You'd be amazed that just from casually browsing the Internet. the story ideas I find. Whether it's an interesting article, a picture I thought was different, a quote I find, etc.
  • Pick a theme you are passionate about or would like a book to be about. For the most recent novel I've completed, the initial idea came from elements in my life which I was experiencing. Which, made me think of it being a contemporary/modern day/literary novel. But, I've learned that while I like reading those sorts of books, I'm awful at writing them. I thought "okay... how do I make that fun and in a genre I do like?" BOOM. My story was created.
  • Write what you enjoy. I once tried writing a straight contemporary novel without any magic, sci-fi, fairy tale elements. IT WAS TERRIBLE. There are books of that genre I genuinely love - but for the most part what I enjoy reading and writing are Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Once I realized I should stick with that, finding ideas and brainstorming came much easier. Some people can jump around genres and each one turns out awesome. Which is fantastic! But it's not me. 

Research

I love this part. It gives me an excuse to watch TV, movies, documentaries, and take too many trips to the library. 

  • For VSW I started with researching the original Snow White tale itself. It is my favorite, so I'm familiar with all of the different versions. But, I hadn't read much about what inspired these folk tales in the first place. Let me tell you - it was the best thing I've done VSW. I found different elements which will for sure be appearing in my plot and character development.
  • Learn about other cultures. Considering Snow White is a German tale, my next step was to find out more about German folklore and vampire mythology. Sure enough - Germans have their own version of the vampire. This will help make my vampires in this book more unique compared to the saturation of vampires we see in other literature. 
  • Netflix (or your streaming provider of choice) is amazing! I added to my list different movies, TV shows, and documentaries which I thought would be helpful. Some of them have been paranormal types, others have been more historical for my backstory, some have been simply something I think would fit the tone and mood. 
  • Seek out people in your circles who can help. I know other people who have studied German culture, have read a lot more paranormal stories than I have, and know more history than I do. I go to them to help bounce around ideas and they direct me to other resources.
  • Use your library! Mine is pretty small, so they don't always have enough books to go in as much depth as I'd like. But, they are connected to several other libraries in the area and the librarians help me find other titles which I may find useful and have them delivered to our library for me to pick up. 

Tools I Use

  • Old school pen and paper. My brainstorming can be messy, confusing, and all over the place. Being able to have a notebook and a pen or pencil where I can erase, cross things out, draw lines and arrows, help me to sort everything out. Typing something out on a computer or tablet doesn't give me the freedom to do this as much. 
  • Pinterest. When I have a new project in my head, I create a secret board and it becomes my virtual dumping ground for all of my ideas. Websites I've found in my research, photos and drawings I find interesting, maps, etc. 
  • Visions boards. This could be in place of Pinterest. Only, it's a physical board instead of a virtual one. Writers have it displayed near their work area so they can reference it as they write. I can definitely see why people would find this useful and also fun to create. But, for me, Pinterest is the version which works best. 

Reading Books in Your Genre

This is one of the big things I've learned the last few years when it comes to writing.

  • You need to read what other people have done in the genre you're writing. Some authors don't read books in their genre as they're writing because they don't want to steal ideas. Which is completely legitimate! But - they are still very familiar with that genre. They've read it in the past, they'll read it in the future, they know of other authors to whom their work is comparable to, etc. You need to the styles, pacing, tropes, etc. Learn who "the greats" are in your genre and learn from them. 
  • You should absolutely read a variety of genres, and I think we can take elements of other books into our own.  I think that's awesome, useful, and helps to make your writing more well-rounded. But, you need to know your own genre as well. 

 

So, there you have it! Those are some of my thoughts on brainstorming and how I start to get ideas for my novels. This post is long enough - I think I covered everything! How do you brainstorm for your creative projects? Is there anything you'd like to know more about?