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...


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. 


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?