Writing Excuses: Brainstorming and Outlining

(These are my notes and thoughts in relation to the WritingExcuses podcast season 1, episode 1: Brainstorming and outlining. I will also disseminate this information to the topical sections of my resource section).

How do you brainstorm?

  • Discover when you come up with ideas, and use that knowledge to your advantage. Some people need others… dramatic music, times of relaxation or when doing something boring.
  • You have to find the balance between being alert, and not distracted.
  • Importantly, as soon as you’ve got the idea write it down. Write it down straight away.

I have bought myself a little notepad which I take everywhere with me, allowing me to jot things down. Sometimes it is easier than using my phone (though I use that too by writing emails to myself). One of the challenges is then to be diligent in transferring those ‘snippets’ to somewhere more usable (a consolidated location).

Even just two months ago I felt like a one-hit-wonder as though I didn’t have enough ideas to write many stories, but I have found the more I write and think about writing the more easily I generate ideas. And now I have more story ideas than time to write. I look at everyday events and things, and then wonder what kind of slanted approach I could take them down with a little creativity. My eyes are open, and the world is full of ideas: the trick will be in selecting good ideas and then executing them well!


  • Mention of the program wikidpad.
  • Multiple Microsoft Word files (for character, setting, plot).
  • Danger: don’t fall into the trap of formatting the pages.
  • First work out the events that have to happen, and sort out the chronology later.
  • Danger: Excessive world-building. If the events of the world-building don’t directly affect the character or plot, don’t include them (or barely). World-build, but don’t ego-build.
  • Character and conflict is the soul of story.

I can’t really say that I’ve done much in the way of outlining yet. I wouldn’t say I do this well yet. At the moment it’s more of a structure than an outline, which isn’t the best way to do it. I will generally start with the beginning and the end, and some known major plot points. I might know where my character arcs go, and I begin to fill in what it will take to get to those points.

How do you know which ideas are interacting well together?

  • You need more than 1 good idea and the ideas have to have chemistry.
  • Where 2 or 3 ideas stick together and have an interesting chemistry you have a book.
  • You have to take a mundane idea and an extraordinary idea and wed them together.

I am really looking forward to completing my current project, and then starting afresh applying some of the techniques that I have learned.

Got thoughts?

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