Tag Archives: brainstorming

5 Reasons You Need Another Writer’s Brain

Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery by Diane Holmes, Chief Alchemist of Pitch University

It’s a mindset.

One of my long-time writing friends flew in for a long weekend of Being a Writer.  It’s not just an event, it’s a mindset.

writinggroup - nadar

You know what I mean?  It’s special when you’re with other writers, brainstorming and talking over the juicy aspects of craft for the sheer pleasure of geeking out on Being A Writer.

Some spouses can do this for us.  Writer stand-ins.  But not many. 

I mean, how many hours can they stay enthralled with the many nuances of point-of-view or the thesis topic “storytelling is essential to human existence”?

Not that many.

Us?  As long as we breathe.

And we’re better for it.  Better in our work, and better in our head, too, which is the source of everything.

Let’s face it; we think for a living. The end result is words on the page (web or print), but the method is all in our heads.

Simply speaking, we are brilliant.

Being brilliant is our stock and trade.

And yet most of us work alone, and it’s darn hard to be brilliant (or feel brilliant) without another writer-brain to ignite the fire.

So, here are 5 reasons you need another writer’s brain

1. The Stillness of Logic

.We can convince ourselves, “sure that works,” when, in fact, it does not.  We have stretched, pulled, and ripped the fabric of credulity, yet we’re clinging to our personal need for ‘it’ (the writing equivalent of ‘x’) to work.

Another writer can throw out the life preserver (‘cause we’re in our own ocean of thought, far, far from shore), and reel us back in.

2. Outrageously Better

There is a point where we have come up with our best.  Our good-as-we-can.  But when placed in the room with another writer, we discuss it like it’s a real thing, except now it’s illuminated by two brains, not just one.  And it’s that simple. 

As we hash it over, we own the entire universe of two brains.  We explore the best thing ever:  new terrain.

You see, it’s not just what’s written.  It’s pretty much everything that has now or ever will exist.  And then… suddenly there’s a doorway to a parallel universe, too. Suddenly, things are Seuss-i-fied.  Oh, the place we’ll go.

It take a fellow traveler to hold the door open for us to see what is hidden and beyond.  Hint, It’s hidden from us.  How can we see it?

And that is how we make things outrageously better.  Normal is our world.  Better is the universe.  Outrageous is what is beyond that.

(I think I’m implying that writers may be time-travel portals, but that’s the subject of another article.)

3. Shoved Off-Balance

Being shoved off-center, losing our balance, is the most creative thing another writer can do for us.

Without realizing it, we fight to keep our sense of level, to keep our writing world plumb.  We seem to automatically make our thoughts “exactly vertical” to fit the narrow parameters of the assignment.

But the best ideas, the ones that captivate readers, are often askew, unexpected, or what we call ‘fresh.’

Another writer can hip-check your thoughts, knock you into new thoughts.  Together, you create writing magic.. (And magic, as we all know, is a juxtaposition to order and reality… or else it wouldn’t be magic.)

4.  Sanity Check

Sometimes you just can’t get a “goodness read” on your writing.  It’s easy to edit and edit and edit, without making anything better.

You need a sanity check, before you destroy your own prose.

And you need a writer for this, because she or he can tell you why, which is often where the sanity is involved.

Does it work or not?  No matter what “you” say, why should I believe you?  It’s in the why.  And we need a why that speaks writer.

It’s one thing to hear, “Yes, this works.” 

It’s another to hear,

“Yes, this works, because it brings a beautiful parallel construction to your opening and ending scenes, and it illuminates the small heartbreaks that accompany survival.  When I read that, I knew your character would survive and had learned that she wasn’t a victim.”

Now, I believe it works.

5. Fun

Okay, you might think I’m a little simplistic here, but the reason we writers write is because we like it.  It’s satisfying and meaningful and challenging, and above all… FUN.

Yes, it’s full of angst.  Yes, it’s the hardest, most grueling thing we’ll ever do, but ultimately, it has to be fun.


Because no one is asking us to do it.  No one said, “You must go to college and become a writer.  The world can not function without electricians, doctors, police officers, and writers.”

Now we might feel that way.  For many of us it is a calling.  We do hope to make the world better.  But honestly, it’s us driving the career choice, not society and employers.

Frankly, I’ve never heard of a shortage of writers.  Or that we must outsource writing, because there’s so much demand.

* Okay, all you tech writers.  You probably are the exception. 😉

For almost every writer, it is our dream.  Our passion.  Our quest to be a writer.

So, for Pete’s sake, have fun. Cause I’ve got news for you.  Your angst, dreams, hopes, and fears will only sustain you for so long. 

Fun is eternal.

But, it’s hard to generate lasting fun all alone.  Lasting writing fun.  For that, you need another writer. Seriously, who’s going to laugh at that semicolon joke with you?  Or think 10-minute-writing-bursts are a “good time?”  Or believe critiquing and brainstorming = Par-TAY?‘

Yup, you need another writer or 12.  You just do.

And you can quote me on that.

clip_image004Diane writes two alternating columns for Freelance-Zone:Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and Marketing-Zone:Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book.

5 Strange (But Helpful) Tips for Writing A Great Novel

Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery by Diane Holmes, Chief Alchemist of Pitch University

#1 Learn to recognize a really great idea.

Most writers have lots of good ideas.  Workable ideas.  Ideas that seem interesting and full of promise.  But most writers have very few GREAT ideas. Showstoppers. Strokes of pure genius.


Learning to recognize the difference between a good idea that is probably publishable and a great idea that could launch a bestselling career is a pretty neat skill to have.

So start training yourself to rate ideas, plot points, twists, and all the ways that plot conveys story.

Try using a 10 point scale, where 10 is HOLY COW, and 5 is what you see in most published books.

Shoot for a 10.

Now do the same when you build your characters.

#2  Learn to wow 2 people on every page.

You and your reader.  You haven’t hit wow until you are amazed at what you wrote… and so is your reader.

#3 Write to devastate your characters (and your reader).

Don’t be neutral.  Don’t be small.  Don’t pull your punches.  Don’t relegate trauma to off-stage.

Show us the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical blood of your story, right on the page.

Let us know that this story matters.  Not just in this sentence or paragraph, but in the nuclear fallout of every scene after that.

#4 Don’t do the work for the reader.

One of the greatest joys as a reader is…

  • piecing together the subtext of what your characters are scheming,
  • following the threads of meaning to the awful truth,
  • understanding (or speculating about) the repercussions of ever single action, every word spoken, and
  • drawing awful conclusions about what is to come.

There is tendency for writers to rob readers of this joy by spelling out every motivation, every piece of backstory, every conflict, every thought as if the character has spent years in therapy and now understands “the universe” with startling clarity and clinical detachment.

Stop that.  It sucks the fun out of reading.

It’s annoying to have everything explained in a sanitized “sound bite” before we, the readers, even know we need it.

#5 Build to a staggering conclusion; deliver even more.

Don’t let yourself off easy.  Build a powerful ending, and then blow the doors off that.

Readers have already seen al the powerful endings.  Whatever it is that you’re writing, your reader has read a hundred or so books just like that.

Do more.  Pull it off like no one has done before.  Reach into the guts of your story and rip out all the meaning and power you can.  And then take it all the way home.

clip_image004Diane writes two alternating columns for Freelance-Zone:Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and Marketing-Zone:Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book.

5 Insider Secrets For Brainstorming a Great Scene

Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery by Diane Holmes, Chief Alchemist of Pitch University

1.  Ask yourself, “Why can’t this scene be cut?"

There’s nothing like the threat of having to cut your own writing to get your attention and inspire great brainstorming.

To be a scene that can’t possibly be cut, something needs to happen that impacts the story and changes it.  You’re looking for something that produces fallout that will ripple across scenes and chapters.

2.  Ask yourself, “Who experiences disaster in this scene?”

Fiction is all about disasters small and large.  It’s what gives characters a chance to show off their personality, be it heroic or villainous. 

3.  Ask yourself, “Who is lying in this scene?”

Lies and secrets are innately interesting to readers.  Some lies are told for good, and others are told for varying degrees of evil, from embarrassment all the way to plots to rule the world.

Of course, lies only work if you give hints to the reader that they’re being lied to. 

And if you really want a great scene, expose the lie.

4.  Ask yourself, “What twist can I insert that blows my viewpoint character’s mind?”

Throw your character off balance, and you’ll throw the reader off balance as well.  Hint:  readers love this!

5.  Ask yourself, “How can I re-stage this scene so there’s better, more dramatic, physical action?”

Scenes can be choreographed in the same way as Cirque du Soleil, to be a  mind-blowing, visual feast.  Even small, quiet scenes can be re-designed to be more compelling.

If your mother and teen-daughter characters need to have an argument, where is the most effective place for that to take place?  We’ve all seen the scene where the teen yells, stomps down the hall, and slams her bedroom door.  Been there, done that.

But what about the teen who starts tearing pictures off the living room wall?  Same argument, different setting and actions. 

Or what if they’re not at home at all.  What if they’re at church, hissing at each other in the pews during the service?  What if the daughter suddenly stands up, yells, “I hate you!” and stomps off, down the aisle and out the church door?

Now that’s a scene!

clip_image004Diane writes two alternating columns for Freelance-Zone:Fiction-Zone: Leaps in Fiction Mastery and Marketing-Zone:Marketing-Zone: Marketing Yourself and Your Book.