nanowrimo, Uncategorized, Writing Club, writing exercise

Writing Club: It’s All About The Brainstorming

It’s fall and around here that means Writing Club! Each fall I lead a group of young writers through the prewriting process all the way to our goal of finished novels for National Novel Writing Month. It’s my favorite time of year.

We have so much fun writing together and coming up with crazy ideas for our stories. I wish all of you could join the club with us. Since you can’t be here, I thought I might bring some of the fun to you! So, each Monday I’ll share one of our writing lessons with you. That way you can follow along. If you do each lesson, by the end of November, you should have a pretty good story. It takes a little work and lot of dedication to finish an entire story, but you can do it! And if you have questions, you can post them here for the writing club to answer. Sound like fun? Great! Then, welcome to the club!

Lesson One: Brainstorming
When you’re writing, do you ever feel stuck? I’m talking thick, goopy mud kind of stuck. Quick sand, stuck. Yep. It happens to the best of us. So, our very first lesson this year is on how to get unstuck. Before we write a single word in our notebooks, we’re going talk about how to create new ideas and get your brain moving from stuck to running free.

There are many ways to help you gather ideas for your story. Today we’re going to talk about three. The first is a mind web.

You’ve probably seen this idea before and maybe you have a different name for it. A mind web helps us catch related ideas and organize them. Start out by writing a topic in the center of your paper or white board. Maybe use a word that describes your favorite book. We chose the word magic, but you can use any word that interests you. Now, add as many related words as possible around the outside of that center bubble. Branch out from those words, adding more layers.

Here’s an example from our class:

Step One: Add primary words around your central topic.


 Step Two: Add secondary words around each primary word.



Step Three: Add a layer of descriptive words to the outer layer.







Hopefully this exercise has helped you to create a picture in your head, because that’s your next step. Close your eyes for a moment and try your best to see a clear image of your scene. Focus on either the setting or a character because this will help you most. Remember to use all of your senses as you look around. What do you see? What does it smell like to you? Can you hear anything? Is there movement? What can you taste or feel? Do your best to be there in your mind, taking note of everything around you.

Now, write down exactly what you saw. Don’t worry about writing sentences; we’ll practice putting them into sentences later.  Just list the words for now. Grab all the words you can to describe your setting and a character. Use the list to fill in your mind web. Make it as big as you can. The more words and ideas you have, the more you have to work with when you are writing your story.

What word did you choose for your topic? Leave it in the comments below and take a moment to introduce yourself so we can say hello to our new writing club members. Then, come back tomorrow and I’ll show you what to do next with your mind web.


Writing, writing exercise

Writing Exercise: Inanimate Perspective

>***Congratulations to Amy B! She won the Barnes and Noble gift card prize from Sarah Treu! Watch on Wednesday for a new book giveaway!***

Did you ever imagine your toys were secretly alive? Dozens of well-loved books (The Velveteen Rabbit) and movies (Toy Story) make me think I wasn’t alone in this childhood fantasy. Well, now that you are a little bigger, let’s use that imagination to help you become a better writer.

Writing Exercise: Look around the room. Choose one object and imagine that it could tell you it’s thoughts.

Ask yourself the following questions: What did it see today? How does it feel? Does it like it here? Does it enjoy it’s “job”? What does it dream of doing? If it could escape, where would it go and why?

I’m sure you can think of more questions to ask your chosen item. Now, write a short story from its perspective. Tomorrow, come back to try our Tuesday Story Starter and you’ll be glad for the practice.

Writing, writing advice, writing exercise

>Writing Exercise: Reimagine Something

Hello, Writerlings! Hope you all had a fabulous weekend. I didn’t get a single word typed this weekend, so I was kind of disappointed. But, I had lots of fun with family, so that makes up for a lot.  

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a new story idea and wondering if I can make it work without seeming like every other story in the same genre. It had me thinking about many of my other favorite stories and this led me to today’s writing exercise:

Think of something you find interesting, an invention, a myth, an animal, a fairytale, etc. Then, redefine it. Look at it from a new angle.

This what great writers do to make their story familiar and still new. Some take a familiar tale and then reverse it somehow. One example would be the recent Disney movie about the Frog Prince. Instead of the same old story about how kissing a frog makes him a prince, the writers turned it around. Now the girl who kissed the frog is a frog, too! What happens next? Well, that’s where the real story is, right?  

Or, you could take a historical or mythological topic you find interesting and already know a lot about and turn it around a bit. Ask yourself, what if this was still true somewhere today? What if these people or creatures are around us and we just aren’t aware of it? Rick Riordan caught the attention of millions with his Percy Jackson story that used this same technique as he reimagined Greek mythology (and then Roman and Egyptian, as well!) J.K. Rowlling did the same with magic and wizards when she created Harry Potter. What could you reimagine? Norse mythology? Mermaids? The legend of Atlantis? 

The fun is just beginning with the question of “How can it work? How could that happen?” Once you begin to ask “Why?”….. Well, that’s when the real story begins.
Why are there still wizards in the world and why do they need Harry Potter?
Why are all the demi-gods abandoned by their immortal parents? Why must they stick together?

So, try this for your own favorite topic of interest. Reimagine it, look at it from a different angle. Then, ask yourself why. See if that doesn’t spark a new direction for your writing this week.

Gotta write,

story starters

>Story Starter Tuesday


If you missed the lesson on how to get more out of your story starter fun, click here

 Here is this week’s story starter:

I was so excited to be his assistant for a day that I accidently dropped the cup he had given me.  The liquid spilled out onto the grass, forming a small puddle at my feet.  But then I noticed something strange …

story starters, writing exercise

>Writing Exercise: Story Starters


***Congratulations to Becca Campbell who won a free copy of Island of Fog!***

Ask yourself this question…. How to get more out of story starters.
My kids say I should be offering more ways to get kids writing.  I completely agree.  They suggested a few fabulous ideas and one of them is the classic “story starter”.  So, starting tomorrow, I’ll be offering up a story starter each week for you writers out there who need a little jumpstart.  Share them with friends, make a game out of it.  See who can write the most fantastic story from one little sentence.  But first, I want to teach you how to make a story starter more fun and more effective.  

Let’s say I give you a story starter like this one: You are riding through the woods with a group of friends.  Then, suddenly….

Well, that should be an easy one, right?  But wait!  Before you start writing ask yourself this question – What are you riding on?  How many of you read that story starter and instantly pictured your friends on either a horse or a bicycle?  What other things could you be riding through the woods?  Could you be riding a motorcycle?  Inside a car or even a royal carriage?  What about riding on a unicorn?  A dinosaur?  A giant spotted leopard?  A mutant plant?

Do you see how asking yourself that one question could change the entire direction of a story?  It could change the genre from classic fairytale to alien space adventure!  Write the unexpected.  Imagine something new.  Tomorrow I’ll give you a new story starter to play with, so come back and this time… bring a pencil!

Gotta Write,