My big project this week has been brainstorming. LOTS of brainstorming.

First there’s the marketing course. My homework for week one is to come up with one sentence that sums up my novel and includes who my target audience is. And the sentence should be shorter than the one I just wrote to explain the assignment. I’ve been filling notebook pages with variations on the theme and still don’t have anything close to what I want. I figure my target audience is grown-ups who read The Black Stallion and Nancy Drew when they were kids, but that’s too long. Besides, if I’m coming up with a promo line for MY book, do I want to instead do a blurb for someone else’s? I think not. I may use that line in conversation, but I don’t want it printed on my business cards or on a banner on my website, which is precisely what this one sentence is supposed to be used for.

When I feel like my head is about to explode, I trade that notebook for another one in which I am plotting murder. Relax. The intended victim is fictional. I’m plotting the new novel. Yep, more brainstorming.

The planning phase of a new novel is one of the hardest for me. Next to writing the beginning. And the middle. And the end. Okay, it’s all hard. To those of you who come up to me and say “I’ve always thought about writing a book” just let me say KEEP THINKING. People who write novels have a sickness. We HAVE to do it or we will die. Normal people don’t torture themselves like this.

But I digress.

Let me share one of my favorite tricks for brainstorming. Say you’re stuck. You don’t know who the victim is. Or who the killer is. Or WHY the killer kills the victim. (Not that I’ve had problems with any one of these. Nope. Not me. I’ve been having problems with ALL of them!) Get out your trusty notebook and number a page one through twenty. Then brainstorm! Jot down every stupid possibility. List every motive known to mankind. List every potential victim or every potential murderer. List every reason A might want to snuff B. Don’t worry about how stupid it sounds, write it down. The idea is to come up with 20 items, but I admit I usually go into a coma around 12 or 13. It doesn’t matter. Somewhere in that mess is the answer.

I’ve also been employing some of the methods I picked up at the workshop Vicki Thompson taught this fall. Thank you, Vicki!

So after hours of scribbling notes and lists, I think I have a pretty good idea of who does what to whom and why. Next: coming up with an outline. Which is one of the hardest parts of creating a novel for me.

But I love it.


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