The Five Be’s of Brainstorming

ACFWAdvice, Authors and writing, Brainstorming, tips, writing 7 Comments

by Darlene L. Turner

Brainstorming plays a significant part in every author’s writing process. Doesn’t matter if it’s non-fiction or fiction, we need to spend time mulling over our thoughts before we put our pen to paper. But what exactly is brainstorming? Seems like an odd question, but let’s look at the definition from “A technique for generating ideas and solving specific problems with uncensored and nonlinear thinking, usually performed through group participation in a spontaneous discussion where all ideas are noted without assigning them value, and no proposal is selected or discarded until after the conclusion of the creative exercise.”1

The “uncensored and nonlinear thinking” hits the proverbial nail on the head, don’t you think? In other words, gather all ideas and consider each one before deciding on the final product. Sounds easy, right? Maybe not. How does a writer do that? How do we know if we’re throwing out a really good idea? Here are five quick tips to keep in mind while brainstorming.

Be clear – Authors need to explain exactly what they want from their brainstorming group. Give specific details: genre, a quick storyline, romantic conflict, fears, wounds, backstory, etc. This way those participating can throw out accurate ideas and in the end, we’ll have a powerful story.

Be bold – Tell those participating that there are NO wrong answers! Fire out ideas. I have one writer friend who calls it spaghetti. Throw all ideas against the wall and see which ones stick. Not every angle will fit the storyline you have in mind, but that’s okay. Sometimes these noodles will spark other ideas.

Be open – Before I get too deep into my process, I brainstorm with my author friends on the basic storyline. I determine the main plot, hero and heroine conflicts, and ask that famous “What if” question. It is so important to have a like-minded community that you can feed off of each other’s ideas. Everyone thinks differently and that’s exactly what brainstorming is all about. Listen to what your peeps are saying and don’t be married to every aspect of your storyline. If there’s something better that will work, be open to change.

Be selective – You will get diverse ideas and not all will work. After your brainstorming session, sit down and go through each carefully—even if it’s a concept you hadn’t envisioned. Select what works best for your story and make it your own.

Be thankful – We all know how authors want to help each other, but they also lead busy lives, so be sure to thank each one for attending your session and helping develop strong ideas for your story. Brainstorming groups are a gift. We must show our appreciation to every member.

Most of all…have fun! I know I’ve done a lot of laughing while bouncing ideas off my writing peeps. Brainstorming is a great time to enjoy each other’s company while creating strong stories!

What’s your brainstorming process? Do you have other tips? Share with us so we can glean from yours!


Darlene L. Turner’s love of suspense began when she read her first Nancy Drew book. She’s turned that passion into her writing and believes readers will be captured by her plots, inspired by her strong characters, and moved by her inspirational message. Darlene met her husband Jeff at the turtle races in Ontario, Canada. She loves flavored coffee and plaid shirts. You can connect with Darlene at

Comments 7

  1. Excellent post, Darlene. Thank you so much for writing it.

    I am part of a writer’s mastermind group. We love to brainstorm and help one another with our plots. What a difference brainstorming has made?

    Do you use any software for personal brainstorming, such as Scapple?



  2. Fantastic post! Brainstorming is fun. I like to freewrite and dump whatever I’m daydreaming about on the page. I also like to start with any word in the middle of a blank page and start connecting other words to it (I think it’s called “mind mapping”). Both techniques have given me results.

  3. Great post, Darlene! I find it’s easier to brainstorm for others than for myself. I’d love to be part of a brainstorming group. Any romantic suspense authors out there, let me know!

    One other tip: Be mindful to give everyone in the group equal time so all get the help they need.

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