Episode 23

5 Brainstorming Tips for Writers

Welcome to Season 2 of Writing Break. We’re beginning our trek through a three-act novel today with five brainstorming tips. We visit a cinema-turned-bookstore and discuss conventions, awards, and ransomware.

Music licensed from Storyblocks:

“More Jam Please” by Raighes Factory

"Summer" by Mikael Manvelyan

"Summertime Blues" by Humans Win

"Cozy Spring Dreams" by Tencher Music

Rosemi Mederos:

If you have plot bunnies coming out of your plot holes, it’s time for a writing break.

Welcome to Season 2 of Writing Break. We’re beginning our trek through a three-act novel today with five brainstorming tips. The cinema-turned-bookstore we’re visiting has a creperie, so let’s head there first to discuss conventions, awards, and ransomware.

erating as a movie theater in:

Before we take a walk around, let’s fortify ourselves with crepes and coffee, my treat.

Publishing giant MacMillan was the victim of ransomware attacks last week. In an attempt to stop further attacks, Macmillan went offline for a few days during which they could not process, receive, place, or ship orders. They are now able to take online orders once again, but say they are not able yet to process them. I’m not sure what that means because I bet they can process your payment.

San Diego Comic-Con will be an in-person event this year, with some big changes.

For starters, there will be panelists and talent representing DC Comics, but DC will not have a booth.

Dark Horse Comics, Drawn & Quarterly, and Graphitti Designs will also be missing from the floor show. Image Comics will be there in a much smaller booth than usual.

Online sales of comics and graphic novels have soared over the past three years, so big publishers might be questioning whether the cost of exhibiting at cons is worth it.

The good news is that newer graphic novel publishers will have booths for the first time.

Without the giant booths of DC and Dark Horse looming over everyone, maybe the con will feel like an unchaperoned dance where the kids can actually let loose.

Toy-maker Funko is showing up in a big way with an interactive area called the Funkoverse. Remember those little Funko boxes are harder to pack than comics and graphic novels.

The con is taking place July 20th through July 24th at the San Diego Convention Center.

Random House got the US Rights to Victory City, Salman Rushdie's latest novel. The novel is about "a magically empowered nine-year-old girl in 14th-century southern India who, in the wake of an unimportant battle between two long-forgotten kingdoms, is tasked with creating a new empire in which women are given as much power as men."

Now, plenty has been written about Rushdie's misogyny in both his writing and his personal life, but for the man who called the Women’s Prize for Fiction a marketing tool, this plotline makes me wonder if this is his attempt to use women as a marketing tool.

ns to Ruth Ozeki, who won the:

The prize is 30,000 pounds endowed by an anonymous donor. Maybe the plot twist is that Rushdie himself is the anonymous donor.

Links to these articles can be found in the show notes of this episode and on writingbreak.com.

Now let’s take a stroll around this gorgeous store and rendezvous on a couple of tucked away IKEA armchairs for our first overthinking segment of the season.

Today’s author spotlight and overthinking segment are one in the same. I’m not spotlighting an independent author, but an author who, for all intents and purposes, did make it on his own.

Fantasy, horror, and crime writer S. A. Cosby, the author of Blacktop Wasteland and Razorblade Tears is the first person to take home back-to-back Best Hardcover Novel Awards at Thrillerfest. He writes what some have called “Southern noir”. His most recent novel, Razorblade Tears, is about the effects of the murders of an interracial gay couple.

Cosby’s mother got him his first typewriter and at one point pawned her wedding rings so that he could buy his first laptop. Before his current success, he dropped out of community college because he couldn’t afford tuition. He was then employed by Lowe’s hardware store for 11 years, working his way up to assistant manager.

So, how did he make it to the critically acclaimed author he is today? He kept writing. And he kept talking about his writing. So when friends of his, non-writer friends, including a belly dancer, came in contact with people in publishing, they mentioned Cosby. And he was ready. He showed up at a writing symposium in Florida and caught the attention of a Manhattan literary agent. And Cosby was ready.

He kept writing, and he kept showing up.

This is all I ask of you, keep writing, and keep showing up as the author you are and the author you want to be.

And now, take out your notebooks and get ready for the first leg of our trip through the three-act novel.

The first step in writing your book is brainstorming. No, this is not the same as outlining, so keep listening even if you’re a pantser. During a brainstorming session, the big question is, what should I write about? Here are 5 tips for brainstorming:

Write about things you care about. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t think you need to write what you know but what you’re willing to find out. What do you care about enough to research well?

Know your genre. Understand what your readers care about. What are your ideal reader’s passions? I’ve talked to you before about identifying your ideal reader, so check back on previous episodes for more on that.

Choose a time and place that best supports the story you want to tell. Yes, we all love a good New York and California story, but maybe those are not the best places for what you want to say.

Make it real. Even if you’re writing sci-fi and fantasy, your story has to feel real. Step out of the way of the story and let the reader become the protagonist.

Don’t chase the market. Yes, I fill you in on what the market is doing, but let that inform you rather than mislead you. Make your particular manuscript unique.

Tune in next week for an expansive explanation about the difference between plot, story, and premise.

But for now, I’ll say this:

Plot is not just activity. It is meaningful action.

And story lets us know your characters. Too much story can weigh down your novel.

Until next week, keep writing, keep showing up, and remember, you deserved this break.

If you would like us to visit your favorite independent bookstore, feature your favorite independent author (even if it’s you), or discuss something you’re overthinking about, please email me at podcast@writingbreak.com.

Thank you for making space in your mind for The Muse today.

Writing Break is hosted by America’s Editor and produced by Allon Media with technical direction by Gus Aviles. Visit us at writingbreak.com or contact us at podcast@writingbreak.com.

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Rosemi Mederos


Rosemi is the founder of America's Editor, a book editing company.