Shannon here. I'm so excited to introduce you guys to YA and Middle Grade author, Jenny Lundquist. Her newest book, The Opal Crown, came out this week and you so want to read it. Trust me. Jenny and I met just before we each signed with our respective agents and we've stuck together through the ups and downs of our publishing journeys. EVERYONE should have a writer pal like her. Now, listen up. She's crazy smart. AND we're giving away a signed set of The Princess in the Opal Mask and its follow up, The Opal Crown.
One of my favorite parts of writing a novel is that early, daydreaming stage where your idea is little more than a wisp of dialogue here, a tendril of internal monologue there. Long before I sit down to write my first chapter, I spend a decent amount of time dreaming and brainstorming. And for me, that requires three things: Color, Coffee, and Great Atmosphere.
Sitting down at my computer reminds me too much of school assignments and business projects, and it prevents me from accessing that more emotional, daydreaming place inside of me. So oftentimes I need to create an atmosphere that looks something like this:
I spend a lot of time writing down my ideas and thoughts, usually into a Moleskine journal. Once I think I have enough to start a story, I start plotting scenes. Colored index cards are a life-saver for me, as I need to be able to “see” how each story thread is playing out. For middle grade projects, I tend to have a color assigned to the different locales that my character is spending time in. In fact, this is what my storyboard looks like for a middle grade project I’m currently working on:
(Pink is for school; yellow is for home; green is for extra-curricular activities, etc. The empty spaces are where I think my two boys thought it would be funny to steal a couple of the cards.)
In The Opal Crown, and for the entire Opal Mask series, I really needed to be able to see if I was giving Elara and Wilha, my two main characters, equal time for their story to develop. So I assigned them different card colors (green for Elara, purple for Wilha), as a visual illustration of how their scenes/chapters were playing out, so I could make any alterations, if need be.
The above photo shows early on when I was plotting The Opal Mask series, and starts at the beginning of the series, from the first scenes in The Princess in the Opal Mask, to the very ending scenes in The Opal Crown. The middle, you’ll notice, was largely blank, as that’s the hardest part of a story for me to write.
I realize there are apps and computer programs that can generate online corkboards, but again, I needed something less business-like and more sensory-based to access that place inside of me where my stories come from.
I think the key to brainstorming novels is to find a creative process that works for you and embrace it, no matter how strange that might look to others. Don’t be afraid to find yours!
What about you? How do you brainstorm your ideas and stories?
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