Brainstorming

The next prewriting creative technique I want to talk about is something I am notoriously bad at: brainstorming. What is it? Basically, it’s all about picking your topic and then trying to think of all the different things you could talk about around that topic. This works for both creative writing and nonfiction or essays. In fact, at high school, we were encouraged to spend 5-10 minutes of our tests and exams creating a brainstorm because the marker would check to make sure it was there.

That was the bane of my life. I would often write my essay before I wrote a word on the page set aside for the brainstorm. I had discovered throughout my schooling that I am better off when I follow the writing process a little differently to normal. Instead of doing the brainstorm first, I go straight to the first draft of the essay or creative writing piece. It is only once the draft is complete that I go back to the drawing board and figure out my audience and purpose and brainstorm additional information to gather into the story. I found that doing that first draft before I did anything else helped me to get the chaotic mess of my ideas down onto the paper and organised enough that I could then start figuring out how I could make the story different and unique from other stories.

There are many ways of brainstorming and not every method will suit every person. Here are, in my mind, the three most common ways of brainstorming:

The “Traditional” Brainstorm

This consists of putting your central topic in the middle in a little cloud and then thinking of words surrounding the topic and writing them haphazardly all over the place around the outside. This is the kind of brainstorm we were taught to use in primary school (elementary for the Americans out there) because it is a simple and efficient way of getting your ideas out onto paper without spending too much time and effort on it.

Making Lists

This is my favourite form of brainstorm as I am a very logical person. This brainstorming method takes a heading, creates subheadings under the heading, and then under each subheading comes a list of words relating to the subheading. You can make the list as complex or as simple as you like to get all of the relevant or even the potentially relevant information down.

The Mindmap

This is basically just a more organised version of the traditional brainstorm and slight less organised and more picturesque than listing. Rather than scattered words all over the place or rigid lists, they are organised into branches. The main title is the central circle. Then the thickest branches coming out of the circle show the subheading ideas, and then smaller and smaller branches come off these main branches to create a tree of ideas. If you are a very visual person, this may be the method for you.

What brainstorming method do you use? Or, like me, do you prefer to write first and brainstorm after? Share with me in the comments.

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