Brainstorming Your Next Great Idea (Part 2)

Tip #1: Plan it like you bake it.

Anyone who has baked something can tell you: there are certain ingredients you need to include in your dough/batter for certain things to happen. There are ingredients that help it to rise, ingredients that thicken, ingredients that sweeten…I’m not going to start naming them because I’m sure I could name some of them, but I’m a writer, not a baker.

In the same way, there are certain ingredients to a story that help it make it all that you want it to be.

If you’re going to make chocolate chip cookies, what’s the first thing you do?

Look up a recipe. (Unless you’re a genius baker and you just know how to make them off the top of your head. If so, kudos to you.) In the same way, you’ll want to look at a “recipe” for your story. What do you need to include to make it delici-I mean, a good story? Every recipe starts off with a list of ingredients. That’s what we’re doing here. Except instead of writing a recipe, you’re going to write your synopsis.

Gasp!

“Already?” you say. “But I’m not ready! I still haven’t created my fifteen woodland languages and the complex mathematical formula I need for space travel!”

Luckily for you, this doesn’t have to be your final synopsis. This is just your working synopsis. Think of it like your working title. “Cool Woodland Space Story.” You’re not actually going to call your book that (I hope) but that didn’t stop you from naming that doc, now did it?

So….start looking at other “recipes.” Read books, watch movies and TV shows, listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos, play video games…whatever. Immerse yourself in the genre you’ve chosen.

Then—write the synopsis. It doesn’t have to be good. It doesn’t have to be long (in fact, it shouldn’t be). It could be one sentence with a dangling participle and a misplaced phrase.

Editing is later, remember? This is just writing.

And as you write the synopsis, think. What do you love about the genre you’ve chosen? What tropes do you love? What tropes should you avoid? What’s an interesting twist you can put with it? In other words, what makes this yours?

We’re not just making chocolate chip cookies anymore. We’re making your chocolate chip cookies.

Instead of flour, what time period is the setting? Past? Present? Future? Does it even take place on Earth?

Instead of sugar, who is the main character? What is the MC’s story? Their desires? Is this story about them achieving something or about them learning that failure is in fact an option sometimes?

Instead of cinnamon (ooh, that’s a different ingredient), what’s the mystery or the unknown or the thing that will keep your readers coming back?

Think back. What part of your story first intrigued you?

Focus on that.

Same as how you don’t make a chocolate chip cookie to taste the baking powder, you don’t want to write a story and focus on the bland parts.

Everybody’s heard of space travel. But who’s heard of woodland gingerbread men traveling through space in a giant tea kettle? (Please don’t write that. And I don’t mean because I’m going to.)

But….this is only the ingredients. Don’t jump ahead and start measuring stuff out. Don’t begin mixing the cookie dough before you even put in the salt (sorry, I’m loving these analogies). Those steps will come later. For now, just focus on the ingredients. Focus on what made you love the story to begin with.

If you write something that intrigues you, it will intrigue someone else, too. That’s the beauty of stories. They connect people together. They provide something that we can bond over.

Kinda like cookies. 🍪

Happy writing!

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