Tag Archives: Creative Writing

Blogging Advice: Brainstorming and Idea Management

Welcome back to my series on blogging advice. There were a few reader questions in the first instalment, How to Begin Blogging, about the actual process of creating a blog, so I thought I’d take a moment to briefly address that. I’ll share a link to that post at the end of this one for anyone who would like to read or reread it.

I was originally planning to write a full post about the process of creating a new blog, but the official instructions for setting up new WordPress sites were so clear and easy to follow that I decided to link to them instead. There’s no use in reinventing the wheel when it already exists!

If you’re interested in setting up a tumblr account, check out this tutorial.

If you’re interested in setting up a medium account, go read this post.

Now to move on to what I think is one of the most exciting portions of blogging: brainstorming ideas and creating new posts.

Brainstorming

Today I’m going to assume that you’ve chosen a few topics for your blog. It’s perfectly acceptable if you’re still not entirely sure what all of them will be as long as you’ve made up your mind about at least one of the things you’re planning to write about. Other ideas might come to you as you explore the topic(s) that first came to mind.

Before you write a single word, do as much brainstorming and research as possible. Approach your topic from every single angle you can possibly imagine regardless of how likely it is that you might actually blog about them.

For example, if I were going to start a new site about rabbits, my favourite animal, my list would include lots of typical posts about what to feed them, how to teach them tricks, or when to call a veterinarian if they became ill. Mixed in with those ideas would also be potentially quirkier ideas on this topic like:

  • Famous Stories, Myths, and Folklore About Rabbits
  • Should You Date Someone Your Rabbit Hates?
  • How Rabbit Care Has Evolved Over the Last X Years
  • Human Foods Rabbits Should (or Should Never) Eat
  • Is It Dangerous for Rabbits to Chew on Christmas Trees?
  • What Rabbits Think of Fireworks
  • How to Respond to People Who Joke About Eating Your Pet Rabbit
  • Should You Take Your Rabbit on Vacation?
  • Keeping Rabbits Safe at the Beach/Mountains/etc.
  • Types of Music Rabbits Do (or Don’t) Like
  • Halloween Costumes for Rabbits
  • How to Befriend a Shy Rabbit
  • What Will Rabbits Look Like After Another Million Years of Evolution?
  • What Do Rabbits Really Think of Humans?
  • Where to Find Your Rabbit When He’s Hiding Somewhere in the House and Won’t Come Out
  • Help! My Rabbit Just Ate a Chicken Nugget!*

Yes, some of these titles might sound a little like clickbait, and I certainly wouldn’t use everything that popped into my mind as I was writing. The point of brainstorming is to come up with as many possibilities as you can without worrying about whether any or all of them are actually useful at this point. Instead, follow every single rabbit trail – pun intended – as far as it will go and see what you come up with.

*This was a real conversation I read on Reddit a while ago. The bunny in question suffered no ill-effects from his snack, although no one could figure out why a fluffy little herbivore would want to eat a chicken nugget in the first place. Maybe he or she saw a commercial for their favourite fast food restaurant or something? Ha!

Managing Ideas

Keep Track of Everything

Once you’ve come up with a preliminary list of ideas for your site, it’s time to figure out what to do with them until you decide whether or when to use them.

I highly recommend holding onto every idea that has the slightest chance of being used. There’s a file on my computer filled with potential ideas that I’ve been referencing, taking inspiration from, and adding new possibilities to for years now. It’s an invaluable source of information for me on those days when I have a blogging deadline looming and no clue what to write for that post.

Some of the bloggers I’ve met prefer to write their ideas down in a notebook instead. However you decide to do it, make sure your list is somewhere safe and accessible.

The Sorting and Grouping Process

Once you’ve made your list and checked it twice, start sorting your ideas out into various groups. For example, I’d pick out all of the holiday-themed prompts in my hypothetical brainstorming list above and start tentatively assigning them publication dates on or near those actual events.

  • Should You Date Someone Your Rabbit Hates? (February 14)
  • Can You Take Your Rabbit on Vacation? (June 10)
  • What Rabbits Think of Fireworks (July 2)
  • Keeping Rabbits Safe at the Beach/Mountains/etc. (August 1)
  • Halloween Costumes for Rabbits (October 20)
  • Is It Dangerous for Rabbits to Chew on Christmas Trees? (December 8)

If you only want to publish one new post a week, you’ve just knocked out six of the fifty-two posts you’ll need for the entire year. That’s more than 10% of your goal! In addition, someone who knew rabbits well well could easily come up with another half-dozen topics that are tailored to specific times of the year if they put their minds to it.

It might also be interesting to pick a broad theme like food and spend a few consecutive posts talking about what rabbits should eat daily, occasionally, or never. I might then round off that series with a short and funny anecdote about a rabbit who couldn’t resist the lure of a chicken nugget before talking about the warning signs that your pet bunny has eaten something dangerous and when he or she might need to be medically treated for it.

There’s something fascinating about seeing how many different ideas one brainstorming session can create.

Mixing It Up

With that being said, I’d also recommend mixing up your posting schedule in general. If your last few posts were about heavy topics, it might be time for something lighthearted. Something that clocked in at several thousand words might be best followed by a shorter post if your subject matter allowed for it.

Work Ahead When Possible

The beautiful thing about planning at least some of your posts out in advance like this is that it allows you to work ahead. If you know you’ll be on vacation or recovering from an elective medical procedure at a specific time and already have an inkling of what you might want to say then, why not get those posts written well ahead of time?

When possible, I also like to have a few posts sitting in my queue that could be published at any time of the year. This comes in handy for everything from power outages to illnesses that can make it hard to write new content on a deadline occasionally.

Series, Responses, and Other Renewable Writing Resources

This is where series, response posts, and other renewable writing resources come in quite handy.

To continue with today’s theme, if you’ve already written one post about games to play with domesticated rabbits, you might be able to come up with several more suggestions on keeping rabbits entertained, fit, and mentally stimulated that would work beautifully as a follow-up to the original.

Response posts are another favourite of mine. Occasionally, one of the bloggers I follow writes something that I have the uncontrollable urge to respond to with a post of my own. Not only is this a great way to generate new ideas, linking to the original will give that blogger some new traffic and may encourage them to alert their readers about your post, too.

The possibilities here are nearly endless. They can also include contests, year-end reviews of your most popular posts, blog hops, contests, interviews with people in your field, and so much more. I encourage you to try many different types of posts as you feel out what your audience is interested in and, of course, what it is you actually want to write about.

How do you all come up with fresh content for your sites?

The next instalment in this series will be discussing how to find and photos and other visual aides in your posts, so stay tuned!

Additional reading:

Blogging Advice: How to Begin Blogging

15 Things I’ve Learned From 15 Years of Blogging

My Response to Pocket Dimension

My friend, Michael, recently posted a writing prompt about pocket dimensions. I thought it would be fun to answer his questions in the form of a blog post.

Congratulations! You have your own little world. Not just your imagination – this is a physical reality, and you can step into it at will. Maybe it’s a pocket dimension, or your own private little corner of the Fay Realms. Whatever it is, it’s yours. So…

1. What does your realm look like? Is it indoors? Outdoors? A cottage on a deserted shore? A crumbling castle at the heart of a dark forest? A broad lake with a waterfall at one end and beaches around three sides? Something else entirely?

My pocket dimension is indoors. It’s located in the library of a grand, old house that is magically well-insulated. The house is cool in the summer, warm in the winter, never dusty, and always a comfortable place to visit.

The library itself has a large fireplace on one end and floor-to-ceiling windows on the other. The wood floors have been recently swept, and all of the books are arranged neatly according to the Dewey Decimal system. Many of them are about topics humans would recognize, albeit from a strictly faery perspective instead of from a human one. Let’s just say that they weren’t a fan of the Iron Age at all.

With that being said, some of the books aren’t like anything you’d find on Earth. Some of the books have mouths and will have long conversations with you if you ask them the right questions. Others teach you how to fly as you read them, share alternate histories of Earth if one key fact had changed at a particular time and place, and a few might even be portals to other places entirely if you flip to the correct page of the right story and read it’s contents aloud.

There is a washroom and well-stocked kitchen off to either side of the library for anyone who needs them while they’re visiting. I often grab a piece of fruit and cup of tea before I begin reading.

2. Do you keep it to yourself, give a few friends access to it as well, or open it to anybody?

The library is open to anyone I trust who loves knowledge and adventure. They are free to visit it with or without me at any time of the day or night.

3. Does your realm have its own inhabitants? What are they like? Do you ever bring them across to our world?

The house is owned and maintained by faeries, but you might never run into one. They’re quite shy around most humans. Even I have only met one of them, and even that was the briefest encounter you can possibly imagine. She nodded slightly at me, cracked open the door to the library, and then never showed herself again.

I wouldn’t be strong enough to bring one of the faeries back to Earth with me even if I spotted another one and wanted to show them our world. They do whatever it is they want to do, and that’s all there is to it.

4. Does entering your personal world change you? Do you dress differently, speak differently? Are you someone else when you’re there?

You cannot enter the faery library if you’re carrying anything like iron that would hurt the faeries or if you’re harbouring any thoughts about harming them, the house, or anyone else in it. Other than that, you may speak, dress, and behave as you wish.

5. Is time the same in your realm as it is out here? Is there a steady differential, like three days there pass in only an hour of our time? Or is it stranger than that?

Time is different in the faery house. A few hours of reading there generally translates into a few minutes of time in our world, but this isn’t a straightforward rule. As with everything related to faeries, they can’t be forced to follow human rules. Anyone who wishes to visit their library should remember that and prepare for the small possibility of returning much sooner or later than they were expecting.

6. How do you get to your world? Do you have to visit a specific place? Speak a certain phrase? Or is it just a matter of will and desire?

It’s a matter of will and desire. If you wish to read in a quiet, comfortable place, have no ill intentions, and have satisfied whatever nebulous criteria the faeries have for this oasis, you stand a good chance of finding a door to this place.

How would you answer these questions? What would your pocket dimension be like?

If Minecraft Was a Fantasy Story, This Is What It Would Be Like

The only thing Steve remembered about his past was his name.

His first memory of the land called Minecraft was of standing alone at dawn in an eerie forest whose trees came tumbling down if you hit them. He was wearing a shirt and a pair of pants but was otherwise alone and defenceless against the elements.

He had no food, weapons, or tools. Other than a few fluffy sheep in the distance, there were no other living things within sight.

The ground was covered in a soft layer of grass that was occasionally interrupted by a colourful flower, but, strangely enough, there were no butterflies, insects, earthworms, or other small creatures anywhere to be found.

Surviving in the Wilderness

Steve dug a small sleeping hole in the side of a cliff that first night. The thought of sleeping out in the open made him shudder for reasons he couldn’t explain, and that gut feeling turned out to save his life.

There were witches, zombies, skeletons, spiders, and green exploding monsters called creepers in that forest that growled, cackled, and prowled from dusk until the next dawn. Other nasty creatures revealed themselves later on, too, like Enderman (who could teleport) and baby zombies who were somehow twice as fierce and fast as their parents.

He didn’t know where they’d all come from, but the noises they made kept him from sleeping a wink. After swiftly being killed by a baby zombie the next morning, he learned two things: 1) always be cautious when leaving his tiny resting hole, and 2) death wasn’t permanent. He woke up beside the same tree he’d looked at while his first memory was being formed after the accident, and he was somehow no worse for the wear.

Over the following days, he slowly learned how to build a bigger shelter and where to find food. Arranging the pieces of wood he collected gave him everything from a workbench to crude wooden tools for hoeing the ground for his first little garden, defending himself from monsters, and digging deeper into the cliff to see what he could find there.

Other lessons soon followed. For example, it turned out that monsters appeared during the day, too, if he failed to put up enough torches in his dark home or in the caves he discovered as he dug ever more deeply down into the cliff. Once he built a bed and began sleeping through the night, his encounters with these creatures became something he sought out on purpose instead of an unwanted source of danger while he was trying to gather basic supplies.

Thriving on a Homestead

Steve’s little farm quickly grew into a large, bustling homestead. He soon had so many sources of food that he was able to fill several chests with enough meals to keep him from ever going hungry again.

For example, he learned how to grow pumpkins, potatoes, wheat, and carrots. He also figured out how to keep a steady supply of fish, beef, mutton, and chicken in his diet as well. Exploring new biomes added even more animals and plants to this list.

Building fences and putting torches everywhere kept his property safe no matter what time of day or night it was. As he dug out more valuable minerals from the soil, everything from the weapons he used to the armour he built for himself became top-of-the-line.

There was nothing Steve needed that he couldn’t somehow grow, mine or build other than the answer to one burning question.

Wondering About His Origins

Where did he come from? Did everyone come back from the dead and into the same body every time they died? Why was he alone in this strange, flat world that defied the laws of science? Who were his people? Were they the ones that had raised him to adulthood, or had someone else done it? Why couldn’t he remember anything from his childhood when he did instinctively know how to hunt, farm, fish, fight, and mine?

He soon began wandering further and further from home both to discover what other fantastical things were out there and to see if anyone had any answers for him. One day he stumbled across a village filled with tall, thin people who looked nothing like him but who were quite friendly (if also occasionally inept at building safe homes and somehow never able to defend themselves against the monsters that came out at night if Steve refused to go to sleep).

They were the first human-like creatures he’d found in this land, and he soon figured how how to trade with them even though they found his language as indecipherable as he found theirs. Steve felt a kinship with them despite the fact that they had no way of understanding his questions or giving him any answers that might have been hidden inside of their memories.

Seeking Answers, Defeating Foes

The further Steve wandered away from his home base, the more wonders he discovered in this flat land. There were lava waterfalls, a hellish second dimension of this land called The Nether where day and night had no meaning at all, and monsters tucked away underground or underwater that were much bigger and more dangerous than anything he’d seen on the surface.

In time, he defeated them all. He even found a way to kill the dragon that lived in The End, the third and final dimension of Minecraft. A voice boomed from the heavens when this happened proclaiming him the winner and bestowing more riches upon him than he’d ever seen in all of his lifetimes put together, but still he found no answers to the questions he sought.

He was Steve, the man who could die but who would always come back to life again. This was all he knew about his identity and all he was ever going to know. Somehow, it had to be enough for him.

Steve carefully travelled back home again, carrying all of his treasures with him. The chickens needed to have their eggs collected again, and he had almost certainly had some vegetables to harvest as well.

As life began settling into it’s regular routine once again, Steve began thinking about his future. Perhaps it was time to build a bigger home. He could invite some of the villagers to live with him. Despite the vast language differences between them, he’d come to see them as dear, old friends. There was definitely enough food to go around!

What would your favourite game be like if it was translated into a story? 

The Endless Summer of 2017: A Review

Title: The Summer That Refused to End: What Really Happened to Ontario in 2017

Author: Gaia Terra

Publisher: Cosmos

Release Date: June 21, 2017

End Date: Unknown

Rating: 3 Earths out of 5

Review:

Just when you thought summer had ended…it came back for more!

The summer of 2017 definitely started out innocently enough. Without digging too much into the backstory here since it isn’t strictly necessary to know in order to enjoy this instalment, every season has been full of surprises for us these last few years. None of them have been particularly normal. After a strangely warm winter and cold, rainy spring, I was looking forward to seeing what the weather would do next. It was so hot and dry during the summer of 2016 that I honestly had no idea what to expect for 2017. It was nice to see this summer begin so gently. I felt like we were able to reclaim some of the mild spring days I would have loved in April or May once they decided to pop up in June instead.

Wow, were there bumps in the road along the way, though. Yes, we had about the same number of the heat waves I was expecting to find. We also had far more rain than was usual, especially in the months of July and August when it is usually much drier here. I certainly didn’t mind the extra precipitation, and I don’t think our crops did either. What did bother me was how it ended. Normally, daytime highs of 30 Celsius (86 Fahrenheit for the American fans out there) have mostly faded away by mid September. When this kept happening over and over again even as we galloped from the end of September to the beginning of October I was beyond perplexed. I’m all for mixing the seasons a little bit during the transitions between them, but shouldn’t summer gracefully give way to autumn at a certain point in the plot?

I did love the rain, though, and am grateful for how often summer fell back onto this device when her other tricks weren’t working out as well as she had hoped. Once she decides to pass the baton onto autumn, I hope her predecessor will continue this tradition for the next few months. There is nothing quite like a rainy autumn afternoon to set the mood when you’re reading a scary book or trying to finish cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Speaking of Thanksgiving, summer, is there any chance you’ll be retiring before then?

By now my readers are probably wondering if I’d recommend the summer of 2017 to them. There certainly were plenty of upbeat moments during it, especially for those of us who love a strong thunderstorm. What it really boils down to is how much time you’re willing to invest in such a thing. This one was a little long for my tastes, although I can see how it would appeal to true connoisseurs of this season.

Previoius posts in this series:

A Review of Today’s Rainy Weather

Pictures That Need an Explanation

Photo by William Crochot from Wikimedia Commons, license # CC-BY-SA 4.0.
Photo by William Crochot from Wikimedia Commons, license # CC-BY-SA 4.0.

I have a folder full of pictures that I’ve found online at various points.

Today I wanted to share some of the unusual, funny, and unique ones with you.

If you’re a writer and you find inspiration in one of them, feel free to grab it. I’d love to see what story or poem ideas you come up with for it.

All unlabelled images are stock photos and can be used for any purpose. William Crochot’s picture can be used, too, as long as you credit him and Wikimedia Commons as well as include the license number above.

The Statue Guy

The statue guy above has been running through my imagination for months now.

My first thought when I saw him was, “how long does it take to scrub all of that makeup off?”

My second thought was that sniffing a flower just might be the first thing that a statue who suddenly came to life would do!

Everything would be so new and unfamiliar to him that it makes sense for him to stop and marvel at the small things for a while.

pexels-photo-159885-largeThe Abandoned House

Abandoned homes make me sad.

I think about all of the years people spent living in them. There was a time only a few generations ago when many folks spent their entire lives in the same area.

Were they happy years or miserable ones?

Did the people who lived there ever wish to move elsewhere? If they wished for it, did their wish come true?

How many babies were born in that house?

How many people died there?

Why was it abandoned? Are the owners still alive?

If you stepped inside of it, what secrets would the walls whisper to you?

thursday-blogs-2A Woodland Sacrifice

This picture makes me shudder.

There is something unnerving about the juxtaposition between the bare skull and the healthy, young woman who is holding it up that I don’t like to dwell on.

Did she slaughter the animal who once used that skull?

Is this some kind of ritual?

Is she going to be blamed for something that wasn’t her fault?

The possibilities are endless. I haven’t been able to come up with a satisfying story to explain what is going on here, but maybe someone else can.

Sad Cat in a Gift Bag

pexels-photo-141496-largeThis one is just plain silly.

Cat owners, can you explain it?

I would expect a cat to be thoroughly pleased by the presence of a gift bag.

It seems like the perfect place to hide while you’re waiting to swat at anyone who wanders too close to your sharp, little claws.

Why, then, does this cat look sad?

Does she need more tissue paper to cover herself up with?

Has someone refused to give her any treats today?

Or is she actually happy? Is this simply how her face and ears developed?

thursday-blogs-3Lick My Lips

Finally, let me bring you lips covered in sprinkles.

This one makes me feel hungry.

My first thought was, “did the model get to lick the sprinkles off of her lips once the photoshoot ended?” I sure hope she did!

If this were a book cover, I’d expect it to be a young adult romance novel.

The protagonist would be fifteen and falling in love for the first time with a mysterious, new neighbour.

The rainbow sprinkles might be a subtle hint that this story has a lesbian, bisexual, or transgender protagonist. I would not expect her sexual or gender identity to play a big role in the plot, though. She’d be whoever she was, and everyone would be okay with it.

One possibility for the actual conflict in the plot could be the main character conquering an eating disorder. The storyline could open with her trying to eat desserts again without feeling horribly guilty about it.

I would definitely pick this imaginary book up and read the blurb. It caught my eye right away.

Respond

What were your first thoughts when you saw these pictures? How do you think the stories hiding in them should be told?

A Review of Today’s Rainy Weather

Title: Spring Storms: When March 31 Attacks Author: Gaia Terra Publisher: Cosmos Rating: 4 Earths out of 5 Review: Don’t let the weatherman fool you. Rainy days aren’t just for April anymore. To be perfectly honest with you, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this very much when I first picked it up. Gloomy, damp, Thursday mornings are such… Read More

The Room at the End of the Hall

You followed your normal bedtime routine last night: teeth flossed and brushed; pets taken out for their evening walk; cellphone muted; 15 minutes of reading a pulpy mystery before you slipped into a dreamless sleep. It came as a surprise to you, then, to wake up on a cold, hard, marble floor. A white wall stands behind you.… Read More

Silent People Love Story

Someone found my blog by searching for this phrase recently. I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, but I thought I’d write a flash fiction for those of you who do.  Candy hearts litter the dash. What a nice touch for our last Valentine’s Day. I sneak one as Jake permanently seals the doors and starts the engine. We’ve… Read More

The Cupboard Mice: A Parable

Originally posted on February 21, 2013. A family of mice once lived in a drafty old farmhouse. “They’re going to set a trap and we’re all going to die!” the oldest mouse squeaked every time someone forgot the rules: no squeaking, don’t leave droppings on the dishes, and never capture the cat’s attention. No one… Read More

After the Storm: Part Twenty

Just tuning in? Catch up with parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve , thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen of this story. Aunt Lucy must be immortal. Not only had the oldest member of the Mingus Mountain community survived the fever that had claimed so many, she bounced up… Read More