In this first lesson (Decide what you want to write about), you will start to generate some ideas for your story using one of the following brainstorming methods. The aim of brainstorming is to let your ideas flow and get down as much as you can without stopping to think too much.
Free writing is a simple idea. Just grab a piece of paper and scribble down anything that comes into your head. Don’t bother to write in complete sentences or worry about grammar or punctuation. Just make sure you can make sense of your scribbles when you come back to read them later.
Bubble chart or mind map
If you prefer a more graphical approach you could create a bubble chart or mind map. Unlike linear note-taking methods such as lists or bullet points, bubble charts and mind maps let you brainstorm and develop your ideas using connections, triggers and associations to help generate more ideas.
Take a blank piece of paper and write down a central idea/theme as a single word or short phrase in the middle of the page and draw a circle (bubble) around it. Now write down everything you can think of that is associated with your central idea. Draw a bubble around each idea and then link each of these bubbles back to the main bubble with a connecting line. For each branch from your central idea add more ideas (bubbles) and links.
Mind mapping was invented and popularised by Tony Buzan who believed that a mind map mirrors the way we actually think (i.e. visually and dynamically) rather than linearly. If you prefer to use pens and pencils you could create a mind map on a large piece of paper (the back of wallpaper is good for this). Alternatively, get yourself a whiteboard, some sticky notes or some non-permanent coloured pens and markers. You could also use a cork poster board and pin on post-it notes or sticky notes. Post-it notes and sticky notes can easily be removed or moved around as your ideas evolve and develop and you can use a variety of colours to highlight the different branches and sub topics.
If you want to be able to update your mind map easily then why not create it on a computer using one of the mind mapping software programs available for Windows and Mac. iMindMap for Windows and Mac and endorsed by Tony Buzan is available for a 7-day free trial and then costs £65 for a single-user edition (it is also available as an app for iOS and Android dveices). Scapple for MacOS and Windows has a 30-day free trial and then costs $14.99 for a standard licence.
If you prefer to be a bit more organised, write down all of your ideas in lists under main headings/topics.
It doesn’t really matter how you get your ideas down. The purpose of this exercise is to let your imagination run a bit wild. You can then start to identify which idea or ideas could be used as the basis for your first story.
When you are ready, move on to Lesson 2 where you will find some tips on how to start developing and expanding your ideas for a story.