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Brainstorming the Gates

Writing a novel can be a lonely pursuit.  When it comes right down to it unless you’re part of a collaboration, the actual writing of the book is something you have to do utterly alone.

And yet, in the front of just about every book you’ll find an acknowledgement where the author thanks those who helped with research, and often with helping to flesh out ideas, or solve particular plot or fact problems. 

As the annual host of the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s brainstorming sessions during the Winter Writing Festival, I’ve seen how just a fifteen minute online brainstorming session can help a writer to get unstuck when she’s dealing with a plot problem, a character difficulty, or a lack of information.  

So, we’ve decided to make brainstorming a regular part of this blog.  On the fourth or Monday of each month, I’ll be hosting a brainstorming blog.  (Yes, I know this is the fifth Monday, but I got bumped for our blog’s birthday party.)  

Here’s how the brainstorming works:

  • If you have a problem, question, or just need help on something, post your issue in a comment.
  • Blog readers, this is where you come in.  If you have any helpful advice to provide, post it as a reply to the original poster’s comment.  Remember the advice should be helpful and positive.  The goal here is to encourage and assist.
  • I will pop in from time to time during the day and chip in my two cents.  I might also post a problem I’m struggling with.

That’s it.  Don’t be shy people.  There’s no need to struggle in silence.  If you’re having a problem with plot or character, need some factual help on some issue or want some thoughts about direction, this is the place to find helpful advice.

19 responses to “Brainstorming the Gates”

  1. My h/h are investigating a mosque bombing, a clear hate crime and that particular mosque was obviously specifically targeted. (All laid out in the last book.) How do I increase the stakes then? The “ticking time bomb” and the “running out of time” elements? What can happen to make this more than an investigation of a past event vs a prevention of something in the future? I am reluctant to make it a serial bomber- that’s too easy.

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    • Becke Turner says:

      What if you have a subplot of a secondary character inside the mosque. Like a homeless child, or illegal immigrant seeking asylum?

      Or a feral cat with kittens that local children sneak in to feed.

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    • I would ask what other impacts the unsolved bombing could have – is the bombing revealing or exacerbating tensions in the community that have gone ignored? Is the lack of a clear suspect causing suspicion between other groups? Nothing this major exists without a ripple effect, so what ripples has this triggered and could those ripples provide the pressure to raise the stakes?

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      • I love this!!! The ticking clock is the tension. They have to solve it before a war breaks out between persons in the communities. You could have small fights break out at first. A molotov cocktail here and there. The more the tension rises, the faster the clock ticks.

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      • Elisa Beatty says:

        Yes! That’s exactly what I was going to suggest. The situation would be so fraught….the people who belong to the Muslim community terrified and demanding answers (and maybe making accusations of people they suspect), anti-Muslim communities members seeing this as an opportunity to step up harrassment, etc., etc..

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    • Hope Ramsay says:

      oops I posted my reply as a separate comment. See below.

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    • Sarah Andre says:

      Hope, Vivi, Darynda and Becke,
      Thank you SO much for this kickstart!!! Some great ideas- I really appreciate this.

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  2. Hope Ramsay says:

    what if you added a plot layer involving one of the investigators. Some additional personal problem one of them is dealing with that makes the investigation more difficult in some way. Either it pulls them away from the investigation, or the investigation is pointing at someone they know or care about in some way. Or maybe the internal division is doing a corruption probe. In any event, something not necessarily related to the previous bombing, but which ups the personal stakes of the investigators involved.

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  3. Hello,
    I’ve been querying my upmarket fiction, even pitched in person, and I’ve received rejections (mostly: it’s quiet, giving away too much information up front). I am editing the novel and I would like professional advice on plot, structure, and grammar, etc. before I continue querying and pursue self-publication. What type of editor should I look for? What fair fees should I expect to pay? Any recommendations?
    Thank you,
    Valerie

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    • Hi Valerie, you would need a developmental editor and should expect to pay about $2500 for a good thorough edit. I know some great editors if this is something you can do. You can definitely find a less expensive edit, but if you are talking upmarket fiction, you really want a good analysis.

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    • Hope Ramsay says:

      I agree with Darynda.

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  4. This novel is deserving of a good analysis. I would welcome your recommendations, Darynda. Thank you.

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    • Rubies! Any recommendations?

      Valerie, please email my assistant at annetteduarte69@gmail.com and I’ll get you some names!

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      • Hope Ramsay says:

        As a traditionally published author I’m not the best source of info on this. You’d want to get direct recommendations from other authors.

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        • Thank you, Darynda!!

          Hope, thank you for commenting. Traditional publication is my first choice and main goal. My novel needs an audience. I’ve been told I have a “strong premise” with “strong commercial potential” 3x from an editor at Peguin RandomHouse Australia when he read my query through MSWL. I am more than willing (thrilled) to work even harder than I already have to get it on bookshelves. After I’ve exhausted my avenues for traditional representation (which I won’t, right? 😉), self-publication is plan B.
          And I am seeking recommendations in additions to those offered today. This novel is worth the fight.

          Rubies, thank for this platform ☺

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          • Elisa Beatty says:

            Amazing comment from that publisher, Valerie!! Good luck!!

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          • Hope Ramsay says:

            Valerie,

            The feedback you’ve gotten from editors is a great start. My advice is to query the world and see what happens. You can’t find a publisher without submitting. And you’ll have to collect a lot of rejection before you ultimately find a home for your story. In my own case I had to write 15 novels over 25 years before I made my first sale. Writing those novels, and attending workshops, and reading books on writing, and finding critique partners all contributed to forming my voice. So there really isn’t any short cut. I know authors who sold faster than I did, and then had to learn all that stuff while under contract. I did my learning without deadlines, but either way it’s a exercise in perseverance.
            If you have a specific question about your manuscript, with respect to plot or character please post it here and I’m happy to brainstorm it.

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