letters from the query wars

# of queries read this week: 198
# of partials/manuscripts requested: 2
genre of partials/manuscripts requested: YA (1), fantasy (1)

Yes, somehow it got to be Friday again. I had planned to include more blog posting in this week’s schedule as it’s been sparse around here. But between the election drama and the current workload, each day seemed to be over before I started thinking about a topic. And here I am with this week’s statistics…. and no topic in mind….

What do you do to brainstorm when you can’t seem to focus on any new ideas?

21 responses to “letters from the query wars

  1. Four friends and I got together at World Fantasy for a brainstorming session — we took turns tossing out ideas and riffing on them. We often do this in email, but face-to-face is best.

  2. I cook. Some elaborate recipe or an old favorite that involves at least an hour in the kitchen, and another half-hour washing dishes (because I do them by hand.) It’s something that requires focus (hot liquids, sharp knives) and ends with a satisfying result and a house that smells marvelous. And renews me enough that the back brain, where all the ideas churn, can spit things out in coherent form again.

  3. My icon presents my solution to everything!

  4. My mind clears and delivers some great ideas when I run, walk, or cycle. Apparently exercise is good for brain muscle too.

  5. My best ideas always start in the shower. Something about positive ions, white noise, and being completely exempt from answering the ever-ringing telephone combines to produce creative notions that expand in hot water–sort of like those capsules that turn into animal-shaped sponges. 🙂

  6. I read the authors I love and usually an idea totally unrelated to what I’m reading will strike me. If that doesn’t work I tidy up my desk or try to get some sleep. As soon as I get comfy in my bed I have to grab the pen and notebook on my bed stand because some new idea is dancing around in my mind and won’t go away.

  7. 1) Noodle around on the guitar or the bouzouki until the brain decides it wants to throw words at something again. A nice rousing play along with Great Big Sea’s “Mari-Mac” is very good for clearing the brain. Also, for working out my fingers.
    2) Go to as many of my current works in progress as possible and try to throw ten or twenty words at each. Then do it again for as long as it takes until I’m ready to focus on whatever’s supposed to be getting the actual work. 😉

  8. I sat down with a stack of 3×5 cards and filled one for each interest and hobby I had, plus one card for each genre I wanted to write in or liked to read, plus cards for various other concepts that don’t fit into a genre or hobby.
    Then I take all those cards, shuffle them up and stick them on my 4’x6′ corkboard and mix and match. That helps spark some ideas.

  9. I go on a walk and either turn on my popular music (through the ages) playlist or my alt. rock/gothic/punk/metal/industrial/whatever else playlist, depending on my mood. Showers are also good brainstorming places.

  10. E.L. Doctorow talks about sitting in his study, with no ideas at all, just staring at the wall. So he started to write about the wall. Then he wrote about the house around it, and the time in which it was built, and what the world was like during that time … and eventually he produced Ragtime.
    So when I’m tapped out of ideas … I write about the wall.

  11. This will be a boring answer: I go to find books I haven’t read yet. Usually an hour at a bookstore is enough to get my brain going again.

  12. I keep a notebook handy at all times in case inspiration strikes–most often this happens in bed.
    But when I’m desperate to *make* inspiration strike I go out for a drive alone with the radio off.

  13. Blogging for fun instead of work
    I try to keep a backlog of draft posts from which to pull out a topic when I’m stuck. Also subscribe to a couple different daily e-newsletters NOT related just to publishing or writing — “Today in [Subject Area X]”-type things. Those are great to fall back on.
    One gimmick you already use here, in the “query wars” posts: settle on a theme or series idea and select a particular day on which, if you post about anything, you’ll post about that. Can’t hurt to have more than one theme! (I just instituted a couple of series for just this reason, although they’re just occasional topics rather than scheduled.)
    Another favorite tactic: visit sites with cartoons (panel-style, not animations). Embed a cartoon at the top of the post. Start writing.
    Or go to Google Images search, or YouTube. Enter the first word or phrase that comes to mind. Focus on one of the resulting images (don’t spend too much time, just pick one) and go.
    Actually this is a lot easier for me now that I’ve got a blog on whatever-the-hell. When I had a single-topic blog I was ALWAYS running dry. Maybe that’d help in your case, Jennifer: don’t sweat trying to stay on-mission all the time. Hear a joke good enough or insider-y enough to share, just do it. Found something good enough to put on The Spice Must Flow, just stick a link to it here. Apologize if you want. 🙂 But mostly I think people would forgive without need for apologies. And you yourself will like doing it more.

  14. Movies and books tend to inspire my muse. Though, some books just depress me if I’m in the wrong mood to try and get inspired, only getting discouraged that I’ll never be THAT good (referring to current book read), but other times it works great to rejuvenate my creative mind. Long drives with music usually always do the trick as well.

  15. A long walk in the woods usually kicks my brain in gear.

  16. This is going to sound so dumb but anyway. I watch music videos – there’s something about the combo of sound and image that makes my brain drift into a creative space.

  17. I usually have more ideas than I can handle, but if I need to solve something I have a couple of different methods.
    Listen to Celtic music. Garry Owens prompted a great scene with a little orphan boy drumming for the captain during a troop review. He became part of the story and provided an interesting twist. Unfortunately, the scene was for my escape novel.
    I work on something different, this is my escape novel. Usually by the time I finish a bit of it, the road block has cleared itself on the main work. It always works and I have five chapters of a new work done, plus the ending.
    Take a nap. I think about the scene giving me problems before I go to sleep and I have the solution when I wake up. Sometimes just getting quiet is enough to do the trick.
    I do some research about something to do with the wip. Since it is loosely based on Irish mythology and the Sarmatian culture, that triggers something.

  18. I usually get my best ideas when I’m exercising and/or listening to music. It’s either the seratonin or the endorphin levels rising that helps me to focus on plot.
    Character development is harder and takes a lengthy examination of current news stories or moral dilemmas in my personal life to shape the actions of the people I create.

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