Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How to Help a Writer Brainstorm

by DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

Writers of all genres welcome brainstorming sessions. 

The opportunity to discuss new ideas and solve problems in a creative environment is an amazing resource. Our minds kick down the doors that hold our imaginations captive, and the result is a collective stroke of genius.

Sometimes those who offer their assistance do more harm than good. A writer shares an idea with passion and enthusiasm. The book project is a seed wanting to burst into a beautiful, well-developed project. When the writer finishes, the listener says,
“Great idea, but …”
“You should record every detail, but …”
“I’d love to hear more, but …”
The word "but" has stopped the writing of
more books than any of us could imagine.
The word “but” has stopped the writing of more books than any of us could imagine. How many novels and nonfiction projects never blessed readers because the writer met with discouragement? When a steel trap closes down our dreams, negativity ruins any progress. Instead, what if a listener responded in this way?

“Great idea, and …”
“You should record every detail, and …”
“I’d love to hear more, and …”

Do you taste the delight of encouraging a writer to see more, be more, stretch more with one small word? The word “and” opens up the windows of the imagination with sweet encouragement.

The next time you’re a part of a brainstorming session, keep these three things in mind.
  • Brainstorming does not mean placing a roadblock on your mind’s ability to think outside of the world’s definition of logic.
  • Leave the word “but” out of your feedback. There’s a time and place when the project is in editorial stage to offer insight and constructive criticism.
  • Use the word “and” in your responses. Open the pathway of free thinking with unique and unusual ideas. We never know where the road will take us.

Your turn! What does an effective brainstorming session mean to you?

The word "but" has stopped more books. Learn to brainstorm effectively - @DiAnnMills (Click to Tweet)

How to help a writer brainstorm - @DiAnnMills on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. 

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association; International Thriller Writers, and the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter of Romance Writers of America. She is co-director of The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. 

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. 

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.


  1. Amazing the difference one word can make to a writer!!! Thanks for this insight. I will remember this always...not just in my writing life but life in general.

  2. Hi Beth, the word "but" has stopped me so many times since I was aware of the damage it could cause. Thanks for posting.

  3. I love to brainstorm! I learned how when I was creative arts director for our church. Our pastor, the worship pastor and I would sit and throw out ideas. Pastor told me to toss every idea at the wall, never hold one back, because that idea might be the one to spark another that sparks another that gives us the final, perfect idea.

    I've found the best brainstorming is verbal, whether over the phone or in person. Energy flows from one person to the other. It's one of my favorite things to do. :)

    1. Hi Ane, One of the reasons I treasure brainstorming times is the ability for others to think outside my box!

  4. One of the more frustrating aspects of brainstorming is when the writer who requested the brainstorm responds to every idea with "Yeah, but..." Nothing turns me off more to participating than to have every idea shot down by the person who asked for my help as soon as its spoken.
    The but needs to be out of both sides of the conversation.
    Brainstorming sessions are for generating ideas. The evaluation of this ideas takes place after the session.

    1. Hi Henry, I so agree - let us creative types use our imagination!

  5. Wonderful insight,not only into writing. The word but has stopped a lot of progress. We can't help but think, "but what if I fail? It is harder to think, "but what if I succeed?" Thank you so much for your instruction.

  6. Thank you so much for your inspiring post, DiAnn! It is a keeper!