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Do a brain dump

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Planning

Nanowrimo Summer Boot Camp continues. If you’ve chosen to plan your novel in anticipation of the great annual event in November, there’s plenty to do to keep yourself busy all month. What if you are one of those write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants types and love to generate those white heat drafts? Will this compromise your efforts? No. We’re not talking about writing any actual manuscript pages. And if you are planning on entering the annual 3-Day Novel writing contest over Labor Day Weekend or Nanowrimo, it’s a must that you do NOT write any part of the manuscript. You can, however, do all the pre-planning that you want.

What the heck is a brain dump?

There are several variations on the meaning but essentially a brain dump is a transfer of knowledge. It can happen when you’re trying to get out of the house and spouting off all the information you have at the time to the babysitter or it can happen when you explain everything you know about your job to the temporary person taking over for you while you’re on summer vacation. In the context we’re discussing, it’s the transfer of knowledge from your brain to paper or into a computer file. However you do it, you’re simply writing everything you know at this moment about the idea for your novel.

What can you do today?

idea wall decal from Amazon.com

Birth of an Idea

Carve time out to do a complete brain dump of everything you currently know about your novel idea. Don’t worry that you don’t have your characters fully sketched out or that you haven’t a clue about the ending or what happens in the middle. It doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you clear your mind to make room for new thoughts. How you do it, doesn’t really matter either. Here’s a few ways to make this transfer possible:

  • Try the old-fashioned way. Sit down with pad and paper and start making notes. List, capture thoughts, write ideas, make squiggles. Do whatever it takes to get your immediate ideas on paper.
  • Move to the computer, open up a file, and start writing. It doesn’t matter whether you begin at this stage or if you first make some preliminary handwritten notes. You just want to talk to yourself ABOUT your idea.
  • Set up an interrogation or inquiry with yourself. Once the first rush of ideas is passed and you’ve captured them into a file, start asking questions. Don’t worry if you skip around from topic to topic or just get tunnel vision on one particular area. The idea is to clean out your mind, sweep your brain clean so you can make the transfer complete.
  • Feel free to write about the various types of research you’ll need. Make a list, question it, add to it. Brain dump about what you know and list questions that pop up in response.
  • Do not stop.
  • Do not edit.
  • Do not attempt to enter into the novel and write actual manuscript pages.

By the end of the session you may feel a sense of relief. You’ve not only responded to the constant barrage of thoughts and impulses about a new idea presented by your brain, but you’ve transferred all that material so that it is no longer on the inside but outside. Don’t be surprised if your brain responds by giving your more insight, ideas and impulses. Have fun.


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