Strategies for Idea Generation

Hey Bookish People,

I’m outlining my next book and it’s gotten me thinking about the things I do to generate more ideas and I thought that I’d share those with you today. This is an area that I see a lot of people struggle with and I don’t think that we have to at all. I haven’t believed in writer’s block in a long time and I’ve come up with a toolbox to overcome obstacles in my path when they arise. Outlining an entire novel is full of those obstacles so it’s a great time to compile this list!

  • Free writing by hand- This method can take a while but I find it produces some interesting things. Free writing is just sitting down and writing whatever comes to mind even if it doesn’t relate to what you’re writing. Sit down for at least ten minutes and scribble down anything that comes to mind. You can and should start with a topic that you’re interested in exploring if you have one. I find that this is a great way to start ideas flowing. I’ve had several character breakthroughs with this method in the last week.
  • Do unrelated art- I’ve found that I like watercoloring quite a bit. Silence and using my brain in an unexpected way will often help me generate ideas.
  • Read- Then read some more. Fill up your brain with other writing so that you have something to work with.
  • Go on an artist field trip- I have a whole post about this which you can see here.
  • Free type- It’s the same ideas as free writing by hand but I find them to be distinctly different experiences. If you’re a good typist your brain will be forced to work at a quicker pace than it does writing by hand and I will switch between the two when I have a particularly tough problem to work through.
  • Hashtags- Use your social media habit to your benefit. Search an interesting topic on Instagram by hashtag. The imagery should provide some interesting writing prompts.
  • Mind maps- MY FAVORITE. Get a piece of paper, start with a central topic, and then map out related words or ideas for several layers. When you’re done circle whatever catches your eye and work all those ideas together into something awesome. I’ll be writing a post about this later because I love it so much.
  • Sleep on it- Don’t obsess about a problem you’re working through in your writing. Give your brain a break and take a nap or go to sleep for the night. There’s a good chance your brain will come with something overnight. I usually free write to shake the ideas loose.
  • Take a walk in silence- Our brains hate to be bored and when you’re walking without a podcast or music in your ear your brain will start to work to entertain itself.
  • Take a Shower- Same for showering. I swear my brain just enjoys punishing the silence by making sure my ideas come up when I’m washing my hair and can’t jot down a note immediately.
  • Make a list- When you can’t come up with one idea it’s time to come up with 10. Can’t decide how the chapter is going to end? Give yourself the challenge of coming up with 5 or more endings. Allow yourself to make them as weird or outlandish as possible. It can ease the pressure on that one perfect next move in your story if you have to come up with a lot more ideas and it’ll likely produce something workable.

So there’s my list. Really I think that all of these are some form of forced boredom and changing the way your brain is thinking which is what most of us need to work through a tough spot. If you have any strategies for idea generation for your writing or outlining then leave me a comment. I’m always open to growing my toolbox! If you like the strategies I wrote about here then be sure to follow the blog!

Happy Creating!

Book Review: Real Artists Don’t Starve

Hey Bookish People,

Today I’ll be talking about the book Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins. I’m so excited to review this book for you! I feel like my book reviews got off to a rough start with books I wasn’t in love with but I’m happy to tell you that this one is a ‘must read’ for creatives. If you have ever wanted to make a career out of your art or at least money (which i’m assuming you do since you’re reading my blog) then you should read this book.

Goins takes a very practical and methodical view of how artists can achieve the careers they want. He doesn’t promise riches or fame, although he points out that Michelangelo was incredibly rich when he died compared to our perception of him starving for his art, and offers a pathway to being a working artist. His chapter titles might be to the point, “Apprentice under a master,” or “Practice in public,’ but he makes these seemingly giant steps into something manageable. I was weary of the chapter on apprenticeship but he acknowledges quickly how impractical going and studying under a master might be for most and offers alternatives. Most of those alternatives can be done at home.

I think this is an important book to read if you’re an artist who has been told your entire life that being an artist will never make you money. Goins does a great job of turning the history of this sentiment on its head and talks about people who are already out there making money on their art. He starts with mindset and I think that it’s a great jumping off point. This is one book I’ll be adding my shelf and rereading every so often when the road gets hard or I feel stuck.

Have you read Real Artists Don’t Starve? What did you think? Did it spur you into any action? Please leave me a comment because I’d love to hear about it! Also, follow the blog if you want to see my tips on writing and growing your audience on your author Instagram account.

Weekly Instagram Experiment (5/21)

Hey Bookish People,

I’ll admit that I’ve been slacking on my 5am wake up time…badly. It felt earned after the chaotic weeks of pitching agents and wrapping up all my projects but it turned into a bad habit. While it would be really easy to lounge in bed for another month or so while I’m waiting for responses it would be a much better use of my time to write more of my next book. So for this week’s self development I’ll be working on waking myself up and sitting down to work earlier again. I’d like to be up by 5am like I was before I decided to ruin my progress.

For Instagram I will focus on something simple that I haven’t been very good at. In addition to liking posts by people I follow, I want to also like at least 50 posts a day by people who I don’t. I will look specifically for posts through hashtags that I frequently use. In theory this will help people see my account and potentially make connections moving forward. I’m not sure what to expect outside of more followers but I think it’s a tip worth exploring.

Be sure to follow the blog to keep up to date on how these Instagram tips are working out for my author account and to see the results of this weeks experiment on Friday. If you want to see last week’s results you can read the post here. I promise to do a post soon where I break down the tips I’ve already tried and give you a breakdown of what I would focus on.

Happy Creating!

Weekly Instagram Update (5/18)

Hey Bookish People,

Last week I set the goal of participating in an Instagram posting challenge that was part of the Bookstagram community. If you’ve never seen one before they’re usually a single post with a collection of daily prompts and when you post you use a hashtag that is specific to that month and challenge. It’s a way to join a community of people with similar posting interests and it’s always fun to search through the hashtag and see what others come up with.

So how did I do?

Followers: 153 (+9)

Posts :204

Growth was a lot better this week than last where I only gained 2 followers. Growth has been slower than I was hoping but it does seem that participating in posting challenges does help a bit.

Photo May 18, 9 09 04 AM

I had 3 less profile visits than last week, my reach went down by 19, and my impressions dipped a depressing 188 views. I have a theory about why and I talk about it a little further down.


My engagement was lower this week than last week and I think it has to do with photos I didn’t time very well over the weekend. I dropped the ball a bit but it does seem that the photos that were part of the posting challenge were among some of my best received posts.


There wasn’t much variation between my likes and engagement this week.


After last week where my priority was commenting on other people’s posts I was a little surprised to see the dip in my comments! Just 5 to last weeks 12. Oh well. This is a lesson that my participation in the community isn’t something I get to slack on.


Ouch. My impressions went down quite a bit this week. I suspect that this is because there was much less diversity in my posting strategy this week than there normally is. Because I used many of the same hashtags every day that were centered around books there wasn’t space for people searching outside of those hashtags to see my posts. I think this is something interesting to keep in mind.

I will say that my biggest gripe about participating is that this week the majority of my posts ended up being book covers. While those have done traditionally well (and I had a ton of backlogged books to take pictures of) it left my feed feeling a little repetitive this week. I know I shouldn’t feel that way since almost all of Bookstagram is focused on one topic but it was a deviation from my normal feed.

While I appreciated the new followers and the simplicity of having my posts planned for me, I think this is likely a strategy I will dabble in instead of using all the time. I think that for June I will gather up all the posting challenges I come across and then see which days are compelling enough to participate and which aren’t. This way I can still have a few days planned out in advance and can participate in several posting communities over a month. I think that this combined with my normal posts will be a better representation of my own style and interests.

That was a longer post than I was expecting! To find out what next weeks’ challenge is going to be, be sure to follow the blog. If there is anything about my experience that you’re interested in learning more about feel free to leave me a comment.

Happy Creating!


A Quick Writing Update

Hey Bookish People,

While I talk a lot here about using Instagram as an author and a little bit about the craft of writing, I realized I haven’t given an update on my own writing! The last few weeks have a been crazy busy so I’m finally settling into what might be a calmer few weeks.

A couple of months ago I wrapped up edits on a middle grade fiction novel that I’m really fond of and I decided to jump right into pitching the manuscript to agents. Around that time I listened to a podcast, and I’m so annoyed that I can’t remember if it was an episode of I Should be Writing or Ditch Diggers, that mentioned a Twitter pitching event that I’d never heard of before called #DVPit. It was a couple of weeks away and was a pitching event for diverse authors to find agents who are looking for books featuring diverse characters and to represent diverse talent. The timing and topic were a good fit so I spent some time preparing my 280 word pitches and was ready the day of the event.

The rules are that you can pitch your novel 6 times during the event and only once an hour. I was ready at 5:30 in the morning (8:30 Eastern time). During the pitch if an agent is interested in seeing pages of a manuscript and a query they ‘like’ your tweet. At the end of the day I was at 14 and completely blown away that I had received any interest at all.

Of course, personal life events were also ramping up the next week as I prepared and sent out my query letters and first few pages of my book. By the time I had sent out half of my queries I had 2 requests for a full manuscript. One was rejected shortly after but I currently have all my query letters sent out and I’m waiting to hear back about two full manuscripts (I just had a request for one yesterday). I’ve had a total of 4 responses from my queries so far and 1 has been an outright rejection while 3 have been requests for full manuscripts. It’s going better than I could have hoped.

I’m really excited, incredibly nervous, and feel even more strongly that it’s in my best interest to keep growing my social media following and increasing my engagement. I’m hoping this is all the beginning of some amazing opportunities.

Any advice about keeping calm while waiting for query responses would be deeply appreciated :).

I won’t bore you with more details than that but I’d be happy to answer any additional questions you have in the comments. Don’t forget to follow the blog so that you can see my Instagram experiments and my social media strategy as I continue.

Happy Creating!

Should You Use Instagram Stories?

Hey Bookish People,

I wanted to touch on something that I haven’t on this blog yet: Instagram stories. I haven’t been avoiding the topic so much as I had a lot I wanted to cover on the basics of Instagram before I touched on the topic. I’ll be posting more about Instagram stories moving forward and will probably incorporate them into my experiments in the future.

So why bother with Instagram stories at all? It might seem like more work to do but if you’re not using Instagram stories then you are leaving out half of the 500 million daily users of Instagram. This feature of Instagram allows you a story telling medium that the regular Instagram feed lacks. While our feeds need to be picture perfect curations with themes and color schemes, our stories can be a little different every day and they can help us form better relationships with our audience that is viewing them.

Things I Post:

  • I take my audience through my day: writing routine, strange happenings, hilarious moments.
  • I use my Instagram story to update my audience on projects: Updates can get lost on your Instagram feed where people might scroll right past your good news.
  • I take my audience on ‘field trips’ with me: Show people around your city. I post photos and videos when I go to new places, whenever I end up at the zoo to volunteer, or anywhere that’s particularly photogenic. I’m pretty lucky to live in beautiful Seattle but there are probably points of interest to help you audience connect with you and where you live.
  • How to’s: If you want to teach your audience something use a combination of pictures, text overlay, and video to help them learn something.
  • Book reviews: I haven’t done a video review for my audience yet but I think that the short video format of Instagram stories would be a great place for an occasional quick book review.
  • Pictures I love that don’t fit my theme: I’m a multifaceted person and I can’t always fit everything about me and my creative life into a picture on my Instagram feed so I use my stories to post things I’m in love with and need to share. Show your enthusiasm!

In short, yes, Instagram stories are something we should be leveraging for building our brands and engaging our audience. Use stories to keep your followers up to date and invested in your life and projects. It’s a useful tool and I think it’ll serve us well to invest the time.

This Week’s Instagram Experiment (5/14)

Good Morning Bookish People,

I’m excited to try something a bit different this week that focuses on building community on Instagram. Last week I worked on commenting on other people’s photo’s in order to increase engagement and this week I’m looking to increase my following.

Those of us who are writers and #bookstagrammers have probably seen Instagram posting challenges in the past. It’s usually a post on Instagram that has its own hashtag and a list of things to post for 30 days. I have strayed away from these challenges ever since I developed more solid categories to post about but when I participated in the past I do feel like it helped me find interesting people and helped people find me. After a bit of searching I found a challenge that I’m going to jump into for the week that still fits with my categories.

I don’t know that this strategy of posting exclusively challenge pictures will work long term but I think it might work well as a larger part of an Instagram strategy. I’ll be testing it for the rest of the week without a break but I imagine that you’d get some of the same benefit picking and choosing days that you like the prompts and posting those days. I also suspect that you might benefit from dabbling in several Instagram challenges at once, but those are experiments for another week!

So here’s the post that I’m pulling from this week:30926834_399939900474542_1071159315999490048_n

I spent some time looking through various challenges that are ongoing and this is the one that I feel will fit best with my plans for the week. I have already planned out my week of posts and I’m looking forward to seeing how this particular strategy works out.

Do you participate in Instagram posting challenges? How have they worked for you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Follow the blog to make sure that you see the results!