Saturday, September 3, 2016

A New Year of Ideas


Need to write for class?

and think of these strategies

Writers have ideas. But they may not often just pop into your head, although they could. 

Do you have a topic?  If so, make a list of all you know about the topic. Lists are a great way to sort through what's on your mind about a topic. It''s one of the number one ways to get started. Here's one from my summer.  If you must write about summer -- pick ONE thing, not the whole summer. Here's how I started thinking about boating:

  • sunshine
  • heat
  • refreshing wind and water
  • swimming alongside the boat
  • flag up
  • visiting the waterfall
  • clouds darken
  • whitecaps appear
  • rain falls
  • rough ride home

Some people like webs. Think of a spider web -- a center with lines radiating from it. Here's how I started thinking about boating with a web (link here:)

I tried to think of everything about boating because the part I'm writing about is the storm. But I want to build to that scary ride with some details about how we got there, had fun, and then Bam! Bad weather.

Sometimes instead of a web, I just start thinking in ideas like a list, but I cluster the ideas. This helps me organize better. I can just keep adding.

Of course, free-writing is another way to get ideas. Just start writing on your topic.
One hot sunny day in August, we gathered up our favorite snacks, made sandwiches, and headed out to Cresent Bay boat launch to spend a day on the lake, It started out awesome: we "toodled" around looking for a great beach, stopped at a waterfall...

So there's four ways to start writing on a topic: list, web, cluster, free-write. Tools you can use are Google Docs (so you have your ideas anywhere you have an Internet connection), paper, Google Drawing (to make a mind map or cluster), Google Sheets (for clustering), Mindmeister or other brainstorming app.

However, writers do something else: they constantly keep lists of ideas to write about based on what happens in their life.  Hear a mom and kid talking that make you smile? Write it down. See an amazing stunt by the skateboarder zooming by-- write it down. Notice an interesting person on the escalator-- write that description down.

What makes good stories is that what you read is believable.  Usually that's because the author wrote about what s/he knew, experienced, or observed.  So keep a small notebook in your pocket for such times. 

Or, use your phone -- dictate that description or idea into a note in one of your apps on your device. Find an app that you can organize and dictate so you know it is your writing notebook. 

Google Docs app lets you use your iPhone mic from your keyboard to dictate write in your Google doc! I'm not sure if that's available for Android phones -- let us know in the comments below.

Just get those lists, ideas, and descriptions down!  Your hobbies, interests, favorites, likes. dislikes, wishes for the world, places you want to travel, places you've been,-- just starting writing lists and writing your observations in the world.

One last idea: my friend Paul Allison at Youth Voices suggests a great start of the year activity on "self" questions -- list 10 questions you wonder about yourself, and list 10 questions you wonder about the world. Then start answering them -- more than once!  That'll make a writer and thinker out of you!

What do we know now?

Topic writing: lists, webs, clusters, free-write.
Writing Ideas: lists, self-world questions, observations

What strategies do you use for writing on topics in class?

What strategies do use as a writer for getting ideas and for developing ideas?

Now launch your writing year and share it with us here.

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