A Brainstorming Exercise by j.d. brewer

I made this brainstorming exercise for a workshop I did at the Buda Public Library. I’ll end up using it at some point in my classroom next year as well. I originally intended it for personal use, but thought sharing is a good thing. I emailed Message to Bears to ask for permission to use two songs, and I heard back today. So Voila! The blank page is the writers curse, so be inspired, answer questions, and make up your own. If one picture grabs a hold of you, run with it! If you’re doing campnanowrimo, working on your next project, or writing a short poem,  and your stuck with a blank page or trapped in a scene, here’s something to get the gears turning. The directions are quite simple: 1) Analyze each picture. 2) Imagine you are in the picture, the place, the action. 3) Answer each question in lists or phrases. 4) Do not worry about writing the question or answering EVERY one. 5) If you come up with your own question, answer it. *If you want to return to a picture, or stick with one, then go with it! Use this video until you get unstuck, until the page is no longer blank, until you have words to start playing with. *Disclaimer: there is one typo in the questions inside of the video. Air high five to whoever finds it. Please forgive me. I am imperfect. Music is by Message to Bears. Permission has been given to use the songs for this purpose. The first song is, “You are a Memory.” The second song is, “I Know...

Un-Saved Saviors: J.D. Brewer on Editing Setbacks

Mt. Lemmon, Arizona, circa March 2016. Imagine two women, holed up in a cabin typing until their fingers cramp and their eyes bleed. That was my work-wife and I. Three weeks of no internet, no husbands, hiking breaks, coffee (lots of coffee) breaks, and writing. It was such a productive time. Against a backdrop of forest, she plowed through her next fantasy book, and I was patiently carving through On the Other Side of Greatness trying to make it right. Follow her shenanigans @4OlivaSavage on Twitter. The thing is, I’m a down-right clod-brain when it comes to writing endings, and something about the second half of the book was achingly off. You see, this is a book that was written before The Birth of Anarchy, but it sat without an ending to make sure it connected to the series correctly. It is a distant, distant prequel to Vagabond, and therefore, it has been the trickiest ending I’ve ever had to grapple with. It was meant to launch in March, but I decided to give it some more space. Like all good relationships, I’d rather it be right than forced, so I changed my launch projections. Which brings me to June. I FIGURED IT OUT! I found an ending that gives Lucas Rios agency in her choices and lets her be the bad-ass she was always meant to be. However, as I was combing through the line edits two nights ago, I realized there was something anemic about the writing. “Surely,” I thought to myself, “there shouldn’t be this many edits to make at this point in the process!” That was the...

J.D. Brewer on Criticism Vs. Negativity

Check out the Video Below — On Criticism Vs. Negativity — for a personalized reading of the following blog.  I get asked all the time, “How do you deal with criticism? Especially when it’s malicious and unkind?” It took me a while to understand this question. After all, what does it mean to deal with something anyways? Deal implies bargaining. It implies that I have a chance in making someone see things my way. If I compromise in this way, if I change in that way, then maybe, just maybe, you’ll change your mind and like me and what I’m doing. But when it comes to criticism, dealing is impossible because everyone loves their own opinion far too much. Then the question gets tricky because I have a beautiful relationship with criticism. Criticism, when it its constructive, when it makes me focus on my craft, when it makes me stretch to be better, is my best friend. I’ve taken many insightful comments from readers and peers and have applied them because criticism is something you should use to make informed decisions about your writing. You don’t deal with criticism. You work with it. But then again, what they really want to know cannot be found within the question, “How do you deal with criticism?” What they really want to know is, “How do you wake up in the morning, hear someone be a jerk-face about what you are doing, and push through to finish it anyways?” They want to know, “How do you work within the fear that you’re just not good enough? How do you get past the...

The Rubik Cube Complex: On Ignoring the White Noise So You Can Write

I feel like the writing world needs to pull an idea off the table of expectation and reevaluate it. It’s this idea that there is the right way and a wrong way to write or get something published. I think that’s the thing that cripples people when they want to be writers. They become so concerned about how others are doing it, that they forget to actually try and see what works for themselves. Before they’ve even written a novel, they give up on the basis of the overwhelming white noise. And by “they,” I mean me two years ago… three years ago… ten years ago… What makes things difficult lies in the fact that the writing community is just as polarized as the rest of the world. We face these polarizing choices on a daily basis, and the questions plague us with a viral distraction: Independent or traditional publishing? Outline or run harry-carry on that manuscript? Is Goodreads or Facebook more appropriate to advertise on? Do “real” writers need NaNoWriMo? M.F.A. or the school of life? Get an agent or be a lone ranger? Over and over again, we are asked to pick a side of the fence to land on, dig in our heels, and say, “I am right.” I guess it’s because, for most of us, it took a lot of courage to pick any path concerning writing in the first place, so of course we need to believe that we chose right for ourselves. But my writing career is far too young for me to believe wholeheartedly with any side of this dichotomy laden fence...

Is This Good? Does This Suck? -Fear and Loathing in Writing

When I was young, my mother loved working in the garden. She always joked that she had a green thumb while I had a blue one. You see, mine was constantly stained with ink from bleeding pens. All writers know this image. That weird callous on the finger from where the pen rests. The ink dripping down the cracks in the skin. If you don’t know what this looks like, take a minute to think on the gory scene. I actually wrote so hard that I made pens bleed.  I took my journals into the patch of brush and trees behind our trailer home, and I wrote. I found these journals recently. Pages and pages of poetry. Pages and pages of stories. I even found a floppy disk from high school. That’s right. A floppy disk that will never be opened. I’ve always known I could write. I just never knew what to do after the writing was done. Most things, I never shared. Most things have become the ghosts of digital past, lost like leaves caught in the wind. These forgotten stories still haunt me. When I finally made it to college, I wanted to be a Marine Biologist. I loved science as much as I loved writing, and everyone in my life agreed I’d find better work in the field of science. In all of my naivety, I thought I could work as a scientist, and write on the side. Unfortunately, I had trouble with math, and eventually, this turned me back to English. English was all academic, though. I wrote analytical paper after analytical paper that...