The biggest stumbling block I notice when I taught High School Students Creative Writing, wasn’t getting ideas, but how to utilize the ideas they got. Which ideas should they use in the story? Which ideas should they discard? How do they use the idea in the first place?
Writers never seem to have a storage of ideas and brainstorming is the easiest way to expand an idea. I like the What if Game because anything and everything can spark a “what if?” What if JFK hadn’t died? What if Hitler had finished his campaign of world domination? What if mythical creatures were real? What if he had met her on the street corner instead of the cafe, who they be together still? What if, what if, what if? The list is endless.
I always told my students to take their ideas and write as much as they could about them. Brainstorm about the characters, where the story would start, where the story was going to end, and what would happen along the way? They could throw around ideas about the main goal of the characters? Why those characters there?
Every writing method is different and for some this is the time to start writing. Others have to plan out every detail of the story before they write. And then there is me. I decide what to keep and what to chuck, then I write a summary before heading out into the story. I don’t need all the details of A to B to C to D, but I need enough to know what direction to head.
My last piece of advice to them was to keep in mind that their rough draft would be flawed and that was okay. That this first draft was for them and no one else. That if they aren’t inspired to write point D, they could skip to point X if they wanted. That while exploring the boundaries of the book, if you insert an idea you didn’t plan on, this isn’t a bad thing, it might just be inspired, but wait until the editing stage to worry about it.