First off, I have an article on fusion fantasy on a great website--Mythic Scribes--that both supports writers in their writing and explores fantasy issues and reviews. If you want to take a gander at my article or just the site, the link goes as follows:
However, we really need to take a look at the big magnetic board. I can't take credit for this one. My English Methods instructor, Katrin Roberston came up with this one.
Basically, I'm talking about exactly what it sounds like: In my office I have an enormous piece of sheet metal nailed to the wall. I suggest it for any brainstorming project--writing or otherwise.
So when I'm first coming up with a project, I am a pretty random thinker. Meaning, I walk into my office, stare at the board, sit down and twirl in my chair till I'm sick, and then take a small piece of paper, scribble an idea for my project on it, and stick it to the board with a magnet.
Eventually, the sucker takes shape. I move and remove, and scatter and gather the little idea pieces until they make patterns, sense, and eventually an approximate outline.
So then I move on to one of my other fav brainstorming tools, since I've usually run out room on the board by that time. I need something on a smaller scale to examine scenes and elements one by one. So I go to Inspiration. Inspiration is a brainstorming and organizing program that I also learned about in my education program. Of course, no matter how great a tool they showed us it was in teaching, which is what it was originally designed for, I quietly switched to working on writing. Unless a teacher stood over my shoulder.
I know, I'm learning to be a teacher, and I'm still a bad student, right? But I will guarantee that I am a kick ass teacher.
Back to Inspiration. You can buy it online for the Mac or PC and if you have a student ID they will so hook you up, so be sure to have it in your hot little hand when ordering. Inspiration allows you to cluster map, concept map, organize those by their systems or your system, write outlines, switch from map to outline to map again. All and all, it is a great program. Anyone who has to think should look it up.
Between the two methods, I can completely map a book, rather than having to rely on outlines, which are so not how my mind goes. So go get our sheet metal (make sure you cover the edges. They are sharp). Pick up that Inspiration. I'll leave graph paper and colored pencil madness for a tantalizing other time.