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The Bubble Method
by Eva Shaw
The Bubble Method, sometimes called clustering and mind
mapping, is a brainstorming technique used by fiction and nonfiction writers.
It's a powerful creative tool if you want to discover the unexpected and to
The method works whether
you're brainstorming for a query letter, interview questions, article topics or
to come up with ideas for books that youre interested in writing about. (For
your information: The Bubble Method also works well to develop plots and
characterization, if youre also a fiction writer.) The Bubble Method is a
winner if you want to brainstorm titles.
If there's one bit of
information I'll keep my fingers crossed that you'll use it's the Bubble Method.
People in my traditional and on-line classes and during my writers conference
workshops gush at length about the concept and yet it's simple.
Here are the directions to
Bubble for an article idea. If you're brainstorming for a book, a chapter or
other creative endeavor, just substitute the focus:
Get a large piece of
newsprint paper and crayons or colored marking pens. You may not use
typing/printer paper and writing pens. You need to THINK
Print the topic of your
article in the middle of a piece of paper. Draw a circle around the words. Add
ten lines straight out from the circle, or the first Bubble. You have made
what looks like a child's drawing of the sun with words in the
yourself in any way, print ten sub-topics that are somehow related to your
main topic. Circle them, too. That's it. Simple and
Do not stop with seven
or nine. You must brainstorm until you have ten or more topics on that
Sit back and look at
the fresh ideas the system produced. Read the ideas out
After you've looked
over your second Bubbles, select those that seem to be sufficient to support
an entire article. (A small, simple topic might not be sufficient to propose
for a 2000-word article. It might be better in a 200-word article.) Try to
come up with seven to nine. If you cannot comfortably include seven, return to
step 1 or consider doing some more research to learn about your proposed
topic. Choose your favorite for the next assignment.
Take each of the
sub-Bubbles individually and Bubble again. With this "go round" you're
actually outlining your article and will come up with seven to ten topics.
These are the main points of your article, perhaps theyre the topics of the
You may want to Bubble
"down" further and outline sub-sub-Bubbles.
After you've Bubbled
and like the focus of the article, put the entire thing away for a day or so,
if you can. Try not to consciously think about the Bubbles during this time
and I promise your brain will be silently mulling up massive loads of
After a day or two and
without looking at the previous Bubbles, go back and repeat the entire
Finally, compare the
two. Then put the material in list form. Youll have a map to take you to the
completion of your article.
The system is easy and
addictive. I use it often and use it when I write articles, books, create book
proposals and help students discover the writing fields in which they want to
© Copyright 1999, Eva Shaw
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