by Karen Ball
Are you getting excited about brainstorming? I really hope so. There is so much to be gained from surrounding yourself with other writers ready and willing to share their creativity with you. And from being willing yourself to share with others. Writing doesn’t have to be a solitary task. Knowing you have a group of writers rooting for you, excited about and praying for your project as you’re writing, is simply amazing.
The other day we looked at the first 3 Ground Rules for Effective Brainstorming. Let’s take a look at the rest!
4. Check your negativity at the door.
Say it with me: There are no bad ideas in brainstorming. Okay, yes, sometimes bad ideas show up. But the time to identify them as such isn’t during the session. Brainstorming is about letting the ideas flow and build on each other. It’s about a creative free-for-all, where any and all ideas are welcome. I can’t tell you how many times someone shouted out an idea, and the rest of us exploded into laughter—then built on that seemingly ridiculous thought to the key idea or realization.
Connie Almony is right when she wrote that brainstorming is energizing–iIt’s like a quad shot in your morning coffee! But only if you make sure there’s no one putting the brakes on the flow.
If the group is brainstorming your book, never say, “I don’t think that will work,” even if you think it. You don’t want to stop the flow.
If you’re the one brainstorming and your idea sparks hilarity, rejoice and join in! (Remember, no egos allowed.) Sometimes the silliest ideas spark the deepest insights.
As one of our members said, (I’d credit it if I could recall…sigh…), “Play angel’s advocate. During the session, welcome the whole basket of ideas. Then, when you’re writing the novel, you can pull them out and see what works.”
5. Talking over each other is perfectly acceptable.
Say it with me: Miss Emily Post need not apply. No, I’m not saying you should be rude or overbearing. But with brainstorming, it’s perfectly okay for the conversation to turn into a free-for-all. In fact, that’s exactly what brainstorming is—throwing ideas into the mix and seeing what sticks. We go into our session knowing ahead of time that Miss Southern Belle, Tamera Alexander, is going to just stomp all over the rest of us with her ideas. <Love you, Tammy!> And that I will, upon rare occasions, do the same. <insert evil grin here> Seriously, we’re all aware that for the brainstorming sessions to work well, we need to speak when the ideas strike. This isn’t the time to tell everyone, “Okay, now let’s all be quiet and listen to Karen.” Instead, you need to let your ideas be a rambunctious group of puppies, playing and rolling over each other with abandon. You’ll be amazed at the magic that can take place!
6. Everyone must participate.
Say it with me: We need each other! Never say, well, I don’t write in that genre, so what do I have to offer? Because the very fact that you don’t write the same genre can makes your offerings genius. We all come from different perspectives, which means we bring unique ideas. As Sharon Kirk Clifton wrote, it’s great fun to watch writers of other genres get excited about books they’d never write themselves. For example, in our group, sweet, chicken-hearted (a label she gives herself) Robin Lee Hatcher, who pens wonderful historical romances and contemporary women’s fiction, is great at brainstorming my suspense novels. She sees aspects of the story that I don’t, and her input in invaluable. And you’d be amazed at the evil thoughts lurking in that sweet mind! I love it!
7. Realize not everyone will come away with a lot of ideas.
Say it with me: Comparison is a no-no! Some books are harder to brainstorm than others. Our dear Brandilyn’s “seatbelt suspense” novels, for example, generally have a lot of technical aspects to them—such as the methods she uses to kill people. Few of us are schooled in forensic science, so we can’t speak to those aspects of her story. But it’s not about the number of ideas so much as that one spark that will change everything. Never compare your session to anyone else’s. God knows exactly what you need from the group, and He’ll use them to meet that need.
Okay, there you have the ground rules. Next week, we’ll take a look at how you make a brainstorming session happen, from schedules to locations to the size of the group. Feel free, though, to share any questions you’d like answered about brainstorming retreats. If I can’t answer them, I’ll turn them over to my brilliant brainstorming sisters!