Okay, now that we covered the ground rules, let’s get brainstorming.
I realize not everyone can do the whole trip and retreat bit, but that’s okay. You can do what we do and make a retreat out of it, or you can get together online. With all the wonderful video calling programs out there, you can meet “face to face” without leaving home. For our brainstorming sessions, we gather from Thursday to Sunday. Each person gets 90-minute session, during which we’re all focused on that person’s stated needs. Here’s how we do it:
One person is the designated timekeeper. That person gives warnings when we have a half hour left, and when we have 15 minutes left.
Start each day with a devotion. It never ceases to amaze me how these 10-minute devos set us on the right path as we jump in.
We record our sessions. You can do this with your smart phone, a camera, a video camera, a tape recorder…whatever works best. But it’s amazing how freeing it is to know you don’t have to take notes during the session.
At the beginning of your session, share what you have of your story. We’ve shared as much as a pretty solid outline and as little as “This is my setting, these are my characters, the story is a romance. Go!”
If you want something specific from the brainstorming team, then tell them that up front. Are you looking for the group to help you build the whole story? Are you looking for specific scenes focusing on certain events or interactions? Are you looking for ways to get your hero and heroine together? Whatever you need, say so. The best way to get what you want is to be as specific as possible.
Consider leaving 10 minutes at the end of your session for everyone to write a “List of 10.” This is a list of ideas they’ve had during the discussion, whether about scenes or character traits or something else, or of ideas that are sparked as the session ends. You can ask for the lists to focus on a specific need, or just let your brainstorming buddies write what strikes ‘em.
If you’re together in person, be sure you’ve got plenty of coffee, tea, water, chocolate…whatever fuel folks need to be creative!
Be sure have schedule in breaks so people can rest their brains and come back to the table refreshed and ready to go.
Everyone pay attention to the person’s stated needs. If you feel those needs haven’t been met, draw the group’s attention back to those needs. Also, it’s a good idea, about 15 minutes from the end, to ask the person, “Do you have what you need? Is there anything else you need from us?”
Clearly, this isn’t a comprehensive “how-to,” but my hope is that these tips will trigger ideas for you as you enter into this amazing realm of brainstorming.
Most important tip of all: Have fun! Enter into this time with a spirit of service and creativity, and get ready to see how the Spirit will take over.
My writing partner and I have discovered the joys of Google+ Meet Ups. We can get together on video and even share our documents on screen. You can even edit the same document at the same time. We’re working on gathering more friends (one of my goals at the conference this weekend). The key is to separate “critique group” from “brainstorming group.” I don’t like a big critique group. It’s almost impossible for a part time writer to keep up with. But a big brainstorming group, within reason, is just more ideas and more experts on different subjects (ie. I was in the Navy, I’m an engineer in the Detroit auto industry, I grow heirloom gardens, etc., so I can offer my insight if anyone needs it). I hope to have about five or six people for our brainstorming group. See you this weekend, Karen!
So many terrific ideas, Karen. Think I’ll talk to my CP about brainstorming together. Thank you, and see you this weekend!
Karen, thank you for sharing the structure of how you ladies brainstorm so successfully! I loved it. I don’t have a brainstorming group, but what a great way to plan brainstorming time if I ever get to be a part of one! I hope to see you this weekend!
Karen, love how you’re sharing the specifics of what works for your group. I’m saving your posts in case I get a chance to use your advice one day. Thanks!
Karen, thanks for sharing your brainstorming tips. They’re very helpful as I’m soon to be brainstorming an outline for book two in the series I’m working on.