Brainstorming is one of the fun parts in the development of a book. The key for the author is a willingness to hear other ideas. The second, and most critical key, is discovering those with whom you should brainstorm. Those people need to be willing to have their ideas rejected in the discussions and be willing to let an idea they created to be used by someone else. It takes a special person…many times a professional…to achieve that.

I’ve heard complaints from some authors who try this in a critique group only to be frustrated. Egos get in the way or the ideas generated are singularly unhelpful. Or the discussion doesn’t move the project forward, instead it gets sidetracked by numerous differing opinions on the direction of the piece.

That is not to say that critique groups are bad. Hardly. Only that some authors have experienced frustration if the mix in their group is not helpful (see the below cartoon).

A few years ago, at a writers conference, a well known author gathered a number of published writers together and declared, “I have a new book contract and need a better plot than what I have, can you guys help?” Over the next couple hours that group created a dynamite storyline (which is now in print!). That is brainstorming with a group at its best.

If you have a good relationship with your editor they can be a great sounding board for ideas (but be considerate of that editor’s time). A good agent can also provide this service. I have been a part of this process with nearly every book project I have ever worked on. While sometimes the two heads can bump into each other…painfully…the ensuing friction usually creates a spark…the spark of creativity and not contention.

Where do you go for your brainstorming sessions?

Enjoy the following “Pearls Before Swine” cartoon from last weekend:

6 Responses to Brainstorming

  1. Vicki Caruana January 25, 2011 at 8:45 am #

    I have great memories of brainstorming sessions with my editor, my agent and finally my friend Mr. Steve Laube! Valuable, insightful, and a reminder of why we write. Thanks!

  2. Sue Harrison January 25, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    I don’t have a brainstorm-partner, but I can see how having a brainstorm-partner would be a real advantage.

  3. Katie Ganshert January 25, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

    One of my critique partners is phenomenal at brainstorming. It’s like the girl has a never-ending stream of story ideas running through her head. We often IM each other during brainstorm sessions. If I’m not a fan of something, she doesn’t care at all and fires right back with a different idea. She is a GEM!

  4. Sue Harrison January 25, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

    Will she take on another partner, Katie? (Haha)

  5. Erin Taylor Young January 26, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    Totally love the cartoon.

  6. Ron Brackin January 26, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    Not exactly brainstorming, but one of our mss readers—a housewife who didn’t know Hamas from hummus—was priceless in enabling me to craft an extremely complex nonfiction story in the Middle East. Her comments exposed every gap in logic and presumed knowledge/understanding, resulting in a book that most folks said was “an easy read”—music to mine ears and balm to mine jangled nerves.

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