Monday, May 9, 2011

BEING A WRITER: Brainstorming

Brainstorming is nothing more than playing the What If game with someone in addition to yourself.

I love to brainstorm!  Whether it's brainstorming other writers' ideas and stories or my own, there's nothing quite like it to jazz up the desire to write. 

Finding the best fellow brainstormers is the key to success.  Not everyone is a good candidate.  It's like a critique partner.  Or marriage.  Sometimes people fit together well.  Sometimes they don't.

Friends or relatives might be the first ones that come to mind when looking for brainstorming partners, especially those who are voracious readers.  Problems can arise at times because even the most constant readers don't always understand that some themes aren't as acceptable as others.  This is especially true in category writing, when each line has it's own parameters and expectations or in historical writing, where small nuances of the period can make a big difference.  It takes someone who knows what's required to have a place high on the list of helpers, so be particular when choosing readers for your regular brainstorming buddies.  If you find the majority of suggestions offered won't work for what you write, keep the friend, but look for someone else for brainstorming.

Let's face it, in most instances, fellow writers make the best people for brainstorming.  The closer to your own targeted genre and sub-genre, the better.  If you're lucky enough to have a critique partner or are part of a critique group, you may have already done some brainstorming during critiquing. 

How many people do you need for brainstorming?  The number isn't set in stone.  Sometimes it's nice to have one or two fellow writers you can use as sounding boards.  A larger group can give the advantage of more ideas to choose from.  My local writers' group has begun scheduling two plotting/brainstorming get-togethers a year, in addition to doing some brainstorming during our annual retreat.  Both ways have their advantages, so try them on for size, if possible, and decide what works best for you.  Or do both!

A good brainstorming session doesn't always net you the perfect ideas and answers for your story, but a successful session can give you things to think about that will lead you in the right direction.  Take notes, if you need to.  When it's over, discard what you know won't work, keep what will, and remember that making small changes to suggestions will often help them fit your story.

The extra perk of brainstorming is that when you're helping someone else, you often discover things that will help with your own writing, too.  Whether it's sparking an idea for a new story or bringing understanding to a character whose had you struggling, everyone is a winner.

Brainstorming can be done in many ways.  In person, in small groups or large, via computer chats, and by telephone.  They can be done at any point in your writing, whether you need help with the overall theme of your story, if a specific character has begun giving you trouble later on, or you need suggestions for the black moment and resolution.  Brainstorming sessions can be scheduled in advance or done in a pinch.

Remember while brainstorming to keep your mind open.  Even when you think you haven't come away with exactly what you need, in time, you may find that a small nugget is the answer to the question you needed help with.

No matter how you do your brainstorming or who you do it with, enjoy it!  You'll always be a winner. 

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