By now if you’ve followed this blog you’ve probably read about my brainstorming group.
I’ve blogged each year after we complete a session, and the process is well described in previous posts. You’ll also see bios of my group if you click on that link. Aren’t they great?
Serena, Shelley, Casey/Kylie/Connie arrived in Chautauqua, NY at my summer cottage on Sunday. The cottage went through a major renovation two years ago, and with two additional bathrooms, this is now the perfect place to meet.
This year we added an extra day so everyone could settle in, shop for groceries together, and prepare for four days of hard work. And yes, it’s so much harder than I ever expected it to be. At the end of each hour and a half brainstorming session we need a good long break before beginning the day’s final session.
What did I brainstorm in my sessions? First, an idea for my next novel. Yep, even though I’m barely through a third of the present one, I need to be thinking about the next. We call that deadlines. This year I had little more than an opening and some thoughts about the story’s arc. As always the group challenged me and said, and I can almost hear their sweet voices: “You have an opening, doofus. So what happens next?”
Of course, next was where we had all the fun. Perhaps the best part of that session was a fabulous title idea that my publisher will most certainly jettison the moment they hear it–voice of experience here. But for the moment, I am in love with it and I’ll let it help shape my story. As titles often do.
Interesting to me? That night I went to bed thinking: “But no, I can’t write the book that way. I just don’t like that character enough to spend a book with her.” Middle of the night I came up with a better idea. Next morning rejected that as, well, a middle of the night mistake.
This morning I combined that idea with the original and by golly, I think we have a winner. That’s how brainstorming works.
My second session? I outlined a series idea, short books I would like to publish independently in both digital and print format. Something very different. Again I told them my idea. Again they said: “You have an idea, doofus. How do you plan to pull that off?” And of course, pulling it off was where we had all the fun.
Speaking of fun? Brainstorming is not just work. Despite wet, cool weather we ate dinner out every night to avoid cooking and cleaning. I’m surprised we weren’t ejected from restaurants–or my front porch, for that matter, for shrieks, laughter and the occasional naughty comment. We played Mexican Train (called Trash Train in my neighborhood), watched Serena’s wonderful TV movie Love Finds You at Sugar Creek–with Kelly McGillis of Witness fame–then the next night watched Witness to compare. Our final night we watched ghost videos after a trip to nearby Lily Dale, a Spiritualist “camp” which has been in existence nearly as long as Chautauqua Institution where my cottage resides.
Oh, and there was ice cream. Duh! (The fact that you can’t see my ice cream cone is not proof I don’t have one.)
I went into this session exhausted, depleted, and plain run down from deadlines and moving for the summer. I came out renewed, enlightened, and ready to jump back into my book. Really, if I’d gotten nothing else from the sessions, wouldn’t that have been plenty?
Thanks, Brainstormers. You are the best.