Tips Tuesday: Talk It Out — The Power of Brainstorming

It’s been a crazy and exciting month here at Swoon Reads headquarters, and as you can imagine, in all the running around of choosing our first list, figuring out the announcement details, and you know, actually editing the books, that fact that my Tips Tuesday blog was coming up completely slipped my mind… And then, when my lovely intern Samantha R. gently reminded me about it, the worst thing ever happened. I had NOTHING! I wasn’t even far enough in the process to feel like I could blame writer’s block. I simply had NO IDEA what I should write about. So, I did what I always do when I get stuck. I started talking.

Seriously, I sometimes think that my back brain has a direct connection to my mouth that completely bypasses my normal thought processes, because once I start talking about something, ideas start spilling out of my mouth that I didn’t even realize I had until I hear myself saying them out loud. (This could also help explain why reading things out loud is so helpful to me.) So, I grabbed Samantha and a notebook, and said okay, let’s brainstorm some topics. Again, we had nothing. So, just to fill in the silence, I started babbling about how my brother will often call me to talk out game ideas, while I tend to talk things over with my mother, since by the time I’ve managed to explain the problem to her, the solution has usually started to come to me. Samantha agreed, and told me that she does the same thing, except that she often talked to her sisters. And once the conversation started flowing, it was very productive. There were, of course, several ideas that didn’t work, a few that have already been touched on recently, and at least one that I might write later, but in the end, we both thought that the idea of brainstorming itself might be interesting to think about.

Talking things out is a huge part of both my creative and editorial processes. It’s very rare for me to be happy with something that I just sit down and write unless I’ve actually talked it out first, so that I have an outline of it in my head before I start writing. And I realized that I do the same thing when I’m editing. I’ll read the book, and I’ll have vague ideas of what parts aren’t quite working for me, but it’s usually easier for me to isolate the issues when I’m talking the book over with someone else. And many times, in explaining exactly what the problem is, I’ll be able to figure out a couple of possible solutions that I can offer the author. (I always prefer to have suggestions to fix things instead of just saying “This doesn’t work.” I feel that even if my suggestions are off base, they might help the author see exactly what I’m not getting.)  I also like to set up phone meetings with authors after they’ve had a little time to process the edit notes, so that we can talk over anything that they don’t understand, or come up with alternate fixes if some of the notes don’t work for them.

I know that everyone’s process is different, and I’ve read interviews with authors who advise NEVER talking about the story until you’ve got it down, for fear of losing or diluting it. But, if you are anything like me, it might be helpful, the next time you have an idea but aren’t sure how to make it work, or are stuck in a particularly tricky place in the story, to try talking it out. Sometimes the act of explaining it to someone else will clarify the problem enough that the solution will emerge… And if not, then maybe two heads will be better than one!

In my experience, great things can come from brainstorming… after all, Swoon Reads itself was conceived in a brainstorming session! What about you? Do you enjoy brainstorming, or does it clutter up the story? Does anyone else think better out loud or is that just me?

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