Friday, April 13, 2012

Brainstorming: A Way to Rescue Your Novel

My novel, The Yellow Diamond Caper, wasn't going anywhere. I couldn't get the sequence of the plot the way I wanted it, and I was having trouble fitting in all the technical information without doing an information dump. I stewed for awhile and then enlisted my favorite critic, my husband.

I prepared for the brainstorming session by writing a detailed plot summary. This helped with some of the places where things weren't working right, but it wasn't there yet. My husband is a wonderful, long suffering, collaborator. My next step was to read him the plot summary. He identified the places where it didn't work for him. Then we talked about how to fix them.

Two heads are definitely better than one. It would have taken me a long time to see the gaps he identified. I took notes while we talked and then rewrote parts of the summary. Now I feel like I can move ahead.

If you plan to use the technique, preparation is important. I couldn't have gotten good responses without a very detailed plot summary. It's also good to have someone who thinks slightly differently than you do. My husband understands technology better than I do. He could easily point out areas where what I was suggesting wasn't feasible. As soon as he pointed them out. I knew he was right, but I wouldn't have seen them as quickly.

When we hit a place where neither of us was quite sure how to procede, we talked about a variety of ideas, listed them and then analyzed how they contributed to moving the plot forward. The whole process took about two hours, but from my standpoint it was worth every minute. I'm a firm believer in working through most of the plot by yourself, but there comes a time when you need help. The only caution is: Don't feel threatened by what your collaborator suggests. Nothing is set in concrete. Feel free to explore ideas and reject those that don't fit your image of the story. After all, you are the one in charge.