Blue Skies, Nothing but Blue Skies

We have a nugget of a new story, but our private brainstorming method is going nowhere. Where do we go when our novel projects needs velocity? When we need a place where creativity has no boundaries?

Step outside and look up into an incredible blue sky. No, this isn’t therapy. This is a solution to our dilemma. We want the box inside our minds to explode into color, sights, and sounds that leave us breathless in the endless expanse. Blue-sky thinking is brainstorming that tosses reality and logic into the great unknown, leaving us free to develop characters, form plots, create dialogue, and imagine setting.
We spread our arms wide and breathe in the freedom of inspiration gone wild!

Ideas have the capacity to change people’s minds, habits, the way we think and feel about something. A new idea can change the world. If in doubt, look back 2000 years ago and trace how Jesus transformed how people viewed God and each other.

Now that we’re convinced that blue sky thinking is the antidote to the idea virus, where do we start? The who, what, where, when, how, and why from journalism class infects us.

 Who? Every writer who values and craves the power of collective thinking.
 What? A blue-sky session to brainstorm a novel idea.
 Where? Pardon the pun, but the sky’s the limit. We’ll talk more about that below.
 When? While you’re wanting this to happen tomorrow, time commitments are tough for writers.
 Why blue sky? Because you need help from other writers whom you trust.
 How? By inviting writers to an organized method of brainstorming, using the shortest amount of time to achieve the greatest productivity. (That’s a mouthful.)

Sounds like a party to me. A party in which every writer has an opportunity to voice her own opinion about yummy topics like: characterization, plot, setting, dialogue, emotion, narrative, and symbolism. No more than four writers are recommended.
he qualifications for your Blue Sky Team is vital to the success of the team. When considering who to invite, I recommend four participants. Examine the following guidelines:

Genre: Writers vary in language, technique, and preference according to the genre of their choice. A participant who doesn’t write in our genre won’t have the same passion for the story. Their preference can negatively influence the team, not because the writer isn’t outstanding in her field, but because her writing requires a different mindset and often the tools of the craft are massaged according to genre.

Writing status: We writers struggle to publish and stay published. That means we ensure our stories are laced with excellence. Writers who haven’t acquired the skills yet may be hindered in their contribution to our project. 

Personality: I don’t think I have to dwell on what happens when personalities clash, especially during a Blue Sky session with your novel on the line. Make sure the writers can all communicate without bringing out the Glocks. 

What does the writer read? Writers read. For our session to be successful, we want participants to value the novels in our genre. Reading outside the box is great, but make sure the participants read some of the admirable authors in our common genre, not only for what is selling but for style and technique.

Confidentiality: When a writer pitches her story, she has to trust her team that the idea stays among them. This is her baby. Professional courtesy is not only expected but required. What happens at Blue Sky sessions stay at Blue Sky sessions.

At times, a writer knows exactly what is her weak point and only needs input in that area. Other times, an entire novel needs help. So in response to what needs to be discussed during a Blue Sky session—everything. And that includes the writer’s special needs. We all have ups and downs within our writing careers. The publishing industry can be a fickle lover. Be open to a writer who simply needs to voice her doubts and frustrations. If a professional problem is evident, offer her sound solutions while encouraging her to not give up. If a personal problem is standing in the way of her novel, friendship and prayer is the best shield.    

Time is precious to all of us, and writers want to be considerate of those on their Blue Sky Team. With that stipulation, how many hours can we respectfully ask others to give with the understanding we will do the same for them? I hear the dichotomy. A team works together, giving their best. But what value can you place on your next writing project? Definitely a dilemma. Be honest. One hundred percent of their time and talent equals three hundred percent of our time and talent. If one writer is the focus, perhaps two to four hours is all that’s needed. However, if all four writers want individual time to brainstorm a new project, then consider a Blue Sky Retreat! Also SKYPE retreats are economical solutions to tight budgets.

How each Blue Sky team is facilitated is up to the participants. I suggest giving each writer a time restraint on a topic and stick to it. For example, if Suzie Successful has a new idea and she wants to discuss characterization, then each participant assists her for an hour. Take a quick break and see where else she needs help. I’ve been a part of Blue Sky Teams where one day is devoted to developing a writer’s story. I’ve also been a part of a SKYPE retreat where the sessions worked the same. Smaller blocks of time are fun and productive too.

Blue Sky thinking … Take another step outside and take in the beauty of an endless supply of ideas. Maybe now is the time to form your team.

DiAnn Mills is an award winning writer who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She currently has more than fifty-five books published.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and International Thriller Writers. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.