by Lisa Jordan, @lisajordan
My good friend Jeanne Takenaka, who writes beautiful, encouraging blog posts, and I have been working together for nearly a year, helping each other to strengthen our stories and digging deeper into learning the different craft elements.
Our partnership works well because we are able to balance out each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I’ve been thinking about what makes our partnership work, and I’ve decided to share some tips to help others who are pursuing craft partnerships.
- Value each other’s responsibilities.
Jeanne and I lead busy lives. Since we juggle family, work, church, and other responsibilities with our writing, we set pre-arranged brainstorming dates. By doing this in advance, we are able to set aside a specific amount of time, come together prepared and have focused brainstorming time.
- Set a time limit.
I love talking story. It’s exciting to see the pieces of a character’s development to fall into place or to see the plot take shape. But let’s face it—brainstorming takes a lot of mental energy. So we allot a specific amount of time so we can keep that energy going without taxing ourselves mentally and physically.
- Choose the right brainstorming platform.
We’ve found brainstorming works best for us via text messaging or email, especially since I live east of the Mississippi and she lives west. Our schedules and responsibilities don’t allow us to pick up the phone to talk things out. Meeting in person doesn’t work, unfortunately. Texting or email also gives us a record of our conversations so we can refer back to our notes as we’re working on our manuscripts.
- Come prepared.
When Jeanne and I plan time to help each other, we focus on one element such as character development or story plotting. The writer asking for help needs to come somewhat prepared. Of course, we don’t always have the answers…otherwise, why brainstorm, right? But we try to have a little knowledge of our characters or story vision in order to use our time wisely so we’re focused instead of wandering down rabbit trails.
- Be open to feedback. One of the benefits of brainstorming with a friend is the availability of having someone else’s viewpoint. However, no one understands your story better than you. Consider keeping an open mind to suggestions because your craft partner may hit on an element you hadn’t considered. Sometimes brainstorming takes you to painful places in your own lives to get to the core of your characters or story, and a good craft partner knows when to push and when to back off.
Give and take needs to be balanced between craft partners so one of you isn’t feeling like she’s not receiving her share of brainstorming help.
As with any relationship, trust is the cornerstone. By believing in one another’s abilities, you’re building a relationship that will empower you with skills to help overcome the dreaded blinking cursor. Using these suggestions will enable you to have a more focused, productive brainstorming session that in turn will help you to write stronger stories and build a lasting friendship in the process.
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