Jilly: Brainstorm Ahead

Hope you’re having a lovely summer’s weekend, especially if you’re in the US, celebrating independence from we pesky Brits. Enjoy! 😀

There’s no time to party at Casa Jilly. We’ve now survived three weeks of building repair work, complete with regulation noise and mess. Many of the bathroom fittings are in the garden, looking like postmodern statuary. Everything inside the house is coated in plaster particles, including us. I have to clean the sofa each day before I sit on it.

I’d love to take a few days off until the dust settles (ha!), but there are only three weeks left until I fly to Orlando for RWA National, and I’m already behind schedule. I have to get my draft finished, and I want to spend some time planning how best to use my brainstorming session with Jeanne, Kay, Elizabeth, Kat and Michille.

The RWA conference timetable is crowded, but we’ve decided to carve out enough time for each of us to get the group’s input on a writing project of our choice. It’s a rare opportunity and I think I’m looking forward to our discussions even more than the conference itself.

I haven’t decided whether to ask for input on my current WIP or to go for a blue-sky discussion on the prequel novella I plan to start when I get home. Either way, I know I’ll get great suggestions; the challenge is to decide where I need the most help. And then to decide exactly what questions to put to the group so that I get the best result from the limited time available.

The great thing is that even though I haven’t seen the other Ladies since last year (Kay, Jeanne, Elizabeth) or longer (Kat, Michille), we can get to work quickly thanks to the time we spent together studying romance writing at McDaniel College. I enjoy brainstorming with other writers when I get the chance, but there’s something extra special about working with the McDaniel alumnae, because:

  • We learned to critique together in class, so we share a vocabulary. When we talk about conflict, agency, infodump, beats, or sittin’-‘n-thinkin’ versus bodies in motion, we’re drawing on a hard-won shared understanding that allows us to talk in shorthand.
  • I trust them not to pull their punches. If something isn’t working, I need to know, and I want the straight-up version, not some sugar-coated suggestion.
  • I can ask them for the hard truth because I know they want me to do well, as I want the same for them. So I know the criticisms I get will be in my best interests, not a product of the critiquer’s own insecurities.
  • We each have very different interests, strengths and weaknesses, so everyone brings something different to the mix.
  • Nobody will be offended if I reject a suggestion, or cut off an avenue of discussion because it doesn’t feel right. That said, I prefer to let the discussion run, because often the best ideas come out of left field. And it’s amazing how often a suggestion I thought was un-usable pops up again later—almost as though the Girls need time to decide how to fit it into the story.

The only thing I’m looking forward to even more than brainstorming my story is getting to play with everyone else’s works-in-progress. I bet I get even more out of that than I do from my own session.

Right. Heads down and back to my WIP. I’m thinking Orlando might be my last RWA conference for a while, and I don’t want to waste a minute.

What’s on your agenda this weekend? Working or partying?

4 thoughts on “Jilly: Brainstorm Ahead

  1. (-: Wish I could be there!

    I took a lot of baths this weekend! There was a really cool faux-Roman bath where you could lay down in the shade of the rotunda, but the door was open to the great outdoors, so you could hear birdsong and other happy bathers. The acoustics in that thing were amazing — there were four bathers already in there, chit-chatting away, and the water bouncing their voices off the low roof made the place sound like something out of an old-timey oracle — I could easily imagine Norns (or some sort of wise old women) discussing the state of the world in their underwater cave.

    I wish you had time to take a few photos of your garden — if Duchamp could make plumbing art, you should be able to do it too! I do like imagining what it must look like!

    One of the other things I did this weekend was look at pottery — it was primitive, but with a modern, doodle sort of sensibility, and it was fun, but then I got home and looked at my dishes — clean, smooth glass. (-: I love the practicality, but I also enjoy the clean, smooth lines that factories can get out of porcelain, etc. I am very glad there are people in the world throwing pots and blowing glass, but I also like my factory-made stuff designed for the masses . . . .

    • I have time to take photos, I just can’t bring myself to. There is so much builder mess and rubble strewn around, the theme would have to be something post-apocalyptic. And since I’m trying to hang on to my harmony and *not* bash the builders any more than I have already (ahem, my inner Sasha has surfaced once or twice recently), I’m closing my eyes and pretending it’s not there.

      Your weekend of baths sounds wonderful! I am madly jealous 😉

      I love factory-made plates because they are dishwasher-safe. I like clean, smooth glass for my wine glasses, because that’s all about seeing and smelling and tasting what’s inside them. But practical considerations apart, I really love the imperfections of hand-blown glass and art pottery. I also saw a BBC article recently on Japanese Kintsugi pottery. Broken pots mended with gold. Sooo beautiful. I haven’t suffered pottery lust in a good few years but I was totally smitten.

      • You’ve got to keep your sanity! Just saying that the curves are aesthetically practical. But just like you wouldn’t want to have to wash up spaghetti residue from that Kintsugi plate/pot, I can also understand how on several levels, THOSE CURVES SHOULD NOT BE IN MY BACK GARDEN. Hang in there!

        We have a glass-blowing workshop in the area, and I’ve been twice on Parent Teacher Association tours. (-: Both times I made flower vases (IIRC, both are pitcher-like things that allow a daffodil to tilt pleasingly over the edge). I use one daily during the summer months (although, right now it’s got zombie lilacs in it). I wasn’t sure if I wanted to eat from them (I’m sure they are lead-free, but my Japanese is shaky in the food-safety area), so I didn’t make a drinking glass like most of the other ladies did. It’s nice to have one-off things that are rough. (-: But it’s really nice to have standardized things that are easy to clean, too!

  2. Pingback: Jilly: Tips for Creative Problem Solving – Eight Ladies Writing

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