Another writing retreat in the can. My writers' group wrapped this year's event last Sunday, and as always the brightest ember from the weekend remains our brainstorming sessions.
We've been holding retreats for over a decade now, and it took us a little while to discover the magical mix of programming for the weekend.
At first we approached it as a sort of mini conference, with craft sessions scheduled for two out of the three days. In a stroke of brilliance, someone scheduled a brainstorming session one year in place of a craft session.
We've never looked back since.
At first we scheduled the brainstorming for the final morning of the retreat, but now that we know how much we value these sessions, we've moved it to the Saturday in order to be more on our game. Yes, it's a retreat, with all the socializing, wine-drinking, food-eating and laughing you'd expect. But by Sunday there's an aspect of mental fatigue that sets in, so the brainstorming works much better when it's scheduled earlier in the weekend.
How we brainstorm:
We split the retreaters into smaller groups of four or three, and allot each person 45 minutes.
We assign a timekeeper to make sure the session doesn't drift and to remind the writer on deck how much time she has left.
We often mix genres, by filling a group with people who write YA paranormal, historical and contemporary. You'd be surprised at the great ideas I've gotten for my dark vampire stories from contemporary romance writers.
We most often come to the session both prepared and wide-open to suggestion -- we don't want to waste any precious time from our 45 minutes groping around as we explain the story or situation we want to brainstorm. Think of it as honing your elevator pitch for a conference.
The members of my group have basically set the course for the upcoming writing year from these brainstorming sessions. That's why we treasure this part of the retreat so highly.
Have you participated in a brainstorming session before? How did it work out for you?