11.04.2015

How To Brainstorm A Book

Guest Post by my writing partner, Anna Mitchael

So this is the thing. We didn’t actually start out writing a hilarious book about a twenty-something young woman searching for herself in the halls of an advertising agency. At first it was going to be a mystery with a male hero who goes looking for a troupe of dentists that kidnapped his pet walrus.

Michelle and I outlined the idea, then took it into an ad agency and we were like ‘HEY GUYS!’ (We screamed because it’s always really loud in ad agencies. You think it’s going to be quiet because, after all, aren’t these people being paid to think? But thinking only takes up 2% of every hour. The other 98% of the minutes are the preparation for thinking—the stretching of the legs, the shooting of the shit, the playing of the ping pong. Loud stuff.)

No one paid any attention to the shouting so we tried Plan B which was to steal the ping pong ball along with all bobble-head dolls in sight and scream again.

Then I jumped on a desk and said, ‘If you want your prized possessions back, you’ll follow me.’

In the conference room I pulled down the white dry erase board because anyone who’s worked in advertising knows a dry erase board is a necessity for a Big Idea. These coveted Big Ideas come along on a daily basis, most often while showering. People by the water cooler are always talking about the Big Ideas they have. But the tough part is capturing them.

So at the top of the dry erase board I wrote ‘Dentists steal walrus, man chases them.’ Then I turned around to the misfit group amassed there and I said, ‘I need you to make this idea into a best seller.’

‘What if the walrus is actually a horse?’ One guy said.

‘Oh yeah, like a cute horse? Like one of those pie horses on YouTube?’ A girl answered.

‘I think you mean pygmy, not pie.’ The first guy said, then he turned to the wall so he could roll his eyes without getting kicked from the room.

The first and foremost rule in a brainstorming session is that you can never tell a person they have a bad idea. Or that they are wrong. Even if they think a pygmy is a pie.

My co-author gave me a look and I nodded my head. The ping pong ball and bobbleheads went into a trash can. ‘They’re all getting doused with gasoline then burned to a plastic crisp if you don’t come up with something better than a horse in the next five minutes.’

And in five minutes the crew came up with the idea that a guy wakes up a normal guy but then looks out his window to discover the world has been changed, and he is the only one who can make it the way it used to be. ‘Guns! Chase scenes! Maybe sex?’ was written in the margins of the white board.

As my co-author passed back the toys I thanked them all for having helped us outline the plot of a Vin Diesel movie. After they filed out of the room my co-author looked at me and said, ‘I feel so confused. Like I came into the ad agency looking to affirm my creative potential and yet now I feel drained and exhausted—like it’s going to be up to us to come up with something that might make a difference in the world.’

‘Well,’ I said. ‘We could always write about that.’

All names, events and prized possessions in the above story have been changed. Copygirl by Anna Mitchael & Michelle Sassa is also a work of fiction written to illuminate often ridiculous, mostly entertaining and usually obvious truths in life.  Anna is also the author of the best-selling Kindle Single Rooster Stories: Farm-Raised Tales of Life, Love & Motherhood.


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4 comments:

  1. I JUST finished reading "Copygirl" and I want to take a minute to tell you how baffled I am by the true genius that lies in these 308 pages.

    Within the first couple of lines, I felt an immediate connection to Kay, which was only augmented as the story unfolded.

    I have always had this inner "I am a woman hear me roar!" mentality as Kay develops, or rather, exudes as she experiences an opportunity to 'fiiiiiiiggggghttttt' like her life depends on it. My deep roaring potential is often muffled by my tendency to look outward, comparing my insides to someone else's outsides; I can think my way into insecurity, incompetence, timidity, fear, and confusion.

    I was brought to tears on page 304 as I read Kay doll's beautiful words: "If you've ever been told 'you can't,' 'that's not for you,' 'you're too delicate-too pretty-too weak to try that,' and instead of listening you just went ahead and did it anyway- you belong."

    I realize that 'I belong' because there lies in me, and all who are willing to dig deep within themselves, a fighter; she may be scrappy, she may balk from fear at times, she may get popped in the face, but she never gives up the fight. Fight doesn't know 'pretty' or 'ugly,' 'fashionable' or 'badly dressed;' it doesn't care if you've shed tears for seemingly sophomoric discrepancies... Fight only knows persistence, determination, and willingness.

    I am truly inspired by "Copygirl," and I hope to one day produce something that serves as a catalyst to inspiring 'fight' as you two have so beautifully constructed.

    Thank you for the pep talk :)

    Parris Wells
    parriswells@gmail.com

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    Replies
    1. Parris, wow. Just the fact that you took the time to tell us all that kind of makes me want to cry. Anna and I LOVE that you saw yourself in these pages, and that you totally GOT IT and what we wanted to say. We knew when writing COPYGIRL that the story would not be for everyone, but we hoped it would resonate with our tribe of kindred spirits and inspire them to not only find their voice but stop being too insecure to use it. Much thanks for sharing your takeaway with us. Responses like yours are the reason Anna and I get out of bed in the morning and, crazy lives bedamned, do what we do. Would you mind if I read your letter aloud at my first book reading next week? And we would really appreciate if you could post the above (or similar sentiments) in an Amazon review so more people like you can discover COPYGIRL. Cheers. Michelle

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    2. My Beautiful Friends,

      I am more than happy to publish individual reviews for all sites that feature your book (I work in marketing with an emphasis in digital - Google HATES copy paste).

      I am also working on building a book-review blog, and I would love to feature your book as my first post; "Copygirl" is the perfect, 'find your power' book to feature as my first entry! I will post the link to the blog when I finish.

      Let me know if there are any other ways besides the good 'ol fashion word-of-mouth ways I can help you ladies make the gold pages of "Copygirl" a book that every girl in their teens and early adult years carry in their purse.

      Best of luck (though you really don't need it),

      Parris Wells

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    3. Dear Parris,

      We would love for COPYGIRL to find its way into the hands of every young girl out there! So far, word-of-mouth seems to be our only route to getting there, but every single review is a tremendous help. Little by little...we think we can...we think we can.

      With gratitude.
      Michelle & Anna

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