Great Minds Think... Differently

Yesterday, I met a friend with whom I'll be working on a brand new two-book writing project. We're both very busy right now, but I carved out some time, after a brief chat with her about general parameters, and typed out several pages detailing the backstory, characters, and a plot idea I had. I was feeling confident about my start.

But as we brainstormed, she started popping off ideas about what would work and what wouldn't and then suggesting alternatives. She supercharged the conversation with her own rapid-fire thoughts, based on many, many books' worth of experience with the publisher and editor involved, and the years she spent living in the city where the story will take place.

And much of what I had written changed, one of us riffing off the other's thoughts, both of us coming up with central ideas and characters for our respective, interconnected stories, and in the end synthesizing something richer than either of us could have done alone.

It happened not because we think alike, but because we think so differently. When I prepare to write a story, I get a whole lot of disjointed visuals. Mood, atmosphere, and setting. Snippets of plot events I have to carefully stitch together without really understanding the why or how. My friend works differently, thinking aloud and hammering out a coherent road map far more quickly.

Is one way right and the other wrong? Of course not. Do I feel compromised by having to alter my original vision to fit with someone else's? Heck, no. For one thing, I've been writing long enough to learn to shove my ego out of the way and listen when an agent, editor, or writer I respect gives constructive criticism. I've learned that my best books aren't written, but rewritten, and that sometimes, seeking input early and making minor course corrections can save heaps of work or even a rejection later on.

Our words aren't etched, inviolate, in marble. Those who rail about their artistic integrity and refuse to properly consider advice don't generally get contracts, or when they do, don't last long in the business. Of course, there are times to pick one's battles, times to defend the core vision at all costs. But there are many, many more times when a mind that thinks differently than your own offers the perspective you will need.


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