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Tuesday, May 3, 2016


It’s that time again… time for the plotting group of which I’m a part to meet. This is a wonderful event in which Geri Foster, Sylvia McDaniel, Kathy Shaw, and I participate. In addition to helping flesh out plots, the retreat gives me a burst of enthusiasm, rekindles my fire, and is a lot of fun.

When we first began meeting, we went to a hotel for our plotting retreat. This was productive. We laugh a lot, though, as we work and we stay up late and rise early. We craved privacy so we didn’t bother anyone and no one bothered us.  

View from the house we rent
for our plotting retreat --
of course we're inside working 

Now four of us go to a lovely lakeside house and sequester ourselves for several days and nights. We arrive with our plots in mind and the main characters detailed. What we work on are the turning points and the conflict that keeps the couple from achieving a happily-ever-after.  

Using a plotting board and Post-it notes, we take turns brainstorming new books. This is not a lark, by the way. Yes, adult beverages may be served, but not many. We work about sixteen hours a day or more as we take turns plotting books. By the time we leave, each of us will have several books outlined and ready to write.

Pink for heroine, blue for hero, etc.
Do we have to have a retreat to write? No, of course not. Each of us has been writing more years than we care to admit, but we believe brainstorming and mapping out our plots together creates a better book. When we get home and write each book, we may take detours on our outline/map, but we will stick to the basic plot we’ve outlined at the retreat.

Many writers are what we call “pantsers”—they write by the seat of their pants. A basic kernel of an idea is all they need to write. I have tried writing without an outline. My writing wanders around and sags in the middle unless I have a well-planned outline to follow.

Readers most likely don’t know whether the writer is a plotter or a pantser and probably don’t care. Certainly when I’m reading I only want the book to intrigue me and deliver a solid story. For us, the retreat helps us deliver the best books we can and turn them out faster than if we plotted on our own. The adult beverages probably enhance our ideas.

Writing is the best job ever!


  1. From the time I first heard you describe these retreats, I've been envious. How wonderful to have creative friends, to get away for a few days and a rental house would be the perfect place. I haven't had close writer friends in the past but do have a painter friend and always enjoy when she and I get away together for a few days with our husbands (who like to fish) as it is great to be with creative people. Your storyboard idea has inspired me in the past. I might just use it with my WIP because it's gotten so complicated that I'm running over myself. Just gotta get to town :) Thanks for sharing it as it inspires.

  2. I used to do this, but since my critique partners have all moved from the area, it's been a while. That's how I transformed from a plotter to a pantster. I usually write 2-3 chapters, and then take a break to think out what comes next. I make a what-has-to-happen list. So I guess maybe I'm a hybrid--part plotter, part pantster.

  3. I have never been able to sit down and cold outline a full book by myself. It wasn't until I started to have someone else there to bounce ideas off of that I could come up with a full plot before starting it. Not necessary, of course, but I can see how these retreats would work so well.

  4. I know you'll come back with some fantastic plots. Have a great time.


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