7 Tips for Planning a Writers Brainstorming Retreat

by Beth K. Vogt @bethvogt

Two weeks before Christmas may sound like the craziest time to run away and brainstorm with your best writing buddies – but, hey, if the plan comes together, go for it, right?

And that’s exactly why I found myself sitting in author Rachel Hauck’s living room with author Susie May Warren – my “writing forces to be reckoned with.” We had three days off from Christmas shopping and all the other holidaze To Do’s to brainstorm our next books. Our time was so successful we plan to have an annual December brainstorming retreat.

Here are seven tips for planning a brainstorming retreat with other writers:

  1. Choose a location that works for everyone. It might be about location, location, location – but don’t forget to select somewhere that is distraction-free. If your home is centrally located for everyone and free of interruptions, then it might work. If not, then a hotel or retreat center might be best. 
  2. Limit your group size. I have a variety of wonderful writing buddies that I love to spend time with. All of them are creative and would have brought insights to a brainstorming group. But to get the most work accomplished in the short amount of time we had, we limited our group to just the three of us. Three days. Three people. Three projects.
  3. Know what you want to accomplish. Before we arrived at Rachel’s house, we already knew our individual goals. Doing this keeps you on task, instead of being distracted by rabbit trails. EXAMPLE: A.) My major goal was developing a hook for the women’s fiction series I’m beginning to write – and to review book one’s synopsis. B.) Susie wanted to firm out the subplot of a book due early in 2017. C.) Rachel needed to plot out a slip-time book she’d be starting in the new year. 
  4. Set up a schedule. We roughed out what our meals would be and even a daily schedule. That way, we knew each of us got so much time each day and no one’s story got overlooked. In reality, we adjusted the schedule because Susie and I needed less time than Rachel did. As we learned: Plotting out a lineage from the 1700s to the 21st century takes a lot of time! 
  5. Adapt. Susie showed up to the brainstorming retreat with a bad virus. It happens. So we dealt with it and Rachel and I went grocery shopping while she took a nap one day. I’ll also say that Rachel’s husband was great about adapting to having Susie and I in the house! 
  6. Be open to any and all ideas. When we were tossing ideas around – for the hook for my series, for Susie’s subplot, for Rachel’s timeline – we kept an “anything goes” mindset. At one point Susie brought up an idea for my hook and I wasn’t sure where to go with it, but we left it out on the table. A couple of weeks later, I was talking about my series with my son Josh, who is also a novelist. He brought up the same idea, confirming this was the way to go. When I pitched the hook to my editor, she loved it.
  7. Take time to have fun. Yes, we were there to work on our stories. To accomplish goals. But we also had fun with each other. We’re writers facing deadlines, but we’re also friends. We went to a fun burger place, enjoying the ride in Rachel’s red Mustang with the top down. We exercised. We shopped – just a little bit – and even enjoyed early Christmas gifts from each other. 

I’d love to hear your tips for brainstorming with other writers.

Beth K. Vogt is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an Air Force family physician (now in solo practice) who said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. Now Beth believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” As a contemporary romance novelist, Beth is a 2016 Christy Award winner and 2016 Carol Award winner for her novel Crazy Little Thing Called Love.  She was also a 2015 RITA® Finalist for her novel Somebody Like You, which was one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2014. In 2015, Beth introduced her destination wedding series with both an e-novella, Can’t Buy Me Love, and a novel, Crazy Little Thing Called Love. She continued the series in 2016 with the e-novella You Can’t Hurry Love (May) and the novel Almost Like Being in Love (June). Her novella A November Bride was part of the Year of Wedding Series by Zondervan. Beth enjoys writing contemporary romance because she believes there’s more to happily-ever-after than the fairy tales tell us. Find out more about her books at bethvogt.com. An established magazine writer and former editor of Connections, the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Beth is also part of the leadership team for My Book Therapy, the writing community founded by best-selling author Susan May Warren. She lives in Colorado with her husband Rob, who has adjusted to discussing the lives of imaginary people, and their youngest daughter, Christa, who loves to play volleyball and enjoys writing her own stories.