Plotting Madness Boot Camps

What is a Plotting Madness Boot Camp, you ask?

You come with ideas about the novel you want to write, and you leave with a completed outline!

As part of a small group of writers, you will be spending three days, six hours a day, plotting your novel and helping other writers plot theirs. Mornings will be large group brainstorming, and afternoon sessions will be plotting activities and small groups with individual help.

Instruction will be added to the mix, and we’ll be guiding this process to show you how this can be easily done. Getting feedback on your concept, characters, plot, scene ideas, and structure is THE best way to plot out a novel! Join Susanne and Catharine for these boot camps.

Want to plot out your entire novel in three days? It’s doable!

The plotting boot camp uses the methods in the book Layer Your Novel, which approaches novel structure by focusing on the key scenes that frame up your story. Once your concept is solid and you have come up with a compelling protagonist in pursuit of a goal, amid high stakes and conflict, you are ready to brainstorm those first ten scenes. Attendees give suggestions and feedback to help you make those scenes the best they can be.

From there, you’ll be working on your next layer of ten scenes, putting your outline together step by step. It’s a fun process! You’ll have plenty of time to go off by yourself and work on your project. Or team up with one or more writers to kick ideas around.

Our Tahoe and Mendocino boot camps are special because they’re held in a large private house rental. Instead of an impersonal hotel, sharing a house is a lot like a family reunion . . . without the drama. Well, the drama stays in the stories but not in the fellowship. We eat meals together, enjoy the view and hot tub and hiking trails, and we drink a lot (of coffee mostly, but we do have cocktail hour each night!).

When was the last time you had a “sleepover” with friends where you didn’t have to do chores or clean house and you could just play and have fun? Adults should be able to have sleepovers too! And that’s what our Plotting Madness retreats are all about.

This workshop is ideal for you if you’re

  • a writer with a novel-in-progress or with one or more completed novels
  • a published author wanting to rise from the midlist and/or improve your skills
  • a writer who has been writing fiction for some time and writes at an intermediate level or higher
  • a screenwriter or a playwright looking to improve your writing craft
  • an aspiring writer wanting to learn the best-kept secrets of writing fiction

All our boot camps are set in beautiful areas ideal for vacationing. Turn your trip into a “write-cation” and spend extra days in the area to enjoy and relax!

Space is limited to 15 participants. Book early to get a discounted rate!

Plotting Madness Boot Camps 2019:

Here are the Plotting Madness Boot Camps for 2019. Choose the one you want to attend by clicking on the Register button. That will take you to our events page, where you can find the specific event you want to attend.

August 4-8, 2019

Mendocino CA  ~ There are few coastlines as stunning and breathtaking as the one that sidles up to the windswept towns of Mendocino and Ft. Bragg. Walk the headland trails boasting panoramic views of the wild Pacific and breathe in the crisp ocean air. Browse the shops and play at the beach when you aren’t working hard on your novel!

Our boot camp will be held in the Sunrise Vacation Home at The Inn at Schoolhouse Creek in Little River, CA (just three miles south of Mendocino). There are only three rooms that can be reserved in the house where the boot camp will be held. Contact us ASAP for rates and policies if you’d like to grab one of those rooms (we’ll make you a wonderful breakfast too!). Or you can instead book a room at the inn or at a nearby accommodation.


September 22 – 25, 2019 

South Lake Tahoe, CA ~ One of the most beautiful vacation destinations in the West! Consider attending the Plotting Madness and/or Self-Publishing Boot Camps that will be held back-to-back with this Scene Mastery Boot Camp. This is our trademark location, where we hold our boot camp in a gorgeous private home with spacious decks, hot tub, fireplaces, and hiking trails out your door. A full gourmet breakfast is included for those staying at the house. Contact us ASAP for rates and policies if you’d like to grab one of those rooms (we’ll make you a wonderful breakfast too!).



A sampling of what you’ll learn in 3 power-packed days:

  • What the 5 major turning points are and where they’re placed in your novel
  • How to know exactly where to start your story and how to set up your premise
  • What the ten key scenes are that serve as the framework for your novel
  • What pinch points are and why you need them
  • How to craft those essential twists and where they’re placed in your story impact
  • Why your protagonist’s goal is the key to great storytelling
  • How to come up with a meaningful subplot that will showcase your story’s themes
  • How a romance novel is structured and how to plot out the romance story line
  • How to craft your protagonist’s transformational journey


Sunday 4- 6: Meet and Greet (at the house). Meet your instructors and fellow boot-campers as you enjoy snacks and drinks. Pick up your folder and get your homework assignment for Monday. Mornings we’ll be learning, critiquing, and discussing scenes (your own and those from published novels). Afternoons, we’ll be hands on, working on our scenes, critiquing in small groups, and sharing our revisions and insights learned.

Monday – Wednesday:

Coffee time 8:00 – 9:00 a.m.
Class: 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Lunch: 12:00 – 1:00 (included in price)
Class: 1:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Accommodations and Meals:

Lodging and meals are not included in the workshop price. Attendees must make their own local room reservations or book to stay at the house. Snacks and drinks will be provided. Note: Lunch is included for those attending our boot camps (breakfast is also provided for those staying at the private home we rent). We welcome spouses/partners to stay at the house too (a small extra fee is charged to cover meals). Contact us at for info on house accommodations.


Registration fee includes: three full days of writing instruction, registration materials, and all handout materials. And always: coffee!

The cost of the three-day workshop is as follows:

  • Early Bird rate: $300 (see event page for details)
  • Regular Rate: $360
  • Fees must be paid in full at the time of registration.

Cancellation Policy:

  • Full refund less a $50 processing fee if you cancel at least sixty days before the event begins.
  • Attendees who cancel within sixty days before the event will not be given any refund unless their spot is subsequently filled (full refund less $50).
  • If the workshop is full at the time you try to register, you can put your name on the wait list and we will contact you ASAP if a space becomes available.

For more information, please send us an email at

Your Instructors:

Susanne (C. S.) Lakin is a writing coach, copyeditor, award-winning blogger, and author of more than thirty books, fiction and nonfiction. Her blog, Live Write Thrive, features more than 2 million words of instruction in novel-writing craft, insights into book marketing, and tips on the writing life. Her Writer’s Toolbox series of books goes in depth into the craft of writing novels and being a productive and proficient writer. She teaches writing workshops around the US, as well as speaks and facilitates at writers’ conferences.


Catharine Bramkamp is a successful writing coach bringing her clients from idea to published book and beyond.  She has written 17 novels and 3 books on writing.  Her poetry appears in over a dozen anthologies including And The Beats Go On (she was editor as well) and the chapbook Ammonia Sunrise(Finishing Line Press). Her current book, Don’t Write Like We Talk, is based on her co-producer experience creating 200+  episodes  of the Newbie Writers Podcast. Everyone has a story, sometimes you need help with the words.