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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How To Brainstorm An Epic Series Without Killing Your Partners

by James L. Rubart

In May of 2011, right after the Blue Ridge Christians Writers Conference, Susie Warren and I shared a flight from Asheville, NC to Atlanta. During the forty minute plane ride, we brainstormed a time travel novel.

I always thought we’d write it someday. 

It’s not going to happen. Why?

Because it grew into something far grander.

What Our Seed of an Idea Grew Into

Over the past year, Susie, her brilliant son David, and I, developed the framework for a six-part book series (which will be closer to a TV series in style) about a time traveling detective named Rembrandt Stone.

The challenge?
Mapping out an entire “season” of episodes, all with multiple timelines, characters, motivations, etc., while following the rules of time travel. Not a task easily accomplished over the phone or Skype. So two weeks back, Susie and David came to my home for three and a half days of INTENSE brainstorming.
Jim, David, Susie, with brainstorming sheets in the background!

Why It Worked (And How it can Work for You)

  • We all have high respect for each other- If you don’t have admiration and confidence in who you’re working with, you’re in trouble from the start. If you’re thinking about working with one or more co-authors, you must respect who they are and value what they can bring to the process. And vice versa. 
  • We didn’t let our egos get even near the door- Going in, we knew we would disagree. Often. We knew we had three strong personalities in the room. We knew we’d push each other, we knew we’d think the other or others were wrong at times. But from the start, all we cared about was creating the most outstanding story possible. Brainstorming is not about you, it’s about coming up with a story that will captivate. 
  • We were willing to work hard- On Tuesday we worked for 12 hours. On Wednesday we slacked off a bit and only got 11 hours in. On Thursday we hit about 12 and a half hours. (And we started on Tuesday exhausted, but that’s a story of delayed flights and a once every three years snow storm I don't have time to tell you about right now.) But none of us complained about being tired. Not once. We loved it. All of us were all in, in every moment. If you’re doing a book with a partner(s), good to know upfront if they have the same kind of work ethic you do. 
  • It Wasn’t Work- Yeah, I know I just said we worked hard, but in a very real sense, we weren’t working. We were playing, really, really hard. At dinner one of the nights, David said, “I can’t remember when I’ve had so much fun.” Exactly! Susie and I felt the same way. If you’re going to work on a book with a partner or partners, ask them a few simple questions: “How passionate are you about this project? How excited are you? Even though it will be hard, will there be a lot of play for you as well? 
In Case You Were Wondering ...

We plan on the first episode of Rembrandt Stone releasing in 2018. I promise we’ll keep you posted.

What about you? What are tips you have for working on a book with other writers?

How To Brainstorm An Epic Series Without Killing Your Partners by James L. Rubart (Click to Tweet)

It's about coming up with a story that will captivate.~ James L. Rubart (Click to Tweet)

Know upfront if they have the same kind of work ethic you do.~ James L. Rubart (Click to Tweet)

James L. Rubart is 28 years old, but lives trapped inside an older man's body. He thinks he's still young enough to water ski like a madman and dirt bike with his two grown sons, and loves to send readers on journeys they'll remember months after they finish one of his stories. He's the best-selling, Christy Book of the Year, INSPY, and RT Book Reviews award winning author of eight novels as well as a professional speaker and the co-host of the Novel Marketing podcast. During the day he runs his branding and marketing company which helps businesses, authors, and publishers make more coin of the realm. He lives with his amazing wife on a small lake in eastern Washington. More at


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