Friday, June 17, 2016

Writing Retreats

A popular post from Nov. 2011

by Annette Lyon

Last week, from Thursday afternoon through Sunday morning, I attended a writing retreat.

The group consisted of twenty writers. Under the direction and coordination of Danyelle Ferguson, we rented out a cabin in the mountains and wrote out hearts out. Imagine: a three-floor cabin virtually silent, save for the tapping of keyboards. We took breaks for meals. We had several competitions where we did 20-minute writing sprints, cranking out as many words as we could. There were door prizes, laughter, great talk, and lots and lots of words.

If memory serves, we wrote more than a combined 266,000 words. That's more than 5 NaNoWriMo books. The retreat overlapped with Precision Editing's own write-a-thon, so several attendees hunkered down to write even harder during that period.

Part of my personal success on the retreat (I ended up just shy of 26,000 words) was thanks to advance preparation.

A few things that helped:
  • A list of upcoming scenes with brief descriptions. And by "brief," I mean less than a sentence. I had 10 or so scenes planned out. That way, I could hop around and write whatever section hit my fancy (and jump to a brand new one when we started a sprint).
  • A novel in progress. I think that starting a manuscript from scratch at a retreat might be challenging. But by showing up with nearly half the book already written, I didn't have to flounder around, trying to find my characters' voices or what the major conflicts were. Instead, I hit the ground running.
  • Scrivener. This is my first attempt at writing with the software (which is now available for Windows, booyah). The program made the retreat really easy, because I could swap from one scene to the next with (literally) a click or two of the mouse. I stamped my scene cards on the program's cork board with labels like "To Do," "Partial Draft," "First Draft," "Revised Draft," and "Done."
  • Find your way to focus. Whether that's silence, music, or something else (chocolate?), use it.
  • Breaks. You can't write for twelve hours straight, several days in a row. Your (or, at least, my) brain can't handle it. Some attendees set timers for regular breaks. You'll be more productive with a few well-timed breaks than trying to plow through more words when your brain has turned to mush.
Every retreat is a bit different. Some may require attendees to take turns cooking. Others may include speakers (we had a set of speakers during lunch Friday) or workshops. And so on.

I'm not doing NaNoWriMo this year (although, for inspiration, I wore the hoodie I bought myself when I won last year), but it was a great kick-off for those doing it.

I got a ton accomplished on my WIP, and I had a great time getting there. If you ever get the chance to attend a retreat, I highly recommend it.

**Side note: Check out Larry Correia's plan for the ultimate Book Bomb at Amazon on Thursday, November 10th. Help us help Robison Wells!***


Catherine Stine said...

I love retreats and I love scrivener for outlining. I've gotten some of my best work done at a Cape Cod retreat I attend. It really helps to get away from your normal writing space and be in a writing community sometimes!

Donna K. Weaver said...

Love your suggestions! I've been hearing a lot about scrivener. I may have to look at it more closely.

And I'm all over the book bomb.

Danyelle Ferguson said...

Annette - I'm glad you enjoyed the retreat and got so much done! It was awesome to watch everyone's word counts go up, up, up.

Loved your tips for getting ready for the writers retreat. I've never used Scrivener. I'm going to check it out. Have an awesome day!