Friday, March 9, 2012

Writer's Retreat - A Luxury You Can't Afford to Miss

Writing is a solitary profession.  As much as I'd like to be a NYT bestseller and quit my day job, there are things I enjoy about it.  First of all, the health insurance and four weeks of paid vacation!  But also, I like the daily contact with people.  Chatting as people trickle in about the dresses at the Oscars, or how stupid drivers get with a dribble of rain.  When I get a cold, having people check every day to see if I feel better perks me up a bit.  And if I have a problem, I have a building full of people to whom I can vent.

Writers - not so much.  We have strong and vibrant online communities, but don't often get the chance to congregate.  My critique group meets once a month, and we desperately cram as much information sharing, venting, plotting and craft and marketing questions as we can into the first hour, and then critique each other's work for the next three hours.  The time flies by far too fast!

So last weekend we went on a retreat.  Rented a beautiful beach house (thank you, bargain off-season rates!) and hunkered down for two nights/3 days.  It was different than a conference - no workshops, no lectures, no schmoozing editors and agents.  Instead, it was an intensive look at our writing, our questions, our issues.  We talked through GMC on Friday night.  Sure, we all know what it is.  But this was the chance for individuals to pick apart their WIPs with us and figure out where they needed more, if it was sustainable for the whole book, etc. 

Among the 9 of us who attended, we have a range of multi-pubbed authors, writers right on the cusp of selling, and writers bravely forging ahead to finish that first manuscript.  EVERYBODY had great suggestions.  Keep in mind that you don't need a contract to have viable ideas.  All you need is an imagination, and we've got plenty of those.  If you're thinking about a retreat and worrying that without a quorum of published authors it won't be worthwhile, well, don't.  Brainstorming is about putting brains together.  Credentials are shiny and fun, but not necessary.  We've found that as long as you are committed to writing, take it seriously, take classes, read craft books, BICHOK, then you bring something eminently worthwhile to the table.  Okay, I'll get down from my soapbox now.

Saturday morning we dove into plotting (yes, that is completley different from GMC).  In the afternoon we brainstormed on branding.  In between all of these structured activities, we talked.  We talked about editors, agents, publishing houses, contracts, conventions, swag, you name it.  We're all friends - we know about each other's children, spouses, jobs, etc.  Somehow, we never got around to any of that.  This was our chance to completely submerge ourselves into writing, and did we ever.  The sharing we indulged in was just as necesary and important as all the time we spent actually brainstorming.  So yes, taking the entire weekend away was a luxury, but the impact it will have on our writing made it almost compulsory.  Take the time, carve it out, and whether there are two or twenty of you, go on your own writing retreat.  You'll be so glad you did.


  1. I "second" everything you said, Christi! It was fantastic! I think every critique group should try to do this.


  2. Congratulations,Critters! You rock!



  3. Such a great time! We are so lucky to have each other. I came back energized and now I'm plowing ahead with lots of changes in my WIP. :)