For the second year in a row, 3 of my 5 online critique partners (you can read our really adorable post of how we came together and our first year as a group here) joined me in the Adirondacks for a weekend writing retreat. For a second year in a row, we did it at the beginning of NaNoWriMo. Last year, all of us were doing NaNo. This year, only two of us were doing NaNo. But it was still a really awesome productive writing weekend.
And I want you to have an awesome writing weekend too, even if it’s just with a friend, or by yourself!
SO WHAT? YOU JUST SIT AROUND AND WRITE ALL WEEKEND?
Pretty much! We get about 48 hours together, from midday Saturday to midday Monday, and we like to make the most of that.
Last year, I wrote 36,000 words from when I got up there on Friday night to when we left on Monday. I finished NaNo in 6 days. I wouldn’t have done it without that weekend. This year, I finished my first pass of edits on SECOND POSITION (formerly known as Serenade).
BUT DON’T YOU GUYS TALK AND STUFF?
Yes. We also do that! We only see each other two or three times a year, so this is also our catch up time. But we also try to get work done. Two of the four of us are very quiet writers. Two of us are not (
I’m not saying who but I’m definitely one of them what?). Whenever we chatterboxes were too chatty, one of the quieter writers would set a timer. It worked pretty well, much like a Twitter word sprint.
We also talked over dinner and while keeping the Cooks company during meal preparation. Two of us got up earlier than other two and two of us tended to stay up later. It all evens out.
WHERE DID YOU GO?
Look, I’d love to say that I’m not addicted to my phone and I can totally just turn it off for a weekend and work without the internet. But I can’t. Even if I don’t open the Twitter app, because I have a Google phone, Hangouts is part of my SMS app and I can’t turn it off (though if you have a fix for this PLEASE TELL ME).
We went up to my family’s house in the Adirondacks. No cell reception. No television. No internet. There’s only one radio channel that we can reach at the house. It’s nice because the house fits all of us comfortable and has three work areas: kitchen table, dining room table, and the living room. People can spread out if necessary or depending on how and where they liked to work.
CAN I COME NEXT YEAR?
DO YOU ALL BOUNCE IDEAS OFF EACH OTHER?
Yes! We problem-solve together even better in person than we do over email and we’re always doing it over email, DMs, tweets, etc. I talked to them about my edit letter and my concerns over how to fix some of the things in the book, and they helped me. We walked one of the others through how to set up the Catalyst Event in her book. We encourage, cajol, bribe and threaten each other too. Out of love. Always out of love.
I WANT TO DO A WRITING RETREAT BUT I CAN’T GO AWAY AND I DON’T HAVE A CABIN AND ALSO I DON’T KNOW WRITERS IN REAL LIFE.
YOU CAN STILL WRITING RETREAT LIKE A BADASS. First, may I recommend a cafe without the internet? You can still find those places! They’re often indie coffee stores. You can also just turn off the internet on your computer if you can, or just take a notebook so you don’t have to risk the temptation. You tell people ahead of time that you will be offline. You put up a vacation responder on your email. You turn off your cellphone if you can.
This is the important part: you set goals.
If you’re writing with a group, be honest with your critique partners about what your goals are. They can help hold you accountable. They can also shut up if they know you are way behind. CPs are awesome like that.
If you are writing alone, write your goals down. Writing your goals down makes them more real, more attainable, and more work-like. Research actually proves this!
Then take those goals, and break them down into something manageable. Susan Dennard did this recently with NaNo. Okay, you need to write 1667 words a day? Great, that’s fifteen 111 word bites and she put them on a calendar so you can check them off right there! (You can find that on her forums here. You have to register but her forums are chock full of amazing writerly goodness so I highly recommend.)
You can do the same thing. For me, I was working on an edit letter. I’ve learned from other writers who have kindly shared their advice a couple of Edit Letter Tackling Strategies. I went through the edit letter, highlighted JUST the directives after I read it a few times, and I blacked everything else out. Then I went through the MS and tackled things easiest to hardest.
I had two computer crashes where I lost *everything* both times despite saving and backing up frequently. And I still didn’t lose my mind because I felt like I had a game plan at my fingertips.
Last year, I wrote that many words because I was working off a really detailed outline and never felt like I slowed down. Next scene was already preplanned and I just got to steamroll ahead.
OKAY BUT I CAN GO AWAY WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO KNOW
Meal plan ahead of time. Split up groceries. Bring surge protector strips so many people can plug in at once. Bring a notebook in case you want to work by hand or your computer crashes. Bring a flash drive or external hard drive. Bring wine. If you’re legal to drink. If you’re not, hot chocolate.
Or, if you’re like me, and you’re legal to drink but just like hot chocolate, bring a bucket. You’ll go through a lot.
LET ME KNOW IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT WRITING RETREATS, LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS!