Friday, October 17, 2014

Writing Retreat

This time last weekend, I headed up north with my critique group for two days of writing, plotting, brainstorming, and few distractions (we didn't turn the TV on once!)

If you're interested in trying out a weekend writing getaway, I'll share some insight and tips!

Photo:Stephanie Scott

We rented a bungalow a block from a lake and brought our own food. This was a pretty basic, not-at-all-fancy rental. Our main requirements were enough places to sit and spread out our work, a full kitchen, and Wifi access (you gotta!). We also did not want to drive far, so places within a 2 hour drive were on our list.

Split between four of us, this was a very affordable retreat. We did go out for Saturday dinner and walked two blocks to a local place right on the lake.

As for writing, each of us had different goals, and we determined ahead of time to write out specific goals so we weren't just sitting around chatting (though some of that happened too). In our group, two writers are under contract with deadlines, and two of us are working on drafts.

Since I recently realized my current project has some *issues* I decided to overhaul the plot completely. And I needed help. BAD.

One of my critique group members brought materials that I originally shared with her (LOL) and we went over my new plot idea to determine the story's inciting event, first turning point, mid-way turning point, third turning point, crisis/black moment, realization, and ending. Plus a bunch of character stuff.

(Some of what we used came from writer Robin Perini's website, some handouts linked here.)

So while I literally had these materials already, what I needed was hand holding someone to help  me brainstorm through these points. The collaborative aspect of writers getting together cannot be understated! We went through several variations of the plot, including a few dead-ends that forced us to go back and reconsider.

This is stuff I would have given up on if I was doing this myself, thinking I'll figure it out as I write. But I really didn't want to get stuck again with a plot that didn't have large enough stakes built in.

Tips to a Successful Writing Retreat:

  • Find out what you want out of a retreat
  • Write down your Must list
  • Make it affordable, convenient, and/or flexible for those involved
  • Set realistic, tangible goals for yourself
  • Create a basic agenda and include flexible or fun time
  • Bring games 
  • Share what you know

Have you gone on a writer's weekend away by yourself or with a group? Please share in the comments!

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