Monday, March 5, 2012

Take a Mini Writing Retreat

 This was my spot for most of Saturday....

I packed up my laptop and supplies and ran away from home to the library on Saturday. I reserved one of their study rooms, spread my papers, books and notebooks all over the table and got to work.  

It was lovely. And I'm hugely grateful for my sweet husband who completely supports me and even goes so far as to encourage this crazy dream of mine.

I do have a confession though. In the 8 hours I was there....I didn't get one lick of writing done.

Are you shocked? So, what was I doing in all that time?

No, I wasn't playing Angry Birds. 

No, I wasn't twittering....well, just one or two. 

No, I wasn't observing the possibly homeless people taking naps. Ok. I was doing that a's so sad. I wish I could help them. And I wonder where they go after the library closes...

I was trying to teach myself how to plot the kind of novel I want to write, the kind of novel I want to read. For ages I've felt like my story is just a whole bunch of random threads. There isn't enough to hold them together. There doesn't seem to be enough purpose. Enough tension. There just isn't enough...of something.  

But I haven't been able to fix it, to see how to take all those threads and turn it into a beautiful piece of fabric (I know. Totally cliche....there should be some sappy music inserted here. And maybe some birds soaring into the sky. Oh, and the fabric should sorta flap in the wind, in slow motion. Mmmmm, so inspiring.) 

Now, it's not like I have it all figured out, but I'm much much closer. I examined books I love. I diagrammed one fantasy middle grade chapter by chapter, noting where the subplots came in to play and such. I looked at endings and how authors foreshadowed them. I read articles about plots. I learned loads. 

And I thought. And thought. And thought. And jotted down loads of notes and outlines(, I guess I kind of wrote). Then I crossed out outlines and went back and thought and thought and thought. 

I took a break and grabbed a Mile-High Panini from Great Harvest, which was Super Yum....

And then I got busy again. Very busy. I could have stayed there for, at least, two more hours. But I missed my babies and they were hungry. I grabbed pizza for dinner and rushed home. 

And do you know what one of the best things about running away to write all day is? 

Returning home to happy smiling faces and little people who missed me and are so excited to have me back. It's nice to feel missed.
Yep. I like to rock mismatched socks whenever I get the chance.

So, now it's your turn (if you don't do this already). You don't need to wait for a conference or writing retreat to get away and write. 

5 Steps To Your Very Own Mini Writing Retreat

#1: Find a day when you can escape. If you have young ones, recruit the help of your spouse, parents or friends to watch them. And don't feel guilty for taking a little time for yourself. I wouldn't want to run away from my family every week, but every month or so it's very very nice.

#2: Find a spot to make yours for a day.  Does your library have study rooms? Then use 'em! Or is there somewhere else you can get away? Even it's for just a few hours. Although, I think a whole day to yourself is heaven. Especially if you, like me, have some tough issues you need to gnaw on. Maybe you find a shady spot at the park when the weather is good. Maybe you simply hole up in your bedroom, lock the door and squish ear plugs in your ears. Yep. I've gone that route, too.

#3: Make a plan. What do you hope to accomplish? Maybe you want to pound out a certain number of words. Or write x number of chapters. Or you're going to revise a scene until you finally get it right! But deciding ahead of time what you want to do can really help you to stay focused.

#4: Pack some snacks and a lunch. Usually I bring my own lunch in and then I don't have to break away from my work. But...this time I just really wanted one of those sandwiches. 

#5: Enjoy your time focusing on your writing! Don't let yourself get distracted by the internet. Just write. 

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  1. love this post! i camp out in coffee shops most weekend days, but i've never thought of making it feel like a retreat :)

  2. Sounds awesome! My critique group just had a weekend writing retreat at a cabin nearby. It was fantastic. All you could hear was click clack of various keyboards!

    1. Julie, that sounds lovely!(I'm a bit jealous :)

    2. As am I. (Jealous that is.) I'm fortunate to have the space (and to a lesser degree, the time) to "make a day of it" as often as I wish. A local, flesh and blood in your face critique group is a precious resource. Use it and treasure it, Julie! Nice post, Erin!

  3. That's awesome! I'm glad you got a break and got some work done. I love the quote at the end of your post.

    1. Thanks Kendra! You're the always leave such sweet comments. I really appreciate it!

  4. It must have been in the air! My critique buddies and I had a mini retreat of sorts this weekend. We didn't really write. We just talked craft and books and encouraged each other to keep on keeping on. It was a rare treat for me to get a weekend! I'll definitely have to try a "Day-treat" like yours - fabu idea! :)

  5. That panini looks so good. Oh my heck. I want one. I also want a writing retreat. Thank you for the idea.

  6. Good for you for getting away! And you might not have got any "writing" done, but that's not all authors do. I'm sure the thread you're looking for while show up one day--most likely when you least expect it. And then you'll finish your novel, send it in, have it published, and soon hear me knocking on your door for an autograph in my copy.

  7. sounds like fun and like you actually got a lot of planning and preparing to write done which is important.

  8. New follower here! :) I picked up your post from Ink Pageant.

    This is a great post! I love the fact you're plotting your book. I did that with my first book and had a ball of a time! I'm writing my second book by the seat of my pants! So I can truly talk from experience when I say, "I love plotting."

    BTW, you didn't sneak in not even one level of Angry Birds? Shh...I won't tell! :D