The Mini Writing Retreat–and finding a writing schedule that works

Earlier this month I attended my first writer’s retreat. I got a ton of writing done and got to spend some time chatting with writerly friends who understand what it’s like to have entire worlds in your head and characters chattering away at all hours (especially, for some reason, in the middle of the night when you’re trying to fall asleep).

So last weekend I decided to attempt an at-home writing retreat. I holed up in my office with a cup of coffee or tea, depending on the hour, and wrote a short story, “The Faerie Key,” from beginning to end.

Now, it’s rough. The plot needs to be fleshed out, the romance factor needs to be upped, and the characters need a little more depth—you know, normal first draft stuff.

But I’ve decided to start indie publishing this year, and that means there might be many of these weekend writing retreats in my future. I don’t know if I’ll ever be the type of writer who can write eight hours a day, five days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. But after the semester is over, I’d like to get into the habit of writing four hours a day, five days a week, and spending a few hours a day on research, reading craft books, marketing/promotion, journaling/creative exercises, and all the other housekeeping stuff that fills a writer’s day.

I’ve been reading a lot about writing process, from this article on Nora Roberts’s process  (according to one estimate, she averages a book every seven weeks—wow!) and Dean Wesley Smith’s series on Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing. Both Roberts and Smith are very, very prolific authors, and I feel like I can learn a lot from them. And that’s what I’m aiming to do—take my writing to the next level, continue to learn and grow and refine my process.

Right now, I’m trying to survive the semester and get some writing done. But after the semester is over, after I’ve submitted my final grades, I’m going to start on my new schedule. Six to seven hours a day, four of writing, two or three of research/platform building/networking/studying craft/random writing stuff.

What about you? Have you ever attended a writer’s retreat? What does your ideal writing day look like?

ROW80 check-in*

Writing: Wrote 7,607 words in a short story, “The Faerie Key,” a sister story to “The Beltane Kiss” (formerly “Into the Faerie Forest”). Wrote a rough synopsis for “The Faerie Key,” and blurbs for both stories. I also sent “The Beltane Kiss” to a professional editor and got really wonderful feedback that’s going to make that story so much stronger. I learned that what I most need to work on is upping the romance factor, so the next draft is going to be all about giving the romantic tension some zing.

Reading: Honestly, I haven’t been reading as much as usual. Read “Keeper of the Keys,” a short story by Kodilynn Calhoun. Continuing to read A Stroke of Magic by Tracy Madison.

*Note: I’ve switched to a once-a-week check-in for the time being. After the semester ends, I plan to step it back up to twice weekly, the standard Sunday and Wednesday check-in. Thus, the progress listed actually reflects the previous week’s progress.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer of fellow participants.

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12 thoughts on “The Mini Writing Retreat–and finding a writing schedule that works

    • I know. Just thinking about it makes me panic. But I still hope to speed up my writing process–maybe a story (some novel-length, some short stories, etc.) every few months? I doubt I’ll ever reach a book every seven weeks, but her speed is definitely inspiring.

  1. I’ve never been to a writing retreat. I think it would be fabulous if I could find one in my neck of the woods.

    As far as an ideal writing schedule, I would prefer in the evening, just as everyone is asleep.

    • This was my first. One of my critique partners organized it, and it was worth every penny. Some of them can be super-expensive, but if you are a member of a local writers group/circle/critique group, maybe you could put together a retreat that was reasonably priced. That’s how we ended up doing this one.

      I enjoy working at night. The only problem is that I either forget to go to bed, or I get so energized from writing that I can’t sleep. And I’m already an insomniac. So, still working on the ideal writing time. It’s a process.

  2. I love writer retreats / workshops and have attended many. I love he energy of being with a group of writers for a weekend or more! That’s the reason I founded the Villa Diodati workshop for expat writers here in Europe. 🙂

    Congrats on your progress! Sounds like you are on a great path.

  3. I love the thought of a mini writing retreat. Excellent idea Denise. You don’t even have to leave your home. Congratulations on your short story. I can see lots of retreats like this in your future. It feels so good to be productive, doesn’t it? And it isn’t necessary to tie yourself into a chair for endless hours. Of course, that is unless the muse keeps you there. You know your stride and what works for you. Best wishes on self-pubbing. I think you’ll be very successful! 🙂

    • Thanks, Karen. Next week is spring break, so I’m hoping to use the time off from teaching to edit another short story. It has a lot of potential, but I think with this draft I really need to dig deep, so that’s my plan! Yes, some breaks for stretching, yoga, a long walk in nature, etc. can be really helpful. Late last year I moved to a new place, and we have these great walking trails behind our house. I’m planning to do some exploring as the weather improves, maybe take my journal with me and sit outside and write for a while.

      Thanks, Karen! 🙂

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