By Lindsay Harrel
When I first began writing, I did everything I could to learn how to become a successful career novelist. I wrote a few books (kind of a given!). I read countless books and articles on craft. I stalked many an agent blog to discover more about the industry. I befriended other writers. All of these things were great stepping stones on my writing journey. But one thing in particular propelled my career forward faster than anything else.
I attended a writing retreat. And then another. And another.
These specific writing retreats were put on by My Book Therapy, an organization run by award-winning novelists Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck. The retreats were limited to about twenty authors. The first (called the Storycrafters Retreat) was only 48 hours long, but it gave me the basic building blocks for creating a riveting plot – something I desperately needed. See, I’d read all kinds of books on plot building, but I’m more of a classroom learner. I was able to ask questions and get them answered right away. It was awesome.
The second retreat (called the Deep Thinkers retreat) is a week long, and I’ve attended it twice – most recently in February. It was filled with learning sessions on character building, internal plotting, scene building, and much more. We were able to take what we learned and apply it right away.
I get it – writing retreats can be super expensive. But if you have the funds, and are serious about your career, you’ll consider attending one. Here are three reasons I’ll go back as often as I can:
• Feedback. At the Deep Thinkers retreat, I had amazing mentors – published novelists who knew what they were doing! – who would look over what I wrote and give me feedback. Other than contests and critique partnerships, feedback can be a difficult thing to come by. But it’s precious and is essential for taking our writing to the next level.
• Focus. I’m busy. We all are. It was amazing to get away for a week and not have to think about anything but my writing – not my full-time job, or family responsibilities, or cooking, or cleaning, or whatever else! For the first time in awhile, I could dig in to my story and really give deep thought to my characters like I’d been wanting to do for months.
• Friendship. It’s so encouraging to be surrounded by like-minded individuals. Our non-writer friends are wonderful, but there’s something about other writers – they just “get” us!
Even if you don’t have the money to attend an amazing retreat like the ones My Book Therapy and other groups put on, consider arranging a writing retreat with your critique partners. Travel to one of your homes and brainstorm together. Or, get a local writing buddy and rent a hotel room for the weekend. Whatever you do, just find time to get away, refresh your soul, and focus on your craft. You won’t regret it.
Your Turn: Have you ever attended a writing retreat? If so, how did you benefit? If not, do you hope to do so in the future?
Lindsay Harrel has a bachelor’s in journalism and a master’s in English. Represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Agency, Lindsay was a 2013 ACFW Genesis Finalist (Contemporary Category). She works in marketing as a copywriter and has worked in the past as a business writer and curriculum editor. Lindsay lives in Arizona with her husband and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. Connect with her on her blog or via Facebook or Twitter (@LindsayHarrel).