It’s a really popular topic on writers’ blogs lately – writing retreats. Well, let me tell you, KR Brorman, SA Young and I have been doing this for, oh, I don’t know, four(?) years. Five? Something like that.
I recently read some suggestions about how to hold a successful writers’ retreat and I said to myself, “hey, we’ve done all of these, and, yeah, they work.” Some things work better than others, naturally.
We’ve met in hometowns and shacked up at one of our homes for the duration; we’ve met in convenient cities with good flight schedules and stayed in a hotel; we’ve tried short-ish stays of three to four days – but we’ve settled on about seven days as the optimum for us so that we can make significant progress on our first collaborative manuscript.
Update! For those who have been following this, we are probably 90 percent finished with the first draft (Book 1)!!! Of course, once that’s done there’s the editing, revising, editing again, revising again, beta readers, revising, proofreading, revising. This is exhausting just to think about. If I had to guess, I’d say we’re about 50 percent down with Books 2 and 3, as well.
For us, it’s not all about the writing either. There are business decisions we’ve needed to make – hiring a professional fiction editor being one of the biggest. Hiring a professional cover designer is another. E-book only or both e-book and some print? Self-publish or indie publisher? (We have decided not to go with a traditional publisher for our planned series. Our genre is so full of entries, the chances of getting accepted are probably infinitesimal. Plus the process takes far longer and the financial benefits to the author(s) far less.)
Let’s talk about our process…
We get together at least three times a year for these retreats. Obviously, we work together – virtually – all year, but the retreats are invaluable to make the major strides forward, have the time to brainstorm, discuss (sometimes argue) about plots, subplots, characters, what’s plausible and what’s too “George-like”*.
We generally commemorate our times together with swag**…
The tiaras are key. We feel special, feminine and powerful when we’re blinged out.
When we’re at home, we usually set up a white board for agenda, notes on direction, formatting decisions and the like. We’ve story-boarded with rough outline pages stuck to the walls.
We exchange scenes, chapters and manuscript drafts by email and DropBox, which also helps us to keep everything backed up off our computers in case of a crash — like most recently happened when K’s laptop started to go bonkers during the early days of our retreat.
It involves some alcohol. And by “some” I mean vast quantities.
We find it gets our creative juices flowing, lowers our inhibitions and makes us believe that all things are possible. Sometimes, in calmer moments, we go back over the scenes we thought were so brilliant while in this state of euphoria and, well, they occasionally hit the editing room floor. But more often than not, we find that the three of us working together makes all of us better writers.
Part of our process involves inventing new cocktails. This will all become clear when you read our books. Hint.
We are learning as we go. Sometimes it gets so daunting because it just never seems to get finished, but we’ve gone so far we can’t throw in the towel now. We have binders full of women great writing. We can’t wait to share it with you.
*A novel we three enjoyed included a Simian character who stretched the boundaries of credulity to the breaking point. We use that as a go-by for when we think we might be getting a tad outlandish. We each have a flying, shrieking monkey that we fire off when it gets too silly – K’s is “Georges”, S’s is simply “George”, mine – the smallest – is “Georgito”. He sometimes sports a jaunty mustache…
**Swag – a little Easter Egg for you on Easter Weekend.