It’s that time of year again! The time that I and my best friend/crit partner head out of our towns (1,000 miles apart), meet up at a cute little AirBnB somewhere or another, and do nothing but WRITE for a long weekend! That’s write, it’s Writing Retreat time!
What is a writing retreat?
I’ve shared about quite a few of our retreats over the years, but if you’re new to my world, you may be asking, “What in the world are you talking about? What’s a writing retreat?”
A writing retreat will look different depending on the people. Some people host large groups for a retreat, where there are dedicated times for fellowship, brainstorming, and writing. Sometimes writers will also set up a reader-interaction event to piggyback on their writing time. Others will spend some hours writing but also schedule time for reading, watching movies, or other creative endeavors.
But when Stephanie and I say “Writing Retreat,” what we mean is a long weekend in which we do NOTHING but write. We have no music, no television. When one of us has to take or make a phone call, we go outside so as not to disturb the other. We do brainstorm some, yes, and take daily walks. We chat over meals and at the end of each day. But the main goal of our retreat is to focus on the thing that is often so hard to get done in our everyday lives, with kids and families and community responsibilities all vying for our time: WRITING.
How long do you write a day on a writing retreat?
The beautiful thing about having a retreat with one other good friend who works mostly the same way you do, is that you can do your own thing and also complement each other’s scheduled. I tend to rise a bit earlier than Stephanie, which gives me time to do my Bible reading, clear out my email inbox, and then get my brain in gear. In general, I start my writing day at about 6:30 a.m. when I’m on retreat. We don’t usually wrap up our day until about 9 p.m. So my total writing time is 14-15 hours a day!
Now, that does include breaks for meals and at least one walk or jog a day, so don’t think we’re total couch potatoes! We find that those scheduled breaks, including one really good physical activity, gives our brains time to reset, work out any knots in our plot, and also gives us a chance to update each other on how everything’s going in our fictional worlds and brainstorm.
How much do you write on a retreat?
Our goal on a writing retreat is to hit 10,000 words a day.
To put that in perspective, my usual goal for a normal workday is 2,000 words. Most of my books are between 100-120,000 words. So if I have a 5-day retreat and hit or exceed my daily word count goal, that means I get just about half a book done in that one stretch of time!
Many days I can squeak out 11-12K in a day while on retreat. Other days I’m barely pulling myself over that 10K line at 10 p.m., when my brain is tired and ready for SLEEP.
What are your goals for this retreat?
This year, I’m in a slightly different place than usual. I’m usually working on a book already or have one plotted out to get started on retreat. This year, I just finished book 1 in a series and got the notes on it, but I haven’t yet fully worked out my plot for book 2. So while I like to start my retreat with a chapter-by-chapter outline in hand so I can just sit down and start pounding out words, this year I will be spending the first day or so of the retreat working first on a sample chapter for a project, and then outlining my next Imposters book so I can begin writing it. I hope to still have 3 good days to dedicate to book 2 in the Imposters series, A Noble Scheme. I don’t usually like to play it by ear so much, but it’s been a crazy summer, man, and I’ve been playing catch-up since July! I’ve decided to make use of this dedicated time by giving myself grace to use it as I need, not hold myself to decade-old expectations that no one but me requires of me. Still, my hope is to get that sample chapter done, my outline written, and then get about 30,000 words into my new book, which will get me to about 30% finished. If I manage more than that, I won’t complain! But if I come in a little short, that’s okay too. I really hope this weekend proves to be one of refreshing and inspiration above all.
How many writing retreats have you done?
Wait, did I just say decade-old? Gracious, that’s about right! My first writing retreat with Stephanie was when I was writing Circle of Spies, which came out in 2014, so I would have been writing it in 2013. Nine years! We’ve gotten together all but one of those years when Stephanie had a newborn, so very nearly a decade, yes! I’ve also done one retreat with a group of friends in North Carolina, and several “at-home retreats” where I either go to my parents’ house while they’re out of town (just during the days) or to our office or just my own desk, but with the caveat that no other work is to be done but writing.
I’m sure I’ll check on in social media during the retreat itself, posting updates on how much I’m getting done. If you’d like to follow along and cheer me on, keep an eye out on Facebook and Instagram!