Writing Retreats!

Why do we go on writing retreats? Well, I guess everyone has a different idea, but I go to crank out a bunch of words. Some people are able to be creative in fifteen or thirty minute stretches, then off to something else, then come back to the computer. Some people only get to write during their lunch hour or after the kids go to bed. Or they get up at 5 a.m. and write for an hour or two before leaving for work.


Glen Rose, TX

I’m lucky, I don’t have those time constraints. But stuff happens, you know. The clothes need to be moved from the washer to the dryer. The dishes need to be put in the dishwasher. Then it needs to be emptied. Emails and Facebook cry out for my attention. Occasionally, DH needs my help with errands: groceries, Walgreens, the cleaners, the wine store. Occasionally, a daughter needs assistance with our grands. And then I go to the gym twice a week and Pilates once. That’s a lot of stuff to eat into my writing time.

And I’m easily distracted. Charley, the dog, barks like crazy at something outside. I have to go see what that something is.

.img_3935 He looks calm here, but he’s contemplating taking out after the birds.

I am most productive in the setting of a writers’ retreat. I’m away from my regular distractions, mentioned above. I don’t go on line to look at emails or read FB or Twitter.

Even when I go with others, the agreement is we won’t chat when someone is working. Our interactions are over breakfast and dinner. It’s good to have someone to bounce ideas off of and to commiserate with each other about how hard this work is. LOL Lunch is usually on our own.

In recent years, I’ve cranked out 12,000, 15,000, 17,500 and 5000 words at writing retreats. That’s over a Friday evening through Sunday noon.  Why is the last number so low? Because I combined the writing retreat with a church women’s retreat. Still a good time away. See post on my blog. https://authormarsharwest.wordpress.com/2017/02/23/a-time-away/

Some things I think are necessary to make a writing retreat successful are:

  1. A place away—doesn’t have to be far, but best if you have a fridge & coffee & microwave in your room. (I live on a beautiful lake, but all that stuff mentioned above interrupts my writing at home.)
  2. A commitment from others involved to focus on writing
  3. Have a plan—have you  begun the story so you’ve already done whatever pre-writing you do? (this is necessary for a plotser like me, but may not be for a true pantser.)
  4. Laptop—make sure you’ve saved the most current WIP either on the laptop or on a hard drive.
  5. Have any extra materials you might need—print outs of pictures of characters, and character sketches, story outline (again unless you’re a total pantser).img_4901
  6. Snacks, iced tea (this is just me. I have a special blend I prefer. :), wine), a heating pad you can warm up in the above microwave. (needed for use on shoulders after long hours of typing. 🙂 )
  7. Family members taken care of at home, so you don’t have to worry about them.

PB080112.JPG Deer Creek Resort East Texas. Not close, but beautiful. Writers brainstorming.

Drive somewhere relatively close, so you don’t waste time getting there. I live in Fort Worth, Texas and have made several trips to Irving and stayed at the Jefferson Inn B & B, about an hour drive. Other writers from my NTRWA chapter have come and the number varied from about 12 to 5. Some people share a room, I usually have my own. We get there on Friday afternoon between 4 & 5 pm. Get settled in, and write for a bit before going to supper. We come home from supper and write until whenever.

The next morning, we eat breakfast and go our separate ways for the day. Sometimes folks will meet for lunch. I don’t. I’ve bring something I eat in my room. I might take a walk around part of the block after lunch then right back in the chair with fingers on the keys.

We meet for supper someplace close, again to keep travel time down. There’s a Mexican food restaurant and café nearby. Good quick, inexpensive food. Then back to the keyboards.

Sunday is a repeat except we pack up and leave after 1 pm.

Look at my numbers above. I can really crank out the words in this setting. So, if I’m shooting for a book of 70 to 80 thousand words, I get just under ¼ of the book written.

Of course, we can’t (or I can’t) take off 4 times a year on a writing retreat, which if I pushed the word count to 18 K would give me a book of 72 K and more once I added in emotions and description and internal thoughts.

fullsizerender42 My view from the computer. So, my plan is to pick one weekend a month and skip all the social media and just write. Oh, I’ll still have Charley woofing at whatever, like he’s doing right now. 🙂 Because my hubby is so supportive, I can skip the dishes and clothes that weekend or trips to Costco. It’s a plan. I’ll let you know how the reality is. 🙂

Have you been on a writing retreat? Where did you go? Was it productive for you?

I focus on getting words done, but you can also use it to brainstorm ideas if folksare agreeable.  Love to hear from you.

Please contact me at marsha@marsharwest.com , sign up for my newsletter http://eepurl.com/bBcimz , and follow me on my social media sites.


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10 Comments Add yours

  1. Hi Marsha, I’ve never been on a writing retreat but have often considered one. I like the idea of a weekend retreat in a nearby B&B. Easy to plan and not too disruptive. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. marsharwest says:

      Hey, Joanne.My writing chapter started sponsoring them 6 or 7 years ago. Sometimes we had a speaker, but always had time to write and then those morphed into a total writing retreat. Where everything was focused on getting those words down or brainstorming with others. I was more successful with the word count than the brainstorming. I found folks didn’t get enough of the story to help fix the issues. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and sharing. I hope you can finds a writing retreat in your near future.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. LD Masterson says:

    I’ve done one full weekend retreat and it was wonderful but too far away. I need to find something closer. My local writing group does occasional “write-ins” where we meet for an evening and everyone just writes. No distractions allowed. It’s amazing what a difference that can make.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. marsharwest says:

      Hey, LD. Yes I think being close is important. Even for the write in gathering. If you spend an hour getting there and an hour back, well that’s two lost hours. My writing group covers a huge area. But we should look at trying to set up on a regional basis. That’s a good idea. And it’s just such a rush to see all those words pouring out. Thanks for stopping by and sharing. 🙂


  3. vicki says:

    Hi, Marsha! I work everyday. I’ve not done a writing retreat, rather spend a Saturday helping friends plot every now and then. Plus have the great comradery. I usually take weekends off and hang with Handsome, then come back Monday ready to work. Love the pictures. Very serene

    Liked by 3 people

    1. marsharwest says:

      Hey, Vicki. I know most writers write every day. I just can’t always make that happen with the rest of life going on. So the getting away really helps. However, I’m coming up on the end of the current WIP and aside from the 5000 words done on the recent retreat, it’s all been done at home. I have found I write faster here at the lake than I did in our other house. Not sure why. You also have the concern about Handsome and probably tough to get away for an overnight. I don’t really have anyone to brainstorm plot with. I’ve got one more book in the series then will be looking for that kind of help. Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Boy, could I use one of those right now. I almost got into a house in the Rockies in a National Park. Problem is, no internet access. That was kind of a problem 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. marsharwest says:

      Hey, McKenna (Such a great name) If you don’t need to do research on line and you’re just cranking out the words or brainstorming, you don’t need internet. As it is, I spend way too much time on FB and my blog and our SOS blog. Thanks for stopping by. You must have glorious scenery up there.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post! I haven’t been on a writing retreat either, but can see where it could be very productive. I just returned from my monthly local critique group meeting and can tell you chatting with other like-minded ladies about the writing process is both inspirational and educational. I learn something new every time I go. A writing retreat is probably a lot like that, too bad we all live so far apart. It would be fun to go on one with all the Sisterhood!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. marsharwest says:

      Hey, Jacquie. A retreat with the Sisterhood would be AWESOME! Some of you do live closer together, though so maybe you could work something out. As to you chapter-mates, yes getting together to meet an greet and and share war stories is fun and inspirational. I remember going during the years I wasn’t published. I was so impressed with the published author’s willingness to share, so I try to do that now. We all stand on the shoulders of those who’ve gone before. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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