Friday, January 21, 2011

My writing retreat

I’ve just returned from two weeks at a writing retreat and all is right with the world J

Well, maybe that’s taking things a bit too far but I’m coming to the conclusion that there’s few better ways to start a year than taking a couple of weeks to focus on the word, to the exclusion of everything else.

I’m a member of a group called FWOR (Fantasy Writers on Retreat, pronounced PHWOAR!) which has been going for four years now. I missed the first retreat but I’ve been the past three years. These people have often been my life-line, my connection to sanity – particularly during the hectic days when I sold the trilogy to HarperCollins. It was great to know some professional writers well enough that I could scream and rant and jump up and down and they’d just look at me and say sagely – “Get used to it, Nicole.”

There are several things I love about my two weeks with FWOR each January.

  • Talking writing. I know for most folks, the idea of going away somewhere and then talking shop for two weeks sounds like hell, but for us writers it’s heaven. We’re so often at our computers, all alone, wrestling with problems with no help but the occasional plaintive appeal to Twitter (and thank goodness for Twitter, I say!). But at the retreat, you can sit down at lunch, or dinner, and say ‘having issues working out how to get character a to place z’ or ‘not sure my structure is working’ and you’ve got folks to talk it out with. Bliss.
  • Sharing war stories. When you get a rejection, there’s nothing like being able to swear and curse and rant and have people nod and tell you that you’re a genius and the editor wouldn’t know a good story if it up and bit them on the bum. Well, actually, we don’t say that – but you get sympathy and advice and that’s almost as good.
  • Freedom of expectations. When you’re surrounded by people as obsessed as you are, no one turns a hair if you suddenly up from the table and go for a walk, or have to take a nap and let the mind wander. Whereas if you’re at home, the moment you leave the computer there’s a little voice at the back of your mind going “Now would be the perfect time to put that load of washing on” or “Don’t you think you should at least say hello to your family this week?” It’s nice to not have responsibilities for a while and imagine life when you’re as rich as Stephanie Meyer and can afford people to do everything for you (except spend time with your family – that tends to be one of those you can only do it yourself things).
  • Productivity. Mine isn’t too bad – I’m averaging 15,000 words a week, which gives me a completed novel draft in seven weeks – pretty good. Except on the latest retreat, I averaged 32,000 words a week. Interestingly, I’ve not written a single word in the three days since I got back …

I’m going to leave you with some pics of some of the things we saw and did on the retreat. One of the writers, Russell Kirkpatrick, is a geographer by training and he takes us on these fabulous trips of the countryside. Every writer should have their own personal geographer J

The ugly big trout at the town near where we stayed - oh, admit it you'd grab a photo too :)

Kalaga Falls - I've never been this close to a waterfall before and it was a wonderful experience.

Kanangra Walls - typical scenery around the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. My country.

We had deer on the property - got to feed them every morning. A couple were pregnant and we hoped for babies while there but unfortunately no

Jenolan Caves - considered the oldest in the world and among the most beautiful. We in Australia give good cave.


Bella said...

I love the big ugly trout, I actually think he's cute!

Helen Lowe said...

Sounds like a great retreat, Nicole: I'm envious!

Sharon S. said...

Not only would I have taken a pic of the big fish. I would have pretended to of caught it . I took a pic with someone dressed up in a Dunkin Donut costume yesterday. I would love to see those caverns! We have a few here in the NC mountains and it is an amazing feeling. glad you had a good time. I hope to get to a con one day so I can mingle with others who share my obsession.

Merrie Destefano said...

That sounds like an awesome writer's retreat! It's exactly the sort of thing I would love. Thanks for telling us about it!

Sharon said...

What a lovely sounding retreat, great for the soul. Loved the pictures. The trout made me smile :)!

Brenda Hyde said...

I used to visit my Aunt and Uncle in Northern Michigan when I was in college and their town had a giant trout also! I always thought it was cool. LOL

I've never been to any type of writers retreat or conference. I hope to one day because it sounds pretty neat. said...

To me, there is no place on earth more inspiring than the Blue Mountains. Love the pics

GB said...

We love large, and largely weird, tourist traps here. I've personally not ever seen the Big Trout but I have seen the Big Banana in Coffs, and I have refused to go into the Big Merino (the entrance isn't somewhere I'd ever like to see up close on a real sheep) in Goulburn.

nymfaux said...

OMG--so jealous!!!--that sounds AMAZING!!!--also... um, WOW on the word count!!!! WOW.