2015 Annual Writing Retreat

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It amazes me the passage of time, that something can seem to take so long to come around and then when it does arrive it seems like only days since it was last done. That was the case with this year’s retreat. It felt like forever waiting for August to come around and then once we were loaded up and driving along the highway it was as though we were only doing the same thing last week.

We stopped along the way stocking up on supplies (mostly chocolate and wine) and lunched and shopped. We discovered some new shops and were a bit disappointed that some of the favourites we discovered last year were closed. We stopped for a walk by the river, watched the birdlife and bought an ice cream from a van by the park – a strange sight in Tassie in winter but there you go.

Within an hour of arriving we were unpacked, fire blazing, workspaces set up and away we wrote.

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I recently struggled to focus and the edit of my fantasy novel moved much slower than I hoped. Although I had my notes for Raven Crown and Iski I knew I had to focus my time on my current fantasy novel.

I soon discovered (only hours in) that a complete change of point of view was needed. I may have actually smacked my head on the table. But I went back to chapter 1, put in my edits and changed the point of view at the same time just to test if it was really needed and then saved it as something new. And it worked – which meant my week wasn’t going to go as planned.

This also meant a change of practice. I have been working through someone else’s revision plan and I was 8 chapters in with only hand written changes on a hard copy of the manuscript (and throughout a notebook).

Over the retreat I revised and restructured up to the end of Chapter 24. Putting the edits directly into the document was so much easier and quicker than writing them out and then typing them in later (thanks writing buddy!). And I could see if the changes were working straight away.

It was long days of writing, and some of them really hard. But the rewrite was essential and I have a much stronger story for it. I dropped a couple of chapters completely, rewrote some new ones and restructured quite a lot of the rest. Now I can really feel my characters walking through the pages. There is still more work to go to finish the end, then to start back at the beginning to ensure it is the best it can be. I have also introduced a range of new characters that had only previously been referred to and cut a couple out. I have noticed as I worked through that some of the earlier details I had have dropped out and I need to make sure they are put back in. Setting will be one of those things I focus on with the next read through.

I spent most of one day working on only one scene. But it was well worth the time.

We also learnt the importance of backing up, checking work and versions and the like, after my writing buddy lost 9 hours of work. Thankfully it didn’t take her quite that long to revisit what she had been doing and save her sanity in the process.

The week went far too fast. I was sure that I missed a day somewhere. I came away with only 6 chapters to go and I felt that I achieved a lot. Not what I initially planned to do. But what started as an edit ended up being a major rewrite and a change from first to third person.

The retreat as always was just what I needed. It was a chance to catch up and talk writing but also hours and hours of uninterrupted writing time. I came home feeling refreshed and energised and most importantly more confident in my writing.

Since returning I have only focused on this one project. Just to be sure I get it finished and because it has filled my creative mind so much I’m a little nervous of distracting it (and I am easily distracted after all). So there will be no drafting or planning of anything else until I have at least finished this edit. And with my time only focused on this, it won’t take very long to get there. In fact I might be close to writing that last scene as you read over this post.

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Preparation for My Writing Retreat

Last year's retreat - day one
Last year’s retreat – day one

My Annual Writing Retreat is only days away and I am buzzing with excitement. I am so ready for some time away and real focused writing time (‘cause I haven’t been working as hard as I should have been lately).

Not that it will be a holiday but we do get a break from all the things you can’t usually get away from – cooking, cleaning, children, husbands, pets and the day job.

And it isn’t that we don’t love these things (the family and pets, maybe not so much the other) but they always there and always need attention. When we are away there is nothing competing for our time. There is only writing.

I have the shopping list ready and the bottles of wine (although we drink little while writing – despite the stereotypes) and the treats. But I also have a crate slowly developing with writing materials – whiteboards, pens, notes and notebooks and scrap paper (although the white boards are great for doodling and then snapping a pic to keep track of).

I have the outline and plans for my new novella series ready to go. My plan was that the series (or at least the start of it) would be my focus this year. My editing has been much slower than I thought it would be and so I’m taking that with me too.

Having two projects to work on means that if I struggle with one I can switch to the other but at this point I have no real plan as to what to focus on first. I am desperate to start the novella series, but then I really need to get on with this edit.

This is our third retreat and previously I have focused solely on one project and that has worked really well living and breathing one story for a week. And in the six days I could finish the edit or finish the first book. It might be a wait and see.

While away we are out of phone and internet range which helps reduce the distractions but it means no contact at all. I plan to post about how the retreat went on Monday 31 August. But I may share some news of the retreat on Facebook or Twitter between our return to the world and my next blog.
Have you considered a retreat – what would you want to do and how long would you like to go for?

When do we get time to do the other stuff?

read meThere seems to be such a long list of things I want to do or would like to do. Things we are guided to do by other writers, authors and bloggers. We also read heaps about sacrifices. But between writing and editing, drafting and planning, parenting, the day job and sleeping there is still so much I’m not getting done.

It is reading newsletters and other blogs that I’m particularly missing at the moment. There are so many emails unopened with other people’s news that I’m desperate to read. Even twitter I’m only glancing at 10 min worth of tweets a day and responding to follows but I’m not spending the time to share my thoughts or what I’m doing.

So do I sacrifice some of my writing time or parenting time? Or do I cut back the newsletters and not bother to try to read all this info?

And I haven’t even mentioned the books I’ve downloaded or are stacked up beside my bed. *aagghh*

I’m also not sleeping as well as I was. Not sure if that is the new house or how full my head is when I lay it down. But I’m not reading before I sleep either. It wasn’t so long ago that it didn’t matter how tired I was I would read at least a page before sleep. I wonder if I tried it would help in other ways as well.

My whole life seems to be highly planned out right now but I’m not achieving. Even though I tend to work better when I’m busy.

Maybe it is more a matter of timing, rather than sacrificing.

That down time of an evening when I usually switch my brain off with the tv, perhaps I should be reading instead. I can scan my emails and if an article looks interesting then I can take the time to read it.

My aim for this week is to accept the work load and get on with it and switch the tv for reading to relax at the end of each day. And then I get my newsletters read as well as slowing my brain down for sleep. Unless, of course, the reading inspires me to sit up ‘til 3am writing. But that could only be a good thing.

How does your timetable look?

Looking into Marketing

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As I work through my edit of Snow I have started to think about the marketing side of publishing. This is because I have more or less decided to self-publish this one too.

The idea of selling myself is a really freaky thought. And if I’m going to self-publish that is just what I need to do so over the last few weeks I have been researching marketing for self-publishers.

 

Important or stand out things I have picked up

I need to develop a plan and there are lots of ideas out there. It does appear that most of the marketing can’t actually be done as such until the book is out, but I can plan before that happens.

Can build up expectations of the book before it comes out – so that readers are aware of it and the release date (but I am still a little way off that as my editing isn’t quite going to plan at the moment.)

Need to put myself out there – market myself not just the book and that in turn helps to sell books. Again this is the selling myself which is a concern. But it is really a matter of showing who I am – in my blog, on social media and the like.

I might need to consider using a promotional service. I am a member of a number of writing groups on Facebook and one of them also promotes books (for a cost). But if I am serious about writing it may be an avenue to consider.

 

Will this improve my confidence?

A little bit. There is a lot of help out there. There are a lot of self-publishing authors putting themselves and their writing out there and some of them are actually earning a living from it.

The main thing from all of this is that it is going to take time – time away from my writing to work on and time waiting for it to take effect and people to buy my book.

But it will be time well spent (or money if it comes to that).

 

My plan

Firstly, I am starting a monthly newsletter. It will include a range of information but not too much.

I will continue my regular blog – along the topics of my writing progress and processes and interesting information I find along the way. May aim for the blog is to help you to keep writing too.

Try to be a bit more active on social media – because I want to interact with my readers (and other writers) not just sell books.

 

Useful links

http://rachelabbottwriter.com/2012/03/19/hitting-the-amazon-1-spot-the-marketing-plan/

http://www.writersstore.com/15-do-it-yourself-tools-to-promote-your-book/

http://www.yourwriterplatform.com/promote-and-market-your-book/

a range of tips from the obvious to the obscure and everything in between.

 

In celebration of the new newsletter you can get my latest short story Searcher for free this week.