Writing Retreat 2017

Sun rising over our last morning

What a fantastic time I had this year at my annual writing retreat. Six nights, five full days of writing bliss. Although I was getting a little silly by the end of it and the strangest things were setting me off – such as continuously nodding characters and inappropriate whispering.

Working with someone with the same goals is also really helpful. My writing buddy and I work pretty well together. We can concentrate and write away, shared tools and tips to keep the writing flowing, double checked spelling and pronunciation. 

We could laugh together over silly or strange character behaviour, interrupting each other when we need to ask a question, or pour each other a glass of wine. Sharing helps, particularly when you know you can continue the work and encourage each other.

We had a tv but chose not to watch it. We had no internet and no phone service, other than a landline family could call in.

Day 1 - ready to write

I won’t go over my hours of writing minute by minute, rather I’ll give you an overview of what some dedicated time away from the distractions of life can do. Well, what it did for me and the lasting effects I hope it has.

Over those days and writing, editing and sharing, I achieved a lot:

· I worked through my next book three times. My aim was to  ensured the story works (hopefully), all the main plot points were where they were meant to be, that the climax was apprortiate, the characters where who I wanted them to be, and the right amount of questions left the reader hanging for the next book.

· I restructured the messy draft that was book 3 in the series (still messy but in the right order and a lot more work to do).

· Drafted a short story for the Raven’s Dawn launch.

· Played with some other short story ideas.

· Preped the paperback template for Raven's Dawn

· Read one and a half novellas; and one novel – not in that order.

​It was a very prodcutive time and I'm really happy with wll that I acheived. I always hope that I can continue the productivity and enthusiasm when I get home again. So far so good.

The only possible drawback from such a retreat is that it reinforced for me how much I want to write; how I could spend my days writing and editing and creating new worlds. And that such a life is still in the distance. At least for one week a year I can be the full time writer I want to be.

What I have learnt from 2016

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I have learnt far more than I was expecting to this year. Not all of it was easy to learn, but is was useful now I know. Here is a round up of what I have learnt looking back over 2016.

 

I don’t put in as much time as I think I do on my writing

I’m still tracking my time but I go through stretches where I’m really good, other times I’m not.

 

I need to look after myself

If I’m too knackered to write, don’t beat myself up but rest and regroup. Found this out the hard way when I really crashed in February this year. And working around day job and children means there will be time when there isn’t the energy to write.

 

Life happens – go with it

And that isn’t always easy. From crazy dance schedules to losing a friend, life will interrupt the writing. But then writing can help deal with life at times. There will be times when writing can’t happen and you just have to go with it. The key is to ensure you write when you can.

 

Be realistic in planning

I try to do this all the time, but this year I really didn’t allow appropriate time for several stages of a project and it threw me out completely. I have adjusted for this for 2017 and spent lots of time double checking and then allowing extra time – just in case. I just need to ensure I’m where I want to be at the end of December.

 

I am still enjoying the writing process

Sometimes it all seems too hard to rework a story or fix a plot point; but when it comes down to it I would rather be writing than doing anything else. I still enjoy the flow of words across the page (when they flow) and the stories that develop as I write. I have a developed a few more ideas this year that I’m not going to be able to do anything with yet, but they are little seeds growing into story ideas all the same.

 

Outsourcing is great

I’m not always very good at this, but I have reached outside of my comfort zone to employ cover designers and a proofreader this year. The relationships with both worked really well and will continue it into next year and other projects.

 

Changes for 2017

There aren’t many – in fact there is only one. I found as the year continued that meeting my blogging schedule in my limited writing time was becoming harder. I would like to continue to blog but not as often. So it will be more of an irregular blogging schedule and more when I have something specific to talk about.

I will continue to release a monthly newsletter and will maintain the website.

I have big plans for books next year and leading into 2018!

Stay tuned, I’ll release my plans for next year in January.

Finding Confidence

Image coutesy of Wikimedia Commons
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This post was originally published in July 2014. Over the last few days I’ve been worried about my writing life. That is, whether I can create a writing life around my day job, family and the general struggles assoicated with self publishing, like marketing and list building.

When my confidence takes a knock I avoid the computer, which only makes the problem bigger. Looking over some past posts I came across this one and thought it was worth sharing again.

Once you have the tools go out and use them..

Finding the tools you need to achieve

I have been reading a lot lately about writing, motivation, goal setting, confidence, business practice, editing, and more about writing. This focus on non-fiction is to find new tools to improve my writing practice; and in part to research what tools could work for others (that’s you dear reader). We write differently and use different processes. Although I may do some things like you do, I may do others like someone else. And what works for me may not for you and what works for someone else may be good for you and not me, or both of us…

Anyway, amongst this reading I came across website that is a supportive network to help people build resilience and confidence in working at what they love…it could be termed self-help (if that title works for you).

One post discussed people that read all the books, do all the workshops yet find that life is not getting any better and that things are not improving.

The author’s words of wisdom: Don’t just read the books, act on the book, don’t just sign up for the course or the workshop, you must do the activities and find the tools that work for you and use them.

“Well duh!” I hear you say, although one or two of you may have mumbled something like “Oh, really?”.

 “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.” Bruce Lee

Not everyone is prepared for the work that goes along with following your dreams. That to meet your goals you have to take action on them. Lists alone will not get you there and reading a book is not a quick fix.

We also need to be careful not to get so caught up in finding the tools to make it through the day that we have wasted the time we could have spent doing or changing or acting.

I know this can be a struggle, for I have struggled myself at times to take action but we won’t get anywhere without it.

“Do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda

There is only one person that can act on your goals – you.

It is up to each of us to find the tools to help us take that action. There are no quick fixes and there is no easy route. Because we are working toward something we care about then that action should also be enjoyable. Half the fun is in the journey after all.

Do you have a useful toolbox to help you take action on your goals?

To Iterate and Optimize

To Iterate and Optimize

I have recently been making an effort to review every book I read. I don’t usually share those here, but you can find some on Goodreads.

 

A couple of years ago I read Write, Publish, Repeat by Johnny B Truant and Sean Platt (you can see that review here) and I have signed up to all sorts of goodies that these boys do. And I try to read their books – because along with everything else they are great writers. Not only great writers but inspiring writers – I so want to be them when I grow up!

Iterate and Optimize is the follow up in their writing processes to Write, Publish, Repeat. And before you jump into this brilliant book read the first one. Seriously, you must read it first.

So now that you are pumped from the first one, the second is not only well written and explains how well these guys have iterated and optimized their writing; but it is also entertaining and engaging.

 

The book’s sections are:

Part 1 – Know thyself (and thine outcomes)

Part II – What we iterated and optimized, why we did it, and what we learned.

Part III – Steps you can take to start iterating and optimizing right now

Part IV – Iteration and optimization success stories

 

What kind of things they cover:

Everything you could possibly want or need to know (even if you didn’t know you needed to know before you opened this book) is covered. And covered well. Not all of these tips will work for all writers, and they tell us that. Iterate and Optimize shares what these authors have tried, what worked for them and also what didn’t and they explain why that is.

The honesty of this work shows that writing isn’t an overnight success. It is a lot of hard work, but it is possible.

The key point I got from this book is that I’m not quite ready for it. I don’t have enough books out there, so I’m going back to focusing on the producing stage (book 1). But this was full of great ideas and options for when I am ready for them. And some of them I’m trying now. And Part III has lots of tips to start making my writing better now, as I work at producing more.

They have a great group of support around them and have connected with some other great authors too. They include links to other useful books which I loved.

 

This book gave me new hope, even though it showed me that there is a lot of work involved and a lot more to come. It has helped me refocus on producing rather than trying to do it all for one book (like I talked about last week). Much of what I have read here I will revisit as I need it and the rest can ruminate for the next year or so until I’m ready.

If you want to take your writing to the next level then this is the book for you.