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My very happy beginning to a new year: a writers retreat!

On Tuesday I will be embarking on my first writers retreat and I am very excited!!! Yes, triple exclamation mark.

I have attended many meditation retreats in the past but never a retreat where I set out to write for a week in a place other than my house.

The idea came when my writing critique partner, Marie, and I talked about doing something to mark a great start to 2014. We decided to head for the mountains for a few days with the only goal to begin writing a new book.

By the end of 2013 I had finished by first novel (YA fantasy) and had started querying my manuscript. Marie signed with an agent and had spent the last few months of the year revising her manuscript. She is now in the process of finding a publisher.

When we talked about what to do in these otherwise dull winter months where agents seem to disappear, we both agreed we needed to start a new project. Even if it was just to save us from the mental anguish of not having a manuscript to get lost in.

Thanks to a wonderful friend we secured a house in the north Georgia mountains. A quiet, secluded space in the woods perfect to concentrate on our stories, develop our ideas and critique each other’s work.

My Retreat Goals

To make the most out of my retreat I’m setting three main goals. Here is my list:

1) To write a minimum of 3,000 words a day. On a normal writing session I average 600 words an hour, so I am counting on having a solid 5 hours of daily writing during my retreat.

2) To read A LOT. I will admit, I went a little crazy ordering books on Amazon. I realize I won’t have to read all of them in a week, but here is what I’m taking with me: On Writing: A Memoir on the Craft by Stephen King, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, Emeral Green (Ruby Read Trilogy) by Kerstin Gier and Paper Towns by John Green.

3) To enjoy myself. This includes setting aside time for meditation practice, yoga practice, going on walks in the woods, and eating lots of yummy food.

Retreat Preparations 

As part of my preparations for the retreat I worked on an outline for the book I would be writing.

I went back and forth between writing the sequel to my first book, which is meant to be a trilogy and starting a different project altogether.

I ended up outlining both projects to get an idea in which direction I wanted to go. It was a difficult decision because I fell in love with the characters of the new project, a contemporary YA love story. And while contemplating the outline of the sequel to my existing manuscript, a fantasy YA adventure, I was afraid of what would happen if the first book sold or not.

Finally I decided I couldn’t let fear drive my decision. I began writing a few scenes for the sequel just to test drive the ideas and see how they were strong enough to carry me through a first draft. While doing this I fell in love all over again with my characters and their journey. I was surprised at how easy it was to fall back into the story and get completely lost in their world for hours. After 4,500 words it was clear that I would be working on the sequel.

The outlining process came easy thanks to Marie’s outlining template, which is based on the principles of Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. It is an easy way to look at the whole story in one page and develop the pacing of the plot.

You can download template here: Story Structure Template

More on how the retreat went later.

How did you start your writer’s year?

Mayra

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