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Second Annual Winter Writers Retreat

In January 2014, my critique partner Marie and I held our first winter writers retreat with the idea that it would become a yearly tradition. And it did!

Last weekend we held our second annual winter writers retreat with double the attendance! Yes, we went from two to four! Ha!

We were happy to welcomed Peggy and Lee into our little writing getaway. Peggy, a published author, is writing a literary biography, while Lee is working on her first manuscript, a contemporary romance. Marie and I are both working on contemporary YA manuscripts.

Retreat Structure

The main aim of our sessions was structure, according to Larry Brooks’ presentation in his book Story Engineering.

Very proud of our weekend’s work.
Very proud of our weekend’s work.

We divided Saturday and Sunday into two sessions each day – one AM and one PM three-hour session. We then assigned one session to each participant.

Some advanced reading was required in preparation for the weekend. Every participant was asked to read multiple chapters of everyone else’s manuscripts.

During each session we discussed the six core competencies of the participant’s manuscript. The competencies, as explained by Brooks, are concept, character, theme, structure, scene execution and voice.

Most of the sessions were spent on structure. Every participant filled out a large newsprint paper divided into four parts: set-up, response, attack and resolution. Each part listed every potential scene in the manuscript. Using this template we brainstormed scenes focusing on character arc milestones including the first and second plot points and the first and second pinch points.

Our four outlines written in newsprint.
Our four outlines written in newsprint.

By sunset on Sunday we had completed four amazing book outlines and we were ready to begin revision work on Monday and Tuesday.

Retreat Takeaways

I LOVED our brainstorming sessions. Other, than spending the weekend at the beach, this was my favorite part of the retreat.

 

Lee’s awesome outline on a map! A+ for creativity!
Lee’s awesome outline on a map! A+ for creativity!

 

 

I walked into my session (Saturday P.M.) confused about my secondary characters’ story arc and the purpose of some scenes. When my session ended not only did I have answers to all my questions, I had pages of ideas to help me strengthened my story, plot and characters.

The collective creative energy we harnessed resulted in smooth revisions on Monday and Tuesday.

I was so proud of everything we accomplished! Until next year ladies!

 

Toasting the sunset with the ladies to celebrate the end of a fabulous day.
Toasting the sunset with the ladies to celebrate the end of a fabulous day.
Amazing beach sunset.
Amazing beach sunset.
A beautiful end to our day.
A beautiful end to our day.
We took a break to relax with a walk on the beach.
We took a break to relax with a walk on the beach.
A view from our back porch.
A view from our back porch.
The location was amazing! Right on the beach.
The location was amazing! Right on the beach.

Older posts:

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

A few highlights from our writers retreat

Mayra

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