My First Writing Retreat

IMG_20170520_085649Sometimes, you just have to get away. After completing my latest manuscript and sending if off my my beta readers, I packed up and went on my first writing retreat hosted by friend and fellow writer, Hazel Manuel at her country villa outside Saumur, France.

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The basic structure of this five day six night retreat consisted of morning workshops with Hazel, afternoon work time, and evening share outs. All of this is peppered by delicious meals catered by Chez Teresa in Fontevraud and a Wednesday night wine tasting (it is France afterall) by La Giraudiere which were both fantastic.

I’m by no means experienced with writing retreats but there were a few aspects that were expertly thought out and made the week seemless.

First, there were only four writers at the retreat not including the host. That felt right. There were enough minds and voices to drive discussion, and analyze work but few enough to allow space for everyone to participate.

Second, the scheduling of the week was well balanced. It was a busy week but never felt rushed. There was plenty of time for work but also plenty of time to take in your surroundings.

Finally, the workshops were developed in a way that ensured progress for your project by the end of week. Each day tied into the next and you couldn’t help but grow your story by the end.

If this sort of retreat sounds intriguing, take a look at Hazel’s retreats page.

 

The Joy of Finishing

I did a thing.

Just under two weeks ago, I completed the manuscript for Radio, my latest novel.

That meant I got to break out the celebratory scotch, reserved for just this occasion, and share some with my wife. Woot!

Aside from an excuse to break out the good stuff and heave a massive sigh of relief, there’s a really important understanding that comes from finishing your work and I think it’s important to recognise and hold onto that feeling.

I’m talking about the the understanding that you are, indeed, a writer.

It’s insane how unwriterly I can feel while I’m in the act of writing. Imposter syndrome can be debilitating and there is no cure quite like finishing your work.

One of my favorite quotes on writing, credited most commonly to Dorothy Parker is “I hate writing, I love having written.” I relate to this way too much. Writing is hard, for a lazy guy like me, doubly so, but the satisfaction of staring that bastard of a manuscript in the face and saying, “Bam! I finished you. I beat you. I won!” That’s a good feeling.

It’s also important to remind yourself that finishing, at this point in the process, doesn’t mean perfecting. Perfection in writing doesn’t really exist anyway. It’s about having something to show for your efforts. Hundreds of pages filled with tens of thousands of words, all produced by you. That makes you a writer under any definition.  Quality is another question and that comes later. For now it’s important to sit back, have a sip, and enjoy having written.

 

Use This for That: Inspiration Boards with Scapple

 

Scapple BoardDitch the tacks, stickies, and printer. Scapple is the most renter and environment friendly pin board you’ll ever use.

A lot of people use Scapple (from the fabulous folks who brought you Scrivener) primarily as a digital note board. Though the interface can be clunky, there are myriad options for writing, linking, and organizing your thoughts.

Lately, I’ve been using Scapple for another purpose. Inspiration.

The above is the inspiration board I’ve been using for a chapter set inside the Étoile du Nord. A luxury train that ran from Paris to Amsterdam starting in the 20’s. In the center, you can see that I’ve placed one of Scapple’s famous notes filled with some important info for the scene.  That’s not what I want to focus on. It’s the pictures I use most. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Well, I’d say they’re good for at least a dozen notes as well.

Photos in Scapple can be resized and layered with ease. They to can be linked and organized using the same tools that apply to notes. One feature, however, stands above the rest in making Scapple so useful for this task, drag and drop.

I know, I know, it’s not a ground breaking technological breakthrough but the ability to drag and dump photos off the web and into a holding tank rather than saving them to the desktop or, more likely, leaving a million tabs open in Chrome, is a life changer.

By utilizing a Scapple board, I no longer have to save link after link. I no longer have to create folders full of photos. I no longer have to click between photo files to view each one individually. The Scapple board let’s me keep them all in one place which means I have all that inspiration available in just one quick glance. Less time searching, more time writing, who wouldn’t like that.