Last month I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit with my writing friends Andrea Grigg (pictured, right) and Catherine Hudson (pictured, center) for a week long writing retreat.
The retreat was timed to coincide with Andrea’s birthday celebrations on the weekend. We stayed in Andrea’s home on the gorgeous Gold Coast in sunny Queensland. Despite a few frosty mornings that reminded me of home (yes, the temps do drop to low single digits Celsius in Queensland) it was lovely to travel north and escape the cold Canberra weather.
During Andrea’s birthday celebrations, we visited Q1 Skypoint Observation Deck in Surfers Paradise and enjoyed the stunning views of the long stretch of golden sand. The photo above is the view north toward Southport and Brisbane. The photo below is the view south toward Coolangatta and Byron Bay in New South Wales.
We each had a goal to work toward for our writing retreat. I had started a Christmas-themed novella that had evolved into a story that was too large for novella length. My plan was to dig deeper into the characters and back story and revise my outline to accommodate a longer book. For example, my original Chapter Two will become Chapter Four or Five. My new story plot is more complex than my original novella idea. This book will be the first book in a three book series and has the potential to spin off into two new series.
We spent many hours brainstorming each other’s stories. We’d work alone and get together to brainstorm, either in pairs or in a group. We built flexibility into our schedule and ate a healthy, mostly no-sugar diet on our work days.
Brainstorming in person works well for us because we often interrupt each other. We will have multiple ideas on the go, flying in different directions, and the ‘what if…?’ question is asked a lot. Online video calls just don’t have that immediate, real-time functionality for group conversations that you have when you’re all in a room together.
We used a whiteboard and different colors to create our story structure and map out the main turning points in our stories. The photo below, with the details blurred, is an example from one of our books-in-progress. My handwriting on whiteboards is a bit ordinary, but it’s readable and provides the big picture overview. This is an important part of my process. I use index cards to create the scene cards that fit within my story outline.
It wasn’t all work, and we allocated leisure time in our schedule. Andrea’s birthday was fun and her birthday celebrations included a lovely high tea with her family and friends in a beautiful garden setting.
We also attended a local theatre production of a play called ‘Writer’s Block’. The play was about an author who talked and interacted in real life with her romance characters who were invisible to other people. We were ‘that group’ of women who laughed out loud a lot more than everyone else. We understood many of the jokes and the additional story layers because we’re writers. A fun night out and a good reward for our hard work on our books.
Today, on top of your comments giving you entries in our Back to School Bash that’s ending soon, I’m giving away a $10 Amazon US Gift card to a reader who leaves a comment on this post.
Have you attended a retreat or spent time away with friends or colleagues for writing or a hobby/business venture? Have you visited Australia or Gold Coast? Or watched a play or movie depicting the crazy writing life of authors? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.