Monday 23 May 2022

 A Virtual Writing Retreat

Back from a wonderful holiday in Madeira for the flower festival, I was very much in need of a boost to get back to novel four after not having written anything for a few weeks. Back in February, our Cariad Chapter held its first virtual writing retreat, led by our lovely Jessie Cahalin. We all agreed it was a huge success with members achieving what they'd planned to do. From a personal point of view, I felt I gained not just from the words written but in my state of mind regarding writing in general. I felt enthused again after some time in the doldrums and feeling a bit rubbish! When I knew we were going to spend another day with Jessie, I wondered if it would have the same motivating effect on me as the first one.

I'd spent the previous day mapping out some scenes in my character, Claudia's, viewpoint so that I would be ready to start writing straight away. Because the novel is another dual timeline and there are two stories, it's important for me to plan in some detail. That doesn't mean that things don't change and characters act and think in a way I wasn't expecting but for me the planning is important. I also decided to take on a Nano 'don't get it right, get it written' approach. It does mean more editing for me later but it helps me get fully immersed in the story. Each time I came across something that would need researching, I would insert a comment with notes of what was needed so that I didn't veer away from the writing. So, did it work out? How was the day for me?

On the morning of May 17th, we met together with Jessie via Zoom at 9am. and shared our plans for the day. I had no idea how many words I would write but as long as I moved the story on, I would be happy. Referring to my planned scenes proved invaluable. We met again at 12 noon to report progress before a lunch break and I was pleased to find I had written over 1300 words. By the close of the retreat at 5pm, my novel stood at 23,409 words after starting at 20,018. Not a huge amount for some writers but I was pleased I had stayed focused - no procrastination - and best of all, I'd enjoyed getting back in my characters' company again. A spin-off to the success of the day was that I continued writing each day afterwards. The WiP now has a working title, 'A Tale of Two Sisters'. I know that will probably change but having a title seems to make the manuscript more real as opposed to just calling it 'novel four'.

I reflected back on the day and asked myself why do retreat days work so well for me.? Here are some of my thoughts:

  • I've stated my plans for the day in front of my fellow writers
  • by setting aside uninterrupted time, I have no excuse to get distracted especially by social media
  • I write without researching or editing
  • knowing that others are writing at the same time and reporting back to each other at certain times is motivating
  • if I hit a character or plot problem, I'm able to discuss it with others in the group

I'm much more positive about the new novel now. It will need a lot of work, of course, but isn't that what writing a novel is all about? Since I last talked about the novel, I have booked a research trip with my daughter to Sicily. We are flying into Catania which we will use as a base for visiting places of interest in Taormina and Syracusa. By then, I hope to have researched where and what we want to see as it is only a five-day trip. I hope that when and if  'A Tale of Two Sisters' is published early next year, readers will be able to walk in the footsteps of 
the characters, taste the food and drink and experience the climate.

Thank you for reading. What do you think are the benefits of a virtual writing retreat? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thank you.

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