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DIY: Writing Retreat

At the beginning of this year my critique group and I attended a local SCBWI conference. Collectively we had attended dozens of writing conferences and they were mostly excellent, but we all started to realize that we had heard it all before, and we wanted something different. We wanted to get away.

With so many conference choices and events with sage writerly advice there comes a time in an author’s life when she just needs to get away and practice writing and critiquing and having fun with other writers.

So, here is my advice for a DIY writer’s getaway from what I learned from a retreat that my critique group took this year! My group consists of four writers of YA and MG novels.

1) Start small: a weekend or 2 weekday nights is long enough. You will be spending all day and night with the group and you want to get to know people and feel comfortable. Go with people you like and are compatible with.

2) Get away: leave town, look for someplace that everyone can drive to but still provides the necessary time away from family and work obligations. We decided to rent a house in a small scenic town in West Virginia. We used the web site: www.VRBO.com to find a rental house that we all liked and could afford. We were able to check the house out ahead of time and pick the place that suited all of us. Plus, it was near a small town where we could find very important things like coffee houses, affordable yet nice restaurants, and a town to walk around and stretch our legs. We each brought some food and drinks to defray costs.

3) Plan writing activities. Each member was responsible for coming up with one writing activity. We also brought writing books from home that helped us individually that we wanted to share with the group.

4) Plan critique time and hand out work in advance with questions. We each distributed a couple of chapters of WIPs that we needed advice on about a week prior to the meeting, giving us all time to read and familiarize ourselves with each other’s work and give feedback. Face time is so important in a critique group and is hard to come by since most of our critiquing is done on-line. So the time to sit and talk about our projects was so valuable. We could ask and answer questions directly and work through problems and get immediate responses and advice.

5) Have fun! Plan some fun activities that you all like to do. Luckily, my critique group has similar tastes in TV shows and one member brought some Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural DVDs so we could all pile on the bed and get our paranormal fix. But I also suggest bringing games, crafts, cards, or your hiking shoes to do some fun non-writing activities together.

6) Plan not to plan! Not every minute needs be scheduled. Have some alone time! Spend some free time reading or going for a walk or just relaxing with your own thoughts.

7) Do it again!

My critique group and I learned a lot. The DIY Retreat was fun and constructive and a great getaway spent with like-minded writers with a simple goal to focus on writing, critiquing, and talking about the books we love. Some things we will probably change and some things we will do the same, but all in all it was a fun and new writing experience. Try it with your critique buddies.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 27th, 2010 10:36 pm (UTC)
Great post, Laura, and omigosh, I want to plan one of these RIGHT NOW!!!
Sep. 30th, 2010 01:52 pm (UTC)
This is great. Hmmm, now I just have to figure out how to let the family give me a weekend...

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )