Why Retreat When You Can Write Full Time?

Last week, I drove two hours north to the Pennsylvania woods, where I rented a cabin with Maria V. Snyder for a week-long writing retreat.

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I suspect some of you are wondering why I’d do something crazy like that.  I mean, I have the luxury (and the responsibility) of writing full time.  Why spend a total of four hours in the car to go to a place where I need to carry in bedding and pots and pans and food, all to write, just like I write at home?  (For reference, I’ve written an article about writing retreats — how to set them up and why do do them — here.)

Short answer:  It’s not just like at home.

For one thing, I’ve driven two hours to get there, and I’ll drive two hours to get home, so there’s a time cost to going there.  Far more importantly, there’s a family cost to going there — I’ve left behind my husband and our cats, upsetting human and feline schedules alike.  I’ve turned my world and the world of those I love upside down.

So I damn well better be productive while I’m there.

In an ordinary week, when I’m writing at full speed, I produce 15,000 words of solid first draft.  Those words aren’t perfect, and there will likely be fairly substantial revisions in specific language, but the plot is set and the general sequence of events and the backbone of the writing.

In the four full days of the retreat (Monday through Thursday, plus a few hours on Sunday after I arrived), I drafted almost 30,000 words.  That’s one third of the new Jane Madison novel, JOY OF WITCHCRAFT.  Those words are more likely to survive editing than my usual words because they were written quickly, in close proximity to each other.  (I find that I do my best writing fast.)

In addition to drafting all those words, I also built a Scrivener file that contains all the Jane novels in one large project.  That file makes my writing vastly more efficient — I can search one file to see if I’ve used a name before, or to track down the characteristics of a crystal or an herb,  or to recall the name of a spell.  It took  me a few hours to do the work (see, Sunday evening), but the labor will benefit me for all the Jane novels to come.

Usually, I alternate writing time with breaks — taking long walks in the woods, heading down to the lake, etc.  On this retreat, alas, it rained *buckets* on Monday.  And then on Tuesday, the temperature didn’t get above 25.  (I took a short walk, but I headed back when the wind nearly blew my frozen ear lobes off my head.)  On Wednesday and Thursday, the words were flowing and the temps were still glacial, so I kept my head down and wrote, wrote, wrote.  On Friday, before we left, I did take one relatively long walk, but it was mostly a chance to say goodbye to the site.

Maria, I’ve discovered, is a great retreat-mate.  We keep very different hours.  I wake up relatively early, write a chunk in the morning, break for lunch, write a chunk in the afternoon, break for dinner, write a chunk in the evening, then go to bed around 11:00.  She wakes up much later (around my lunch time) and she works must later (till 3 or 4 in the morning.)  Therefore, we both have “alone time,” the same way that we have “together time.”  It works out well.

I have two other retreats already scheduled in the new year — mini-retreats that last a weekend and take place at the homes of writer-friends.  I’m looking forward to them, to the socializing, to the discussing business, to the short intense bursts of writing.

But I’m also already planning my next retreat in the woods.  Because I’ll have another third of a book to get drafted.  I always do.  :-)

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Not Dead Yet

Not dead.  Not carried off by the camelback crickets that insist on taking refuge on the ground level of our home (and some of them are HUGE this year!) Not king yet.

But, um, where did the past ten days go?

Let’s see…

We had houseguests visiting from Canada — the charming Julie Czerneda (in the midst of her book launch tour for A PLAY OF SHADOW) and her husband, Roger.  They arrived with flavored coffees (blueberry! maple!) in hand and a ***gorgeous*** matted photograph of a unicorn ice sculpture, taken by Roger himself.  We enjoyed long conversations about writing, books, publishing, politics, music, travel, and I don’t know what else.

Julie and Roger were in town for the World Fantasy Convention, which took place in a hotel just a couple of miles from our house.  I didn’t attend the con as a member (I’ve been publishing too little fantasy!), but I did hang out in the hotel lobby and bar for two days, visiting with friends and catching up with folks I haven’t seen in far too long.  I also had a chance to meet some Book View Cafe members for the first time in person — I’d love to have a chance to visit each of our co-op members, because communicating face-to-face adds so much more to our online chats!

With Julie and Roger in tow, we went to hear Suzanne Vega play at a small venue in DC.  Stranger to music that I am, I only knew a couple of her songs, but I loved her performance.  Stevie Wonder was playing a huge arena show just a couple of blocks away, and I think we *totally* made the right choice for the evening :-)

I’ve begun outlining my next book, JOY OF WITCHCRAFT, which will be the fifth Jane Madison book.  I’m having a wonderful time getting back into Jane’s world.  Poor librarian-witch! Nothing goes easily for her!

We went to an amazing Smithsonian lecture on Istanbul, taught by Nigel McGilchrist.  Alas, I knew very little about Istanbul prior to the talk, but I learned a great deal of history (and some information about art and food and geology and, and, and, and…)  One of the great things about Nigel’s lectures is his ability to fold together so many different disciplines as he speaks.  His slides illustrate his points beautifully, and he speaks without notes, making everything feel very real and immediate.  And now, alas, I have more travel destinations to add to my list :-)

And I’ve been preparing for a writing retreat next week.  I’ll be stealing away with Maria V. Snyder.  We’re heading off to a state park, where we’ll rent a cabin (just as the first major blast of arctic air is set to hit the region!)  I intend to get about a third of a novel written while I’m there — and to have great conversations about writing, publishing, etc.  (Maria and I keep somewhat different schedules — I wake up early and go to bed before midnight; she wakes up after noon and works until the wee hours of the morning.  That gives us both some “alone time” to get a lot of work done and some “social time” to talk.  A great arrangement!)  I’m generally very productive on retreats — I have to justify taking the time away from Mark and the cats!

So, that’s the past.  And I’ll be scarce for the next week.  But after that, I hope to be back in the usual swing of things!

What about you?  How’s the autumn treating you?  Tell me something wonderful about November!

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Can’t Blog. Brain is Full.

Well, I’m back!  (Did you notice I was gone?  Please say you noticed I was gone!)

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I just spent five days in St. Petersburg, Florida, attending the 2014 Novelists, Inc. conference.  I knew I was in for something good when I looked at the program and there was at least one panel that interested me in every single time slot (sometimes two or three!)  And I suspected I’d enjoy the conference when I saw the resort hotel, with its white sand beaches.  And I was pretty sure I’d enjoy at least the *meals* when I saw the elaborate menus for every conference meal.

But I hadn’t counted on how much I would learn. And how many ideas I’d have, sitting and listening to others. And how many new projects would start to tempt me, as I traded thoughts with other professional writers.

I’ve been to lots of conventions — tons of World Fantasy, lots of Worldcon, a healthy handful of RWA Nationals.  But this is the first conference I’ve ever been to that ran like the librarian and lawyer conferences I used to attend — career furtherance, from keynote address to final thoughts.

It’s also the first convention where I live-tweeted some of the sessions.  Yes.  Me.  @MindyKlasky. #Ninc14.

Pardon me, now. I’ll be over in the corner, revamping my massive to do list.  Don’t laugh.  That’s what I’m calling that massive scroll of a document!  To do.  Sometime before I die :-)

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So, This Happened

It’s been a crazy week or so. I completed edits on ALWAYS RIGHT (the last volume of the Diamond Brides Series), only a couple of days later than I planned back in February. I drove up to Baltimore and participated on two panels at the Baltimore Book Festival with the Maryland Romance Writers. I attended the Crafty Bastards craft show and bought more yarn than any human being should buy (also enjoying a great lunch with a close friend I never have enough time to see.) I enjoyed lunch with my cousin, catching up on all sorts of family stories.

And, oh yeah.  I BECAME A USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR!!!

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Ahem.  I hit the list with PLAYING FOR PASSION, the limited time collection of twelve sports-themed romances that includes PERFECT PITCH (the first volume of the Diamond Brides Series.)

I am over-the-moon thrilled with this recognition.  PLAYING FOR PASSION is a great set, and eight of us authors had never been on any national bestselling list in the past.  You can buy the collection until October 14.  After that, it disappears forever!  (Amazon | Apple | B&N | Kobo)

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Twelve Books for Less Than a Buck!

One of the amazing things about the so-called ebook revolution is how readers have access to more amazing books for less money than they ever have before.  Case in point:  PLAYING FOR PASSION.

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This limited edition collection (available for only one month!) gives you ***twelve*** sports-themed romances by New York Times Bestselling authors, USA Today bestselling authors, and some of the leaders in the sports romance field — including, um, me.  For $0.99, you can read books that range from sensual to erotic, following characters who play baseball, football, soccer, or hockey.  PERFECT PITCH, the first volume of the Diamond Brides series, is included in the set.

Come on.  It’s less than a buck.  At that price you can buy a copy for yourself and four friends and still not spend more than you would on that extra-large pumpkin spice latte.  And PLAYING FOR PASSION will keep you warm a whole lot longer than that cup of coffee!

Buy the book!  Spread the word!  And revel in the power of ebooks!

 

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A Call to Retreat

I just spent the weekend at a writers retreat, and it was sheer, unadulterated heaven.

Once upon a time, I used to sandwich writing time in between all the other aspects of my professional life.  I woke up at 4:30 in the morning to write before going into the law office.  I sat at ergonomically torturous hotel desks late at night after long days on the road as a librarian.  I hoarded my vacation time, and I used those “free” days to write, write, write.

Now, writing is my day job.  I write all day every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (and I do career support activities all day Tuesday and Thursday.)  So why would I ever bother to go on a writing retreat now?

Part of it is the socializing, of course — the chance to chat with “co-workers” about the trials and tribulations of our “office”.  (And, yeah, to chat about movies and books and families and all those other things you gossip about with co-workers.)

An even larger part of it is the chance to learn more about my job.  This weekend, I picked up some formatting tips from one colleague.  I learned about new online tools to help with newsletters.  I heard about some great how-to-write guides that sound like they might help with some specific problems I’m working on.  In short, there were lots of ideas being tossed around, all weekend long, and a lot of them were pertinent to my work.

But the largest part of why I go on writing retreats is because they make me productive.  Yes, I have large chunks of uninterrupted writing time at home.  But when I go on retreat, there’s a certain level of friendly competition — everyone else is working, so I’d best keep my butt in my chair and my hands on my keyboard so that I can be as productive as they are.  Also, I need to make the time away from my husband and our home (and our very needy cats) worthwhile — I need to accomplish a *lot* to justify (to myself — my husband is always very supportive) the time away.

This weekend, I accomplished three major tasks.  One of them would typically have taken me an entire work day to do.  One of them would typically have taken me two to three days to do.  And one of them would have taken at least three days, maybe more, because it was boring and full of fiddly bits that I most likely would have procrastinated about for far too long.

So, yeah.  Retreats are still worthwhile.  And now my to-do list is so long that my eyes are bugging out of my head.  Small price to pay!

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