You might wonder what on earth would four writers do for four days together.
Do they actually write? Or do they have a gabfest, long walks, fabulous meals and the occasional glass of wine?
In my limited but excellent experience, all of those things are part of a writing retreat. When Kirby Larson invited us to be a part of her writing world, Barbara O'Connor and I flew in from the East Coast. Susan Hill Long met us at the airport. And off we went to our own cocoon where we worked very hard.
At some previously scheduled point in our writing days, we gathered and talked about our manuscripts. We were at different places in our writing. Kirby and Barbara had a ton of books under their author belts. Sue had quite a few herself as well as experience working in publishing. True confessions, I suspect I had the most to learn. And I soaked in every single word of advice.
On our first retreat, we sent chapters around in advance for critiquing. So Sue put her sharp editor's pen to work. I can't speak for the others, but in my case, I suspect she had to work hard. Many red marks= super suggestions.
Susan Hill Long, finally, perfectly made me understand what a scene is.
And how important it is to write in scenes. Okay, I knew that part already. And instinctively, I think many writers do. We probably see our stories in scenes, even if we don't realize it.
But making it happen is hard work!
Here are her words, verbatim, from her helpful Advice from a True Friend. Thanks, Sue!
This is important: in a scene, something happens.
we need to set up a quick bridge to get from one thing that happens,
one event, to another. And sometimes we need to make time pass. For one
reason or another, sometimes the story calls for summary in order to
keep moving forward.
But when we want the reader to notice, to slow down
and experience the event with the character, we write a scene.
Sandra Scofield's excellent and highly recommended resource THE SCENE
BOOK: A Primer for the Fiction Writer, I learned that each scene
should have a sort of pivot that I can put my finger on, a point where
something changes. The story moves forward, or the reader's
understanding of the character deepens, or the plot twists. Especially
once I have a down-and-dirty draft in hand, I can look at each scene and
ask, How does this scene matter to my story?
There must have been magic in that ocean air.
Four books appeared this year.
We organized a Second Annual Writing Retreat.
And now we're excited to be a part of NCTE in Atlanta in November, where we'll be on a panel together and talk about how this could work in your world.
(To read advice from Kirby and Barbara, click back through my previous #TrueFriends blogpost.)