Writing Retreats — Which Type is Right for You?

Writing retreats are, hands down, awesome–so much so, I’d go as far to say they are one of the most important things you can do as a writer.

Just you, the trees, and your book
Just you, the trees, and your book

I’ve been on a number of writing retreats. In fact, the first one I went on, I organised myself by choosing a location, setting a timetable and a structured outcome process (I’m a former teacher; I can’t help it), and inviting people along. Despite an accommodation challenge, it was fantastic. Since then, I’ve come to value retreats in many varied and extended ways and I’ll be writing several posts on this topic this year. So let’s start with finding the right type of retreat for you.

( If you want to join me on retreat, I’ll be offering a tutor-led retreat on the Sunshine Coast hinterland in 2015)

The DIY retreat

This is what I did for my first retreat. It’s a bit like a school camp except that everyone there is a nerd, just like you. So you can actually revel in your artsy, geeky glory instead of feeling left out. (Or, hey, maybe that’s just me.) The DIY retreat goes something like this:

  • a bunch of writers agree to go and spend time together in a location suitable for their needs and desired outcomes
  • you might share accommodation, food, books, notes, and resources
  • you might choose to delegate everyone a job, such as presentation to the group on some aspect of the craft of writing
  • you might all like to submit a portion of writing for the group to review prior to the retreat and at the allocated time in your schedule, you have a group critique session. (Most people really dig this part so it’s worthwhile doing.)
  • you might even approach an author to come and visit you on retreat (or stay with you), pay for their time to teach you some skills and/or give you feedback on your writing.

Who is this for? Writers on a budget; aspiring writers who want to get their feet wet on retreats; those who want to hang out with other writers; writers who want to tailor their own retreat (e.g. handpick an author to come to their retreat).

IMG_3586The Solo Word Count retreat

This is the retreat you take yourself on to GET THINGS DONE. There is only one goal on this retreat: WORDS. Fantastic if you are on a deadline (either self-imposed or contractually obligated), or perhaps when you’re just bursting with a story and dying to get it down but life keeps getting in the way.

The last retreat I took was of this type and I nailed 10,000 words in two-and-a-half days. For me, that’s fabulous. And if I did three retreats a year like that, that would be a third of a first draft of a novel done in just over a week in total. Bam! Words, words, words. A novel can’t exist without words, after all.

Who is this for? Anyone feeling a timeline pressure. (Or extreme introverts who relish days on end in silence with nothing but their own thoughts.)

The Solo Planning and/or Editing retreat

This is similar to the Solo Word Count retreat, except that your goals are different. Rather than a tunnel-vision goal of moving forwards only (word count), the planning and editing phases of writing are a lot more lateral. Spiralling, even. Narrowing in, then pulling outwards again. Reading, then editing. Writing notes, then typing words. Drawing diagrams, and then throwing them away. It takes time and space to do these things well and a retreat is a great way to really get to know your novel.

Who is this for? Writers at the beginning of their project; writers working on subsequent drafts; writers on a deadline to move through the editing phase.

The Lifestyle writing retreat

This could be organised by you, a group of you, or an external party.

I’d say the focus of this type of retreat is sharing communal space with other writers to enjoy spontaneous connection and indulgence of your love and passion for writing. There’ll be plenty of time to write on your own in a nook somewhere, or sitting at the big ol’ dining table with other writers. There might be shared dinners out, time for a massage, or doing some yoga between sessions.

Who is this for? Anyone who’s feeling a bit stuck, disconnected or who has lost the passion and motivation for their project. It’s a big kick start to your creative juices.

The Research retreat

Oh, this is fun. New locations, road trips, plane trips, boat trips, train trips… you get the point. Photography. Note taking. Maps. Historical societies. Interviews with relevant subjects. On-site visits to businesses, farms or families. Collecting knick knacks, feathers, stones or food.

The goal of this retreat is to get as much hard data and/or whimsical feeling for many of elements of your project to take back home with you so you can continue to write your story with new vision.

Who is this for? Writers who are building scenes and stories about places, time, people, careers, history etc. outside of their own world view of the world. Writers who want to kick start a project. Writers who have stalled in a project and need to infuse it with new life.

The ‘it’s all done for you’ retreat

These are retreats offered by writers, editors, associations and so on. They generally pick the location, provide tutors/instructors/mentoring sessions etc. You pay a fee that covers the accommodation and the retreat program. Some will include food in the price, others leave that out. There’ll generally be workshop sessions as well as individual and/or group feedback on a selection of your writing.

Who is this for?  Anyone who’d like to spend time with the already established authors and mentors who are running the retreat. Anyone who is time poor and would rather not deal with the logistics of organising a retreat. Anyone who wants to feel safety in numbers.

*** Do any of these types of retreats sound appealing to you? ***

If you want to join me on retreat, I’ll be offering a tutor-led retreat on the Sunshine Coast hinterland in 2015, so email me at josephinemoon [at] live.com.au to let me know you’re interested.

I’m also open to visiting you on your own self-organised retreat. You can email me to chat about that too 🙂

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5 thoughts on “Writing Retreats — Which Type is Right for You?

  1. Oh your retreat sounds divine Josephine but sadly I don’t have the money to commit to it at this stage. I will keep my fingers some spots are still available once I have recovered from Christmas and the Jan/Feb/March birthday cash drains!!

  2. Hi Josephine,
    I am wanting to write a script. I know the story, though I’m having difficulty get it down on paper.
    Do you have workshop retreats that can assist with starting & formatting ideas for Act 1, 2 & 3?

    Kind Regards,

    Raechel Thomson
    0413 618 486

    1. Hi Raechel, I don’t write scripts myself but can highly recommend the Qld Writers Centre as a great place to get all your questions answered. 🙂

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