(I warned you that there may be no blog posts last week because I was giving myself a writing retreat, and lo and behold, there were none. Nevertheless, I’m back.)
Last January I went away to give myself a writing retreat for a few days, back when I thought 2020 was gonna be a fantastic year (*spoilers* it wasn’t). Anyway.
I decided to do that again (not 2020. I mean a writing retreat. This year I went and got myself a cottage up by the lake for a few days (cost me and arm and a leg and a vial of unicorn blood. #worthit).
It was glorious.
Don’t believe me? Here’s photographic evidence.
There was snow (SO much snow), there was a kingfisher, huge waves crashing up against the rocks. SUCH MOOD. MUCH AGNST. Wind and choppy water and seagulls fighting against the breeze. Ice and snow crunching. A gas fireplace. And nothing feels weirder than your foot going through five inches of snow and then five inches of sand.
Like I was Hemingway or something.
Anyway. Let’s get back to the writing.
I worked on Red Heart, Ice Mountain (fun fact: I came up with this novel during last year’s retreat. Everything’s coming full circle) and wrote a total of *drumroll* 27,000 words in three days.
Did my eyes fall out? Can I still spell? Surprisingly, yes.
(so with this knowledge, maybe if I just took a few days off in November I could do NaNoWriMo in five days. Hmmm.)
I’m honestly not surprised that I wrote this much, because that’s all I did for three whole freaking days. (The only others thing did was eat, walk in the snow, read a little, and do one coloring page. And binge watch Once Upon a Time.) What I am surprised about is that all I wrote in the 27k words was my main character getting into the Snow Queen’s palace and getting out.
The novel is now 109k words and going. And I’m still on track to end at around 140k. Oh boy.
(Remember when I wrote a post a while ago about how I’m an “underwriter”? Hahahahaha…..ha)
It glorious as I stated before, and I did want leave, but had to tear myself away like I was tearing a hungry racoon away from a trash can.
Here are some of my main take aways:
I love Ray Bradbury’s writing style. (ok yes yes I know this came out of nowhere. But I was reading Fahrenheit 451 on the retreat). Like the story moves fast and everything, but his prose is so….prosy?? Like read this:
“The police helicopters were rising so far away that it seemed someone had blown the grey head off a dry dandelion flower. Two dozen if them flurried, wavering, indecisive, three miles off, like butterflies puzzled by autumn, and then they were plummeting down to land, one by one, here, there, softly kneading the street where, turned back to beetles, they shrieked along the boulevards or, as suddenly, leapt back into the air, continuing their search.”Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
You see what I mean?
I think it’s the little things that get us stuck when we’re writing.
Without going around the whole merry-go-round about whether writing “fast” is important or not, it’s the little things that get us stuck in the middle of writing.
Sure, sometimes there are big things. Like plot holes, the kicker “what happens next?”, or when you have to stop and name a new character and spend 2 hours on Nameberry and Behind The Name. But a lot of times?
Over the years, I’ve noticed that even when I know exactly what is going to happen in a scene, I can still get stuck. And I get stuck on stupid things. Like:
- how to describe a character going up the steps
- trying to find the perfect wording a character would respond with
- getting stuck on describing a setting
- wondering if I’m writing too much description or too little
- how to describe a fight breaking out
- how to describe a character distributing tea
And that’s when I grab and shake myself yelling “JUST WRITE IT”
Does it matter if the start of fight scene sounds stupid? No, it’s a first draft and you’ll fix it later. Does it matter if the setting is describe perfectly? No, because once the draft is finished you’ll be able to figure out how much description you need.
It’s really hard to know how to make the details perfect when you don’t yet have the full picture.
Creating a schedule/pattern/routine is so important.
I was only at the cottage for four nights, but I immediately fell into a routine. Yes, I am definitely a creature of habit who likes to take the same barre spot at class, but that’s what made those days productive and at the same time so peaceful. I didn’t end up overworking, nor did I end up floundering in trying to decide what I want to do.
You know how toddlers needs structure? Well, we’re ( us “adults” ) basically toddlers with credit cards.
Here are a couple snippets from what I wrote that week:
“And then he realized he was still a stupid kid.”
“And then Bram saw it. A long dark shape moving through the water. It swam beneath the pack ice, ending with a finned tail, after the more than ten feet length of its body passed.
It was swimming under them.”
“Bram stood at the great, white doors. They were crusted with snow and long icicles hanging like frozen fingers above him. Strong winds blew at his back, so strong he felt like the Adratic Mountains might came crashing down on him. He swear he could hear the high drifts of snow creaking around him.”
“Bram looked back and ducked as an arrow flew over his head. Then him and Wolf scrambled to the edge and leapt.
Those few seconds plummeting through the air were fast, but still seemed far too long. Too much time to stare at the jagged ice below, the cold, choppy waters. Too much time to think about smashing his head on the ice and breaking his knees caps on the water.
Then it hit.
He hit the surface of the water. It vibrated through him as if a boulder and slammed into his chest. Then everything went dark.”
And….there you have it! I’m back home and no longer on the shore of the lake *tear tear* (though I really should shut up because I live literally ten minutes away from the lake). But to drafting, hoping to finish by March, back to querying, back to work.
Have you ever gone to/given yourself a writing retreat before? How’s your January going? Any good book read or written? Beach or mountains?