Friday, July 26

On Retreat by Jana Richards

My writing buddies
Last time I blogged about the day job and my plan to leave in a few months. This time I want to talk about happier, more upbeat things.

At the end of June I met with writing friends for a retreat. It was wonderful.

Five of us arrived in the pouring rain late in the afternoon on Thursday. After dinner I worked on a character sketch for a while in my room before crashing into bed. I’d spent a long day driving and I was exhausted. I was also worried. My concern was that with the recent unsettling events at my office I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on writing. I was also at loose ends with this work-in-progress, unsure about where it was going. The word count was longer than I wanted it to be and the pacing seemed off. I hadn’t looked at in a while and I wasn’t sure if the story was cohesive. I wasn’t sure if it was any good.

The next morning after a hearty breakfast, I decided to jump in and tackle the story head-on. I began a read-through of the WIP to see how the story read and whether the continuity held together. I was happy with the beginning of the story. I liked the characters’ dialogue and how their breezy conversation differed from their internal thoughts. Okay. Not as bad as I thought.

By noon, six more friends arrived and we had fun catching up over lunch. In the afternoon I continued my read-through. Because the word count was higher than I wanted it to be, I eliminated any words (or bunches of words) that I deemed unnecessary. I also added a few new scenes (mostly love scenes). I wasn’t slimming down the story as much as I’d hoped but the story was holding together.

Traditionally at our retreats, we get together in the evenings to drink wine, eat junk food, socialize and talk about writing, among other things. It’s always a lot of fun. On some retreats, one of us will ask for help in brainstorming a plot which is always one of my favorite things to do.

By Sunday, I’d completed my read-through of the first half of the WIP and had reached the iffy, unedited  parts. I rewrote parts, deleted parts, but it still seemed…off. 

Soon it was Monday and our retreat was scheduled to end after lunch. I had only one more morning left to tackle this unwieldy WIP. Fortunately, I had a breakthrough of sorts. I realized that I’d been so concerned (obsessed?) with the next two books in the series that I’d included a lot of information about them that really didn’t belong in this current WIP. So it got tossed and I feel, and the story feels, much lighter.

I haven’t finished this story yet but I’m well on my way. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t tell you what a relief it is.

I have to drive a long way to get to the retreats but it’s so worth it. It’s worth the drive to have time to totally devote to writing, and it’s worth it to be with friends who understand the writing life. I’m already looking forward to the next retreat!

If you have a hobby or passion (even if it isn’t writing), how far would you go to go to be with other people who share your passion? I’d love to hear about your passions!


  1. I can't tell you how much this post helped me this morning. I'm working on a synopsis for a second book in a series I'm working on, and I've been hung up on the last paragraph in it. Your words helped a lot. Thanks, Jana!

  2. Great post! I love it when the break-through happens and we get hit in the head by an obvious solution that evaded us for oh, so long.

    1. It was a huge relief to have that breakthrough and it was only possible because I had the time and space at the retreat to concentrate on it. Retreats rock!

  3. I'm glad you had the breakthrough, and I love retreats. Some are more successful than others, but they're all good for the soul.

    1. Absolutely, Liz. I'm just happy I made as much progress as I did this time.