Thursday, May 10, 2018

Thoughtful About . . . My Writing Retreat, Spring 2018

Tuesday afternoon, I pulled back into my driveway after a lovely retreat with Stephanie Morrill, best friend and critique partner extraordinaire.

Arriving at our rental house, energetic and ready to go!
If you've been hanging around my blog any length of time, you'll have a good idea of what our writing retreats look like. Pretty much like this.

We do a whole lot of writing. A bit of outdoor exercise. We eat...

What? Chocolate is the most essential food group on a writing retreat!

We brainstorm. We laugh. But mostly, the hours are spent there at our laptops, where the word counts can pile up and the scenes-to-go list can keep on shrinking.

So in case you're curious, here's a day by day recap of how this year's retreat went for me. My main project was finishing up The Number of Love, the story of Margot, little sister to Lukas from A Song Unheard and the first book in my new Codebreakers Series, which will begin next summer from Bethany House.

My spot. We were so happy to see super-comfy leather furniture!
Thursday afternoon, I picked Stephanie up from the airport (it was my year to host), and we drove to a cute AirB&B house in Arnold, MD. After we got settled and chowed down on some gourmet food (or, you know...mac and cheese), we claimed our spots, plugged in our laptops (the plugs never moved) and got started. That first evening, I wrote almost 5,000 words...which it would usually take me 2-3 days to achieve.

On Friday, our first full day, we both got started early, determined to hit our usual daily goal for when on retreat: 10,000 words. We also discovered the local grocery store, explored the neighborhood a bit, and decided that the outdoor patio was our new favorite spot for meals. By the end of the day, I'd logged 11,000 words--which of course means we celebrated with ice cream.

Yes, there's a lot of ice cream on our retreats. To reward ourselves when we hit our goal. Or, if we fall short, to console us. ;-)

Saturday we kept on plugging along. We had big plans for dinner--pizza that was delivered straight to our door (not a luxury I ever get to enjoy out in the country)--and I had a major breakthrough when I realized that I could make a change to my plot that would consolidate, make the ending more active, and bring things to a much better conclusion than what I'd had planned. Woot! I realized by the end of the day on Saturday, that I would definitely be able to finish this book on Sunday. YAY!!! I reached my 10,000 words and felt like I was in a great place for the next day. So totally deserving of that ice cream.

My room decorated with books. #love
Sunday, I took no pictures. Because I had to FINISH. We did take a walk, during which Stephanie helped me brainstorm my climax scenes. We ate chicken pot pies, because for some reason, these are our quintessential retreat food. And I did it. I wrote 12,000 words, which got me to the end of the story! Ish. As soon as I went to bed, I realized I'd forgotten a conversation and knew I'd need to flesh out another. But, you know. Finishedish is a perfectly valid thing to be after a 12K-word day. ;-)

Monday I got up and made those additions, which took me an hour or two and added another 1,000 words to the manuscript. It came in at a really reasonable (for me) 113,000 words...which is always what I'm aiming for, but I often don't finish up until 120-124,000 words, so this felt really great, LOL.
Where I worked in the mornings, while drinking my coffee

It was then time to shift gears, and I'd so hoped I'd have time for this! I needed to plot out my next Guideposts book for the Secrets of Wayfarers Inn Series too, and I was praying I'd finish my other one with time enough to spare on the retreat for this. I started out with some basic brainstorming and researching and then hit upon the idea that really grabbed me while Stephanie finished up her last few scenes of her WIP too.

We decided it was time to hit the town and went out for our only meal that we ate out of the house, LOL--at Cantler's, which is a seafood institution in the Annapolis area. And to which I'd never been, because I hate seafood, LOL. But I'm happy to report that their blackened chicken bruschetta sandwich is THE best chicken sandwich I've ever eaten in my life. So. Good. We enjoyed a relaxed, leisurely lunch by the water, neither of us feeling pressed for time--not always a guarantee on the last full day.

In the afternoon, I turned our brainstorming of my Guideposts book into a rambling story synopsis, really pleased that the ideas all started coming together. We enjoyed our last ice cream celebration, did some serious laughing, and turned in.

Our last morning there, I plugged my synopsis into the requisite story development worksheet I need to turn in to my editors, got a start on the first chapter that I also have to turn in, and then we started cleaning up...and taking more pictures. ;-) After our last lunch, we checked out and headed home.

Our last lunch outside on the patio
Overall, it was a such a wonderful, blessed weekend. Stephanie and I only see each other once a year, so it's awesome to actually get to see each other face to face, laugh together, and do on-the-spot brainstorming as we work. I met all my goals and feel really pleased with how the projects came together. There's work yet to do on both, but those deadlines no longer look like fire-breathing-monsters, so we're good. ;-)

Thanks for bearing with me as I vanish and then chat about it! Stop back tomorrow for a Friday from the Archives that remembers a day before I got my first "yes" from a publisher...and how the same friends I enjoy getting away with now to meet our deadlines were the ones to help me smile through the disappointments before we got here.


  1. It was great to hear more about your writers' weekend. I'm amazed by how much you accomplished. That's wonderful! I'm looking forward to seeing you next in Gaithersbug!

  2. I love the idea of a "writing" retreat. What a blessing!

  3. It sounds like you had the perfect writers’ retreat. I’m just wondering how I’ll stand to wait until next summer for that book. I already know I’m going to love it.

  4. This sounds so wonderful! You're making me want to go on my own writer's retreat ... and it's so cool that you have a friend to do it with!

  5. So proud of you ladies! I'm glad y'all made such great progress on your books AND enjoyed amazing laughs and walks and food. Sounds like a fabulous retreat!