Like many beginning writers, you probably don’t know what to imagine when you hear the words “best writing retreat.” Is it a bunch of writers typing away on laptops? Is it a leisurely trip of discussion and instruction? Or, is it isolation from the outside world so you can finish your novel?
Part of your confusion may stem from the many kinds of writing retreats. Some are hyper focused on craft. Some offer lots of solo-writing time. Others take a looser, more spiritual approach, aiming to unlock creative thinking. Some unfold like a class, with heavy guidance from instructors. Others balance of all these elements. Figuring out how to choose the right writing retreat can be overwhelming.
No matter its style, any worthwhile retreat should help you progress in your novel writing. Below are three standard offerings you should find in an effective writer’s retreat.
3 things to expect from a good writing retreat:
1. A true getaway
All writers know a hard truth: It’s difficult to escape everyday life and work on your book. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a private writing area, errands, your housemates or even your pets always sap your time and energy.
Cue the writing retreat. A great retreat should provide a sanctuary, no matter the stage of the novel-writing process you’re in. Leaving your usual environment eliminates those pesky day-to-day interruptions and demands. It also frees you mentally. At a writing retreat, you’ve entered a new space that’s exclusively a haven for you and your creative goals. Feeling refreshed yet?
When shopping around for a writing retreat, ask yourself if it offers the refuge you need. Is it a new place that you can associate only with writing? Is it a fun, VIP experience? Does it provide peace and quiet? If you’re prone to falling into the black hole of your email inbox instead of revising, maybe you need limited Internet access, or a hands-on instructor.
2. Likeminded people
Especially for writers who are used to sequestering in an office, interacting with those with the same goals can be a powerful boost. You can also find a built-in support system. Often at the writing retreats I host, it’s the interactions among attendees where authors get new ideas. Whether in sparkling group discussions or in casual fireside chats after a long day of writing, connecting with other writers is a vitalizing part of a good retreat. Participants can walk away with sharper ideas about their character development, or even find solutions for lackluster prose or stilted dialog.
Check retreat descriptions for the kinds of writers it aims to attract. Is it a retreat for first-time authors who are brainstorming ideas? Is it an intimate group of hand picked novelists, or a large workshop welcoming all levels and projects?
Don’t forget that the person who understands your needs the most is the expert leading the retreat. That brings me to…
3. An expert’s eye
The greatest asset to you on a writer’s retreat is the help you get from the person running it. The most helpful retreats have instructors who are experts in the novel-crafting process. All those questions, ideas, or insecurities that cropped up when you were writing alone now have a professional sounding board. Receiving one-on-one time with the instructor can help you solve problems quickly and move forward with your draft.
See if the retreat leader has helped authors get published in the past. See if she’ll personalize lessons for you and your novel, or only provide blanket instruction. Will there be advice on how to self-publish your novel or pitch it to publishers? See if your relationship extends beyond the retreat; often there are follow-up consultations or editing options.
Still wondering what a writer’s retreat can offer you? Ask me in the comments.
Interested in a writing retreat that checks all 3 boxes? My Guided Novel Writing Retreat, happening this Fall, will give you the tools and the focus to finish your novel.