Tag Archives: Rebecca Sherman

Novel Retreat and Me

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I’ve been avoiding writing about my experience with the Novel Retreat in 3 Acts. It was just too darn overwhelming! Plus, I had to wait for the waves of exhilaration followed by crushing bouts of self-doubt and depression to pass.

And I feel bad, because lots of people knew I was attending and they want to hear about my experience. But until today, this is how the conversation would have gone:

Them, all enthusiastic: How was the writing retreat?
Me, faking a smile and hoping they’re asking just to be polite: Great.
Them, still enthusiastic: Yeah? Tell me all about it.
Me, averting my eyes like a dog who just piddled the rug: Um. It was great. Awesome. Fabulous.
Them, all huffy: Fine. Be that way, you stinky creepazoid. If you don’t want to tell me, just say so.

See why I had to wait?

But now that my exhilaration and self-doubt have blended up nicely in a delicious smoothie of balanced and serene writerly emotion, I can keep my promise to Nancy Sharp Wagner to write a series of blogs about this amazing series of writing adventures she’s developed.

Lest you think I’m acting abnormally altruistic, I’m not. I simply want to do my part to promote these retreats so she keeps having them. I want to go again! I’m certain it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done for my writing career.

Today I’ll tell you what I got out of the retreats. The rest of the week will be the story behind the retreats, the specific program details, information about the awesomely gorgeous monastery they’re held at, ending with testimonials from the participants.

So, in no particular order, these are some benefits I received from the Novel Retreat in 3 Acts.

• I now have another critique group I know I can trust my manuscripts to. I don’t know about the other groups, but we decided to keep our group going until we croak. Even though the four of us are spread all over the country and it will be a long time before we meet in person again, we bonded about eight seconds after we met and it seems like we’ll be friends forever. I trust them explicitly with my writing because they’re honest, they’re smart, they understand what I’m trying to do, they don’t sugar-coat their comments, they’ve all got exceptional and wide-ranging talents, and darn it, they’re just great fun to hang around.

• The 20-ish other people who didn’t happen to be in my critique group are just as important to me. There’s really nothing better than knowing people who are traveling the same path as you are. We’re not all at the same place, but we’re all heading down that yellow brick road together. I know that if a scary lion jumps out at me or I detour into a field of poppies or when I catch my first glimpse of the Emerald City … they’ll be right there with me consoling or kicking my heinie or cheering me on.

• I finally feel like I have revision tools in my toolbox, thanks to Act 2 of the retreat series.

darcy Led by Darcy Pattison, it focused entirely on revision. My small group read each other’s complete first draft before the retreat and after Darcy talked about each concept, we’d stop to apply them to our manuscripts. My new favorite tool? The shrunken manuscript.

• I have a two-page letter from Rebecca Sherman at Writer’s House detailing her critique of my submission package. Plus, I have her handwritten notes on my query, my synopsis AND the first ten pages of my manuscript. That kind of information and experience from a well-respected industry professional is hard to come by.

• I’m pretty good about outlining and mulling over novels for a long time before I start writing. I have five completed manuscripts in various stages of readiness. I wrote the first drafts of each in a month or less, so first drafts are a breeze for me. Unfortunately, they’re usually quite crappy, too. So the ideas I learned from Elaine Marie Alphin reallelaine-gify spoke to me. Even though I’m perfectly comfortable working from a plan, Elaine really showed me how to “lay tracks” before writing so that the writing time is more effective and I’ll have less revision to do.

• This experience was yet another reminder that writing is a continuous cycle.

Write
Revise
Revise
Revise
Send it off to agents/editors
Lay track for your new novel
Write
Revise
Revise
Revise
Send it off to agents/editors
Lay track for your new novel

That’s the only way to have a career as a writer.

• The other big benefit of participating in these retreats is that they ”˜fill my cup.’ It’s almost impossible to explain why I … someone who is able to write on a daily basis without the distractions of preschoolers or a pesky day job … need my emotional cup filled. But it’s all tied up in the other writers I hang out with, and the getting away from home, and the daily highs and lows of writing. If you’ve done much writing, you know some days it’s a snap and other days it can make your eyeballs bleed. Suffice it to say, there’s something quite fulfilling in hanging for a few days with like-minded eyeball bleeders.

• And a million other benefits.

So do yourself a favor. Read all these blog posts then write a letter to Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, your significant other, your kids, your grandparents, anyone with purse strings you can tug at and tell them THIS is what you want for Christmas and/or Hanukkah and/or your birthday and/or your anniversary … or for no reason other than it’s what you need to fill your cup and continue your writer’s journey.

If you’ve made a commitment to your writing, then you absolutely deserve it.


What do YOU need to feel energized about your writing?