When you hear about writers' retreats, do you picture sunny beaches, cabana boys, and pina coladas, or do you see a room full of people feverishly scribbling notes and engaging in heated discussions?
If you picked the first choice, you're WRONG.
I just returned from the Seascape Mystery Writers Retreat, and let me tell you, we worked our [insert word of your choice] off. I'm not saying we didn't have have great time, but it was no lay-in-the-sun vacation. We worked on our manuscripts, discovered our strengths and weaknesses, and commiserated on the uphill battle of getting published.. We honed our skills at plotting, creating suspense, and developing characters. And we did it from 9 AM to 9 PM. Along the way, we made new friends, found hidden talents and laughed a whole lot.
Hallie Ephron, Roberta Isleib, and S.W. Hubbard generously shared their talent, wisdom, and knowledge with us. We learned how to pump up suspense, how to develop a plot in 30 minutes, and how to write the dreaded synopsis (I never knew these were used by so many people other than an agent!). We also crafted elevator pitches and query letters. And those were just the supplemental sessions!
Writing is often - make that most times - a solitary pursuit. You sit in your little room - the part of a room you've staked out as your own - staring at your computer screen, praying for inspiration. Or staring at a stack of pages that need revising. And everywhere you turn people (as in non-writers) say "how hard can it be to write a book?" That's a question you don't have to answer at a writers' retreat. We all know the answer.
What will I take away from this weekend? Obviously a lot of new information, techniques, and skills. But most of all, I'll remember the special camaraderie that writers can only share with other writers and all the new friends I made (and hope to see in print very soon).