I just returned from my first ever writers’ retreat (thank you very much Justine). I had a very productive weekend. I got my story structure outlined, several scenes written, a couple of problems solved, and suggestions to solve a couple more. Since I was not at my own home, I didn’t feel any obligation to hop up and do laundry, go to the grocery store (although I did got to the grocery once), pick up or drop off a child, etc. I didn’t need to refocus on my writing the way Elizabeth described in her post because I never got too far away from it.
One of the things that seemed to work well was that everyone was at a different place in their story. I am starting a new one, others were in the middle of writing, or editing a draft, or plotting a new one. If I wanted to have some quiet time alone to write a scene, I had it. When my brain was fried, I could take a walk through the quiet streets. And when I stumbled onto a problem and wanted some input, there were writer friends gathered somewhere close by talking about story. And there was even a phone-a-friend plot assist because none of us knew the nuances of a bridge game but a long-distance friend did know.
You don’t have to go on a writers’ retreat to get help, though. Assistance can come from other, surprising areas. When I got home, my daughter was asking about my story. I started explaining it to her and she started asking questions. Some of which I didn’t have answers to. However, in talking it through with her, I did end up with some great discovery points. Why, of course, Sarah is in corporate law – that’s why she knows so much about dummy corporations and fraud.
We didn’t solve all of our problems. I forgot to ask if anyone knew who owns the land under railroad tracks. I got a suggestion to use le petite mort as a substitute for an actual death (Sophocles’ Antigone dies, but my modern Antigone does not) but haven’t figured out what lead up to that scene. More than once, one of us would be discussing our story, describing a scene, and a question would arise. “How is that going to happen?” someone would ask. And the answer was often, “well, plot devices ensue and the hero/heroine does ____.” There were a lot of plot devices ensuing this weekend. In fact, plot devices will ensue to give my heroine her petite mort (maybe), or the plot devices might ensue to get her to the point of ritual death, instead of actual death.
I am back in the real world now and have to divide my time up between all my roles – wife, mother, employee, student, writer (and housekeeper, chef, personal assistant), etc. So plot devices will ensue and I’ll get from here to there, this to that, and words on the page – eventually. Happy plot devising!