Nancy: Traveling for Story

Some interesting things happen when you take up writing as a profession. One of them–at least for me–has been that traveling is now rarely something I do for vacation or relaxation or merely bonding with loved ones and friends. These days, when I’m catching a plane or hopping on a train, I’m probably traveling for work.

October 2019 (my third trip in five weeks): Snoopy, unamused that I am packing to leave him AGAIN.

Since writing can be done anywhere and since I actually produce the most words when I have my butt in a comfortable chair in my own house, the three trips I took in the past five weeks might seem excessive. And just two months before that, I spent a week in NYC for RWA Nationals. But each of these trips fulfilled specific requirements of the writing life, so I bought my tickets, rearranged my word-production schedule, stepped over pouting kitties, and left my well-worn writing digs for some on-the-road adventures.

The True Retreat Trip

October 2019: Perfect conditions for a fall writing retreat: cool, wet weather outside, hot coffee and tea inside.

This one is my favorite of all the writing trips I take, because I have a bi-annual retreat date with four writing buddies whom I’ve known IRL for more than ten years (I met the first of these ladies 22 years ago!). This is more than a chance to sit and write all day in the company of others who are doing the same thing. This is also a chance to catch up with real-life friends’ lives, discuss industry news, trade titles of books and movies and must-watch TV, and eat WAY too many calories.

In other words, this is the kind of writing excursion that feeds more than page-count goals and a sweet tooth. It feeds this writers’ soul as only time with like-minded friends can. Continue reading

Michaeline: A Writing Staycation

“My goodness, this might actually be pretty decent!” (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve been on Twitter an awful lot since I’ve gotten my new phone; I set up an alt account called “fooling around on my phone” and instead of trying to be on-brand and promote my writing (at this point, my only public writing are these blog posts and some earnest advice on obscure Reddit subs), I lurk on other writers’ threads and enjoy some weird bots that tweet famous authors’ works. (When Gilgamesh, Sappho and Vonnegut line up on my screen, I get some pretty amazing reading.)

I should probably quit spending so much time on the internet, but I have to admit that Twitter is quite inspirational. I’ve almost put down the phone and started writing MANY times; I have screenshotted some amazing ideas to use later.

This weekend, I’m finally taking action. At least two people have shown up on my Twitter feed saying, “Going off-line. Writing retreat. See you Monday!”

So, I’m inspired. I won’t go off-line (ha! As of this writing, I’ve already scrolled through about 50 tweets, watched three YouTube videos and texted my mother, despite my best intentions). But it’s a beautiful weekend to have a writing retreat at home! Here’s how I’m doing it. Continue reading

Michaeline: Summer Camp at Home

Three kids camping in the backyard with a tent made of a sheet over a clothesline. Complete with darling puppy.

Or making believe in Camp-land! Turn your backyard into a summer camp for intensive writing! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

At work, school’s out, but we had some special classes for summer. The original concept was to provide something fun and like a summer camp, buta camp with no budget, and that finishes in 60 to 90 minutes. It’s understandable that with those kind of constraints, our “camp” is more “class”, but I wanted to get back to the original concept this year, so I started googling “summer camp language activities”.

And as with so many things in life, I didn’t find what I’m looking for, but I found something useful. I came across a camp that had such a sensible format and division of activities that I thought, “Hey, I could do this at home with my writing.” An auto-camp, if you’ll excuse the bad and old-fashioned pun.

This particular camp divided the day into six one-hour periods. The classes either go toward a major or a minor, with majors being something the kids want to delve into more deeply. Minors are one-shots that can be completed in an hour, and they provide a chance to explore new things.

So, on a vacation day, in theory, I could minor in laundry, American comedy TV and ratatouille, while majoring in writing, with a “class” in reading old material, one in writing new material, and a third in blogging. Six hours done, I could go outside, build a charcoal fire, grill some meat and pitas and enjoy strumming my ukulele under the stars – and go to bed with a clear conscience that I’d done good work that day.

I had the opportunity to give my summer camp idea a dry run two weeks ago, and results were . . . well, let’s say that results were mixed. I planned to major in writing, of course. I was going to read old material for two classes, cook lunch for one class, have a nice lunch, and then write for two classes and blog for the third in the afternoon, with a nice nap stuck in there somewhere.

Almost immediately, my plans went awry. Continue reading

Nancy: January Recap

One January 2015 project that did get completed: our patio.

One January 2015 project that did get completed: our patio.

This side patio connects to the back patio shown in the top picture.

This side patio connects to the back patio shown in the top picture.

As hard as it is to believe, the month of January has already passed! That means roughly one-twelfth of my word count/annual writing goals should be behind me. Now it’s time to address step 3 of my 3-step writing plan, which is to assess my writing progress against my goals at the end of each month. I’d like to say I’m starting off the year with a great big ‘Success!’ banner hanging in my office, but the truth is, the January results are mixed.

First, the good news. I did ‘touch the story’ every single day. If I wasn’t adding (or in many cases, subtracting) words, I was working through plot issues or building playlists or engaging in discovery for not only book 1 of my planned historical romance series, but for the other books and series as a whole, as well. And it really has helped. I’m spotting plot holes and fatal flaws much earlier in this draft than in other first draft I’ve done.

Keeping a running scene inventory of what I’ve written and what I still have left to write has allowed me to move, add, and delete scenes as needed to fix those problems. And boy, howdy, has this book (already!) had its problems. From a heroine who had a goal then promptly forgot after about page 5, to a h/h who lacked sexual chemistry Continue reading

Justine: Writer’s Retreat, A Newbie’s Guide, Part 2

There's no such thing as "too much chocolate" at a writer's retreat.

There’s no such thing as “too much chocolate” at a writer’s retreat.

As promised, I have a few notes from this weekend’s first annual Eight Ladies Writing Retreat, which I hope you can use to plan your own amazing writer’s weekend.

Overall, the weekend was fabulous. The weather cooperated, there was plenty for us to talk about, and we all had fun either seeing each other again or getting to know the Eight Ladies we’d yet to meet in person.

To piggy-back off of Nancy’s post about the five things she likes about a writer’s retreat, I’m going to share five things I learned hosting this one. Continue reading

Justine: Writer’s Retreat, A Newbie’s Guide, Part 1

eight ladies writing, justine covington, writer's retreat, writing retreat

Vintage Arizona postcard designed by USA Souvenir and sold on

Well, I’m on the precipice of my first writer’s retreat, and not only is it my first, but I’m hosting.

Nancy has done several writer’s retreats and I’ve talked to other writers who’ve done the same. The take-away is a great weekend of sharing, brainstorming, writing, relaxing, and indulging in every writer’s Magic Three: wine, chocolate, and coffee. Not necessarily in that order.

Although I’ve never attended a writer’s retreat before, I’ve put a lot of thought into what I should do and provide for my guests this weekend, which I’ll outline here.

Next week, I’ll revisit my plans and let you know what worked and what didn’t, so you can plan a stellar writer’s retreat of your own. Continue reading

Michaeline: A Cabin Retreat

Ah, no cooking, no cleaning, just writing, writing, writing! (A summer fantasy by Michaeline Duskova.)

Ah, no cooking, no cleaning, just writing, writing, writing! (A summer fantasy by Michaeline Duskova.)

I’m visiting relatives in the US this week, and spent Monday and Tuesday nights in a darling little cottage at Worlds of Fun Village. I can’t stop thinking about what a great writing retreat it would have made!

I’m sure you’ve read anecdotes about how this writer checked into a hotel or that writer escaped to a friend’s cabin to start or finish a book. It makes good sense. Being someplace that’s Not Home makes it easier to ignore the thousands of things at home that need to be done. A writer can sit down and really concentrate on his or her writing.

What I liked about my cottage Continue reading

Michaeline: Stay-Con!

Stay at home and dig deeper into your writing with a weekend plan. (Willard Leroy Metcalf, via Wikimedia Commons)

Stay at home and dig deeper into your writing with a weekend plan. (Willard Leroy Metcalf, via Wikimedia Commons)

I’m so excited for my friends who are going to the Romance Writers of America conference in San Antonio at the end of the month. It’s going to be a great time for them, and they are going to bring back great stories and cautions and advice to the blog!

As we all know, the RWA conference can be quite an investment – the plane tickets and the hotel and the conference itself. But even a small investment in yourself and your writing can yield big results, so I bring to you: the Stay-Con (from the comfort of your own home!). Continue reading