I have to admit that when other writers have told me that they’ve been to a retreat I’ve been sceptical about the amount of work they’d accomplish. I could believe a retreat to be enjoyable – getting away from the shopping and cooking, spending time with writers, wine, food, lovely environment etc etc.
When the lovely hosts at Chez Castillon, Janie and Mickey, asked me if I could be writer-in-residence at short notice from 27 April to 2 May I saw it as an opportunity to see for myself. I spent the week beforehand getting students/columns/edits up to date, as I planned to spend the retreat working on my new book. I had a rough outline and about half the cast – about 18 pages of handwriting. I packed my iPad and keyboard, a pad, my faithful babies’ names book (for character names) and some post-it notes. Sorted. (For future reference – take paper clips, also!)
My lovely room contained table and chairs (along with necessities such as the bed) and I set myself up to work.
OK, that’s a fib. I went across to Monique’s bar and had a couple of glasses of cold vin blanc, then came back for a fab and convivial evening with the other writers on the retreat, talking about our work. Also eating a lovely dinner and drinking a leetle more wine.
In the morning, after blissful breakfast of local cheeses, meats and fruits, I began writing by hand – something I often do in the planning stage – working on character bios, seeing where further characters were needed, working on conflicts and the threads they’d create, deciding how one conflict would impact upon another, making lists of things to research.
The piles of paper grew.
At the end of my six days at Chez Castillon 18 pages of handwriting had grown to 109 plus post-its. I had:
Completed all the character bios I need so far
Worked on my conflicts and the threads they’d produce
Done some research
Emailed friends for their views on a specific conflict I thought they’d have views on
Expanded the outline enormously
Drafted the first two chapters
Written up on my iPad most of the first chapter (2,895 words)
Borrowed a stapler so I could bring my work home again in some semblance of order. The three piles I ended up with are: characters; research; story.