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’m happy to report that the first ever Rock Lake Writers retreat was a success. Despite having to relocate it at the last minute, the place we found was totally adequate (nothing fancy, but the beds were comfortable and there was plenty of spots to sit and work - there's a photo of it on the right there). I didn’t get a whole lot writing done on Friday afternoon, but Saturday and Sunday were both solid, nine-hour days. That’s more writing than I usually do in a month.
I really needed a chunk of time to sit with my story. I had some big decisions to make. In fact, I spent most of Saturday moving flashcards around on the carpet, writing in my journal to see how certain story lines would play out if I moved them, and trying to decide what I’m doing.
I will say that it’s a little frustrating to feel like I’m still figuring out my story after all this time. But here’s the most telling result for me; late Sunday afternoon I took another stab at my synopsis and it actually went well. I’ve never been able to write a synopsis for my novel, because it always sounded kind of episodic, and certain plot points sounded like weird jumps when put into summary format.
Well this time, when I sat down to draft the synopsis, it actually started to sound like one cohesive story, with interesting (but not totally random) plot turns, and logically motivate characters. I take this as a very good sign.
Not quite good enough though, to keep from feeling discouraged. Because I basically trashed fifty pages of my story, and if you follow my blog, you know my story was already so short that it barely qualified as a novel.
So damn it, I’m on the right path, but to get there I had to take a serious step backward.
Many times this weekend I thought maybe I’ll just put this one in a drawer, write the next novel and then circle back – make this my second novel. The next novel will be outlined and plotted and planned to hell and back before I start, I’ll tell you what. This has been (and continues to be) a seriously painful process.
And now it’s back to work. I mean day-job work.
But if I can write 1,000 words a week I could be done with the draft by the end of the year. That seems like a reasonable goal.
You gotta have goals, I say.
It’s getting harder and harder to carve out time for my fiction. Life gets busy, and with even the best intentions, I don’t set aside enough time for the work I really want to do.
So I’m very excited to say that my writing group has rallied to set aside a whole weekend in July to step outside our busy lives and work on our novels (or screenplays, as the case may be). It’s the first official Rock Lake Writers Retreat. Well, the rest of the gang went up to Colorado last year for five days, but it happened to coincide with my sister-in-law’s wedding and Daniels subsequent back surgery, so it wasn’t in the cards for me. And that doesn’t count anyway, because we didn’t officially name our group until about six months ago. Which reminds me, we are in the process of setting up a website for our group. In a few weeks I should be able to share a url, and these mysterious writing-group-friends will finally be a lot less mysterious. I bet you were starting to think I made them up.
Anyhow, where was I? Writing retreat. Yes.
We rented a vacation house in Idyllwild, that’s a photo of it at the right there. It’s a nice place with three bedrooms, and we’re splitting the cost between the five us. We’re going up on Friday the 19th and staying two nights.
I’m so excited. I am also unprepared. I have just three weeks to get ready to make the most of my precious few days up there. Basically, I just need to figure out what changes I still want to make to the manuscript. I think I mentioned in a previous post that I got some conflicting advice from my readers on the most recent pass, so I need to really think hard about where I want the story to go.
I’m also feeling tempted by a new story idea. It’s a non-ficion book that really needs to be written (by me). I’m meeting with my agent to run it past her on Friday (tomorrow – wow, that came up quick). If she thinks it’s as exciting as I do, it might be hard not to spend the retreat working on the proposal.
Damn this creative life and its myriad potential writing projects.
Well, I have a few weeks to figure it out anyway.
Yesterday was my day long writing “retreat.”
It was good to get a big chunk of writing time in, but somehow I had built it up in my head too much. I had this idea that I was going to be able to rewrite the entire ending of my story, all in one sitting.
Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. I’m really struggling with the end. I think I made some serious headway yesterday, but I’m left with this anxious feeling. It’s not done.
I want it to be done.
I guess I just have to keep plugging away at it. What else can I do?
I still think I can have it done in two weeks. Well, I can have the story done in two weeks. I will need longer to do the word-for-word polish. In fact, I have no idea how long that will take. I really want to make every page, every sentence, perfect. And there are a lot of sentences.
To keep focused, I have written myself a new mantra: I will not call it done just because I’m tired of working on it.
I guess I just need to let go of having it done at any particular time. It’s just stressing me out. It will get done when it gets done.
Doesn’t that sound official?
As it turns out, most applications for writing grants or residencies ask you what writing organizations you belong to. Well, my writing group has been meeting for two and a half years now. We go to readings, we talk publishing – we do everything any writing organization does – so we decided to give ourselves a name: The Rock Lake Writers. And now we can list it on our resumes. Sweet.
The name is inspired by geography. Two of our members live in Eagle Rock. The other three in Silver Lake. (Silver Eagle just sounded to militaristic.) I’m thinking of building us a website (with all my spare time).
In all the many months that the Rock Lake Writers have been coming together, we have each moved closer toward our goals, but we’re all very busy, and it can be hard to find quality time for our writing. So a few months ago, as we were sitting with our calendars and mapping out our meeting schedule (aren’t we official?) we decided to set aside a day for a mini writing retreat.
It’s this Sunday – and I’m so excited. From 10 to 5 the dads will watch the kids and we will lock ourselves in the home of one of our members and just write, write, write. It’s good timing for me. I’ve reached a point with the novel rewrite that I need a big chunk of time to really dive deep. It’s the ending. It needs to be completely rewritten. It’s so much work that I’m not sure I can do it all in one day of writing, but I’m sure as hell going to give it my best shot. I’m thinking about going old school and just writing long hand to let the new version of the end just flow. Then I can edit as I translate it to my computer. I don’t often work that way, but I do find that writing things out long hand helps me be more creative. It’s as if I’m less afraid of being judged when it’s written out long hand. Once it’s in the computer it’s official and must be edited.
I’m getting so close to being done with this project. Here’s hoping the first-ever Rock Lake Writers Day-Long Retreat is highly productive.