I Get By With A Little Help. . .

Last week Jamie wrote about the importance of writer friends. Let me start this blog with a resounding “yes!” to that sentiment.  I can’t imagine life without my writer friends. I’ve mentioned my Sisters in Crime before, and what that camaraderie has meant to my development as a mystery writer throughout the years. But this past weekend, I took it one more step. I went on away for a writers’ retreat with five mystery writing friends. And it was a tonic.

The six of us write cozy mysteries. We’ve even started a blog together. The other five all have a three book deal in varying stages of development. We spent the weekend writing. A lot. And when we weren’t writing we were talking about writing. We also ate, drank a lot of wine, cooked, took naps (OK, that was me), laughed, and then ate some more. Two of the women have deadlines for book 2 of their series coming up at the end of June. Two others have theirs due in September, and the fifth just signed her contract, so book #1 is due in November. Should I ever be blessed enough to follow on this path, it is a wonderful thing that these women all went first, and forged a path.

I had never been on a writers’ retreat before, but look forward to the next one. The elements to make this successful are simple, but very important. For a successful retreat you need to have:

Writer friends who are where you are professionally and craft wise. The success of our weekend was due to the fact that this is a cooperative where we all learn from each other. If you are advanced and go out with folks who aren’t even close, you are going to teach all weekend. And if you are behind everyone else, you will be intimidated. Neither works well for getting the work done.

Good ground rules mean happy writers. We had rules like “ask if a person is able to talk right now”  and “writing is the job of the weekend”. Are meals together, or separate? Who is in charge of what meal?

A bed for everyone. This seems obvious, but accommodating everyone’s sleep needs is impossible. That said, if everyone has a bed, that is a huge step forward.

Knowing when to push, and when to step back. If someone is just sitting, staring at the keyboard, they are likely still writing. And 250 words from someone who is editing is a huge amount of work, so support it.

Respect trumps everything else. Including talent. One of my favorite things about these women is the amount of respect we all have for each other. (They are talented too!)

I can’t recommend a getaway like this highly enough. How about all of you–do you go on writers’ retreats? What are your must have rules?

20 thoughts on “I Get By With A Little Help. . .

  1. It is easy for writers to view each other as competition. What a great reminder that we can, and should, be friends! This kind of supportive interaction was one of the reasons I started the LinkedIN Group Informed Ideas for Writers. True writing friends and friendships are a treasure.

  2. Reblogged this on Informed Ideas and commented:
    There are few things as rewarding or as challenging in a professional writer’s life than hanging out with other writers. No one else quite “gets it” or “gets you” the way other writers do. That said, such gatherings can be fraught with challenges because other writers are also “the competition”. How do you maintain a healthy balance?

    The rules listed here help. To them I would add that the participating should also all be under a deadline or there should be a common goal, challenge or purpose to the gathering (think about that stormy weekend party when Mary Shelley wrote the first draft of Frankenstein). I would also include a visible reminder that there really are no new ideas,just new ways to use or look at existing ideas. When writers gather, they can feed each other’s creativity and productivity. But not if they are afraid to but their best thoughts, ideas and efforts out there for other writers to see. Unfortunately, this can lead to conflict if another author takes someone else’s idea and runs with it. Generally speaking, there are two ways to avoid that situation. The first is by making sure everyone has an active project to focus on and that no two projects as the same unless the authors involved are collaborating. The second is to create a project that is new to everyone. That means everyone states at the same time with the same deadline and because conversations naturally turn towards what is being written, it also gives the participants permission to exchange and use ideas. Th

    The second is obviously more difficult to pull off. It is also potentially rewarding and not just for the writer who ends up penning the best story. The others will walk away with the knowledge that they contributed to a great story. The thrill they get when they see that story published is not quite the same as the thrill of seeing their own work published but it is similar. And they probably have some fantastic tales about the weekend or week or however long the project took, that they can and will make use of at another time.

    Writer friends are wonderful. As long as you take proper care of them!

  3. I enjoy reading the Sisters in Crime blog and newsletter which helped inspire me to write my first historical subjective (still in the computer.) I met a few of you briefly at the Toadstool Bookstore in Milford, New Hampshire. Thank you for your fun, supportive and intriguing post about friendship and your craft. I hope one day to find those same connections. I’m on a “Friendship Treasure Hunt,” now.

    The Hangouts on Air with Dear Myrtle each Monday feels like a mini retreat to me. We are a lighthearted group of people who love Genealogy. We are at different levels of our “craft”, yet somehow we all feel comfortable exchanging ideas and knowledge. The teacher in all of us has a chance to shine and support other. You might even find an idea or two for a characters to write about. So I am giving a shout out to DearMyrtle’s Genealogy Community for their friendship and support as I begin that treasure hunt.

    • Thank you for your comment–so glad you like the Sisters in Crime blog and newsletter. And that organization is how I met all of these women (and many others, inlcuding Lisa J. Jackson, which is how I came to be part of this blog.). You will find your writing tribe.

      And I love hearing about Dear Myrtle’s Genealogy Community! Sounds like a wonderful group.

    • Trish, do you have a genre you work in? Or a city with a writing center (like Grub Street in Boston)? Finding a tribe of writers is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. This blog has given me an amazing of on-line support and writing friends. Good luck finding your peeps–they are invaluable.

  4. Your retreat sounds lovely. I’ve put that on my “someday (not never)” list. 🙂

  5. Your retreat sounds so perfect! That is something I would love to do! What is funny though, is that most of my friends are not writers in the least bit, but veer more towards the science fields, whether that is biological science or social and political science. I suppose I should converse more with the people within my major (he he). Thank you for sharing some ideas!

    • You definitely have to find people in your major. My retreat was with people writing in the same genre, but some of my best writing conversations happen with my poet friend. And do none of your science friends write? Good luck!

      • They write…equations and such for their studies. Ha ha! I actually room with two girls who are studying writing-related majors, and we are good friends. We just haven’t had a get-away…

    • On line is a great resource. Even a joint blog (like this one) is a great tool for support. And look for some writers’ conferences–they are a great place for meeting people.

  6. Pingback: Wicked Wednesday–Tips for a Great Writing Retreat | Wicked Cozy Authors

  7. Pingback: Friday Fun: Dream Writers’ Retreat | Live to Write - Write to Live

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