Review: Retreats for You

I’ve spent the past week at a writer’s retreat in Devon called Retreats for You. I thought I’d post about my experiences.

The most important measure of success for the week is that I got a lot of writing done. I finished the final tweaks/cleaning of A Monster’s Kindness, wrote a synopsis, and submitted the manuscript to a publisher. I went through/edited/rewrote almost 28000 words of the second draft of the final book in the Shadows of Tomorrow trilogy. I wrote about 9400 words of the first draft of the next book in the Codename Omega series. All in all, I’m extremely pleased with how productive I was over the week.

The retreat is in an old house in a small village in Devon where you’re shut off from the distractions of the outside world. There’s not much there in the village – a pub, a village shop, a handful of houses. Apparently you can go for nice walks in the countryside if the weather’s good and there are some National Trust properties within reasonable driving distance, but I (and the other writers there) spent our time shut up in the house getting on with our writing projects. Each bedroom has a writing desk, so we generally spent a good chunk of the day shut in our rooms writing. There were other places we could have gone to write – the dining room, the garden, a summer house, a studio across the garden, etc. – but the weather wasn’t great and the bedrooms afforded quiet and privacy.

The rooms didn’t have ensuite, although the owner of the retreat has plans to fit this for some of the bedrooms before the end of the year. When I was there, there were a couple of shared bathrooms, one upstairs and one downstairs. This was fine, but the house was quite old and if I wanted to sneak to the loo in the middle of the night every floorboard in the place creaked like I was in a horror movie. I think the ensuites will be a big improvement, but everyone was reasonable about the shared bathroom so we didn’t have any issues with it and the owner made sure we had plenty of toiletries available if we wanted them.

Everyone was very friendly. The owner was a lovely lady who was nice and supportive and checked to make sure we were all happy. There were a couple of other staff who came to look after the place and cook meals who were also very nice. And the other writers were great too. There were four of us staying the week I was there – me, two other writers, and a non-writer who was there for the retreat part – but the place could hold up to six guests.

It felt very sociable as we would share evening meals together or could hang out in the living room and talk. Lunches and breakfasts were laid out buffet style, so we had the option of eating with everyone else at the table or taking the food up to our rooms and continuing to write. We spent the time talking about our projects and progress, sharing advice and tips, and have general discussions about writing and everything else. I think this was what really made the retreat. Yes, we got the quiet time to get lots of writing done, but it never felt isolated because of the shared meals.

The meals themselves were excellent. It was all home cooking with plenty of fresh vegetables, and the staff were happy to take into account allergies and preferences and other dietary requirements. I didn’t have a bad meal when I was there and there were flapjacks and cakes available. On Wednesday, the retreat opens the dining room as a tea room so we were able to get cream teas. I took mine up to my room and ate a lovely, homemade scone with jam and cream while working on my books. It was really nice.

While I’m talking about food, I need to make a special shout out to the butter. This was the greatest butter I have ever tasted in my life. It was made at a local farm and sold in the village shop, so I bought myself a roll of butter to bring home with me. The retreat deserves a full ten out of ten marks for the butter alone. I realise it may seem strange that I’m dedicating a whole paragraph of this review to butter, but I’m not kidding. This butter is amazing.

So on the whole, I had a great time at the retreat and got a load of work done. The biggest drawback of the place is the shared bathrooms, but as I said earlier, the owner has plans to put in some ensuites before the end of the year, so that issue should be resolved soon. It was a great retreat and I’m already planning on going back next year.

Writer’s Retreat

I have next week booked off work, which will be awesome, and I’ll be using the time as a writer’s retreat. My intention is to get some peace and quiet and really focus on writing for a few days.

I always have several projects on the go but there are three in particular I intend to focus on for this holiday:

  • finishing the second draft of the final book in the Shadows of Tomorrow trilogy
  • writing the first draft fourth book in the Codename Omega series
  • getting the m/m monster romance novella ready to go out to publishers

I will probably work on all of these at some point over the week, but the question is where I should prioritise my efforts.

The first of those projects is probably the most urgent one as it’s been ages since the second book came out and the publishing process will take about a year even after I’ve finished it. One of my coworkers keeps asking when that book will be out, and since she’s still not forgiven me for killing her favourite character, I probably should finish the book at some point.

But having said that, tidying up the novella will probably be a shorter task. If I focus on that, I can probably get it done and have the book ready to go to publishers by the end of the week and it will feel great to have something definitively done out of this focus time.

But it would also be amazing if I could buckle down and get a complete first draft of Codename Blank Slate written.

I want to set myself definite goals because otherwise what will probably end up happening is that I’ll flit between all three of these and spend half the time writing fanfic instead. I will write some fanfic this week, but that’s not the point of doing this.

I’ve decided to set general writing goals as well as specific goals for each of these three projects. My goal is to spend at least half an hour a day on each of these three projects. That’s a small enough target that it doesn’t seem too daunting and over the course of the week off work, I should make decent progress on all of them, but it allows me the freedom to work longer on whatever happens to be flowing better that day.

I’m also going to set myself a word count target: 10000 words a day across everything, including fanfic and whatever other random stuff I end up writing. They won’t all necessarily be new words if I’m editing the novella which is why I think I can get away with setting the target so high. I can reevaluate after a couple of days if that seems like it’s going to be too much.