Monday, January 23, 2023

Ready, Set, Retreat!

Erica here, coming to you from the very frosty, snowy north. 

Did you know that I love a good writer's retreat? And that I try to get in several during the year? Not only because of the social aspect, but because writing retreats WORK for me.

I am productive on writing retreats. I get right up to the coal face and get to work when I'm on a writing retreat. My theory is, I need to be productive if I'm going to spend the money to go on a retreat. I must have something to show for it. 

I usually have a goal in mind before I go of what I want to accomplish, which is most often a certain word count. Sometimes, if the retreat and edits hit at the same time, it's to accomplish edits, but most of the time it's writing new words. 

A good retreat for me means I average about 5K-8K words per writing day. But those words don't just happen by accident. I prepare for a retreat in advance to maximize my productivity. Here are a few tips that might work for you on your next writing getaway:

1. Have your story firmly plotted (if you're a plotter like me). Know where you're going and do a bit of scene visualization, planning ahead, and have several scenes mapped out so when it comes time to write, you're not wondering where to go.

2. Give yourself permission to write fast, not perfect. You cannot edit a blank page, and you cannot take the time to be precise and perfect if you're aiming for a big word count. Use Track Changes/comments to your advantage if you write something that you know is going to need a revision. Mark it in the margin to go back and fix later.

3. Don't stop to research or verify. Do that in advance if you know what you need to read up on, but while you're writing at the retreat, use the comments in the margins. "Find out the price of butter in 1816 London." If you jump online to find out, you will fall down the rabbit hole of interesting things, and then poof, you've lost 45 minutes of valuable writing time.

4. Turn off the internet during your writing sessions. I know, this is hard, but you will be so much more productive if you aren't tempted to check email, facebook, twitter, Tik Tok, or whatever other thing that you can escape into rather than write that difficult scene.

5. Work in time to socialize with your friends. Maybe you say, "We'll write for one hour, no breaks, then chat for ten minutes while we get up and move around a bit." Or perhaps your social time will come over dinner. I've been to some great retreats where everyone wrote during the day, laughed and talked over dinner, and then took turns brainstorming story ideas in the evening.

Mary writing away on her WIP while
Jane looks on. Jane is also excellent
on writing retreats. :)

This last weekend, Mary Connealy and I had a hastily-arranged getaway to the snowy wilds of Iowa. We met halfway between our two homes for four days, and wrote on our WIPs. Mary is super easy to retreat with, as she has no problem writing for hours on end, and she is not offended if I work on my story in complete silence either. Not that we don't gab our heads off during the breaks. So much so that my voice was giving out on the first night and needed a rest. 

It all came together so quickly. I texted Mary that I missed her, and asked when I would see her next...and she replied "How about next week?" and whooosh! We had an Airbnb booked! Then of course, we got a humdinger of a snowstorm the night before we were supposed to travel. The roads weren't too bad for most of my trip, but then they weren't good at all! Yikes! 

I'm so awful at taking selfies, but
it's the memories made that count!

When we do a writing retreat together, there are a couple of MUST HAVEs. 

a) Diet Coke. This is a thing. Even though I usually drink tea when I write, on a retreat with Mary, Diet Coke is a must.

b) Easy food prep. Neither of us are Michelin Star Chefs, nor are we gourmands. We have simple breakfasts, sandwiches for lunch, and we go out for dinner. Or, if we're feeling particularly productive and don't want to take time out from writing, we order a pizza. 

c) Space. I need a desk or table to write at, and Mary writes in a recliner or on a couch. While I suppose we could make it work in a hotel room, our retreats go better when we have a bit more space to spread out.

Question for you: Have you ever been on a retreat for writing or crafting or some other activity? Do you have any tips for making a profitable, productive time?

As an FYI, Millstone of Doubt, book 2 in the Thorndike & Swann Regency Mystery series is currently HALF OFF in audio form. If you like audio books, now is a great time to grab a copy! You can get yours by using THIS LINK

Regency London's detective duo is back on a new case--and this one is going to be a killer

Caught in the explosion of the Hammersmith Mill in London, Bow Street Runner Daniel Swann rushes to help any survivors only to find the mill's owner dead of an apparent gunshot.

Even though the owner's daughter, Agatha Montgomery, mourns his death, it seems there are more than a few people with motive for murder. But Daniel can't take this investigation slow and steady. Instead, he must dig through all the suspects as quickly as he can, because the clock is ticking until his mysterious patronage--and his job as a runner--comes to an abrupt and painful end. It seems to Daniel that, like his earthly father, his heavenly Father has abandoned him to the fates.

Lady Juliette Thorndike is Agatha's bosom friend and has the inside knowledge of the wealthy London ton to be invaluable to Daniel. She should be in a perfect position to help with the case. Still, her instructor in the art of spy craft orders her to stay out of the investigation. But circumstances intervene, dropping her into the middle of the deadly pursuit.

When a dreadful accident ends in another death on the mill floor, Daniel discovers a connection to his murder case--and to his own secret past. Now he and Juliette are in a race to find the killer before his time runs out.

Best-selling, award-winning author, Erica Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum. You can connect with her at her website, where you can learn about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at where she spends way too much time!


  1. Erica, I love a retreat for just about anything -- writing, Bible study, whatever. It's so cool to get away, without interruprions/distractions, and look at the project at hand. It refreshes my energy and helps me be more productive. Mary C. sounds like the perfect retreat buddy.
    Of course I also live in the frozen north, just a little further east, and snow days are an automatic "retreat day" if I don't get distracted and clean closets.
    Here's to productivity!
    Kathy Bailey
    Your Kaybee
    Watching the snow fall in New Hampshire

    1. Ah, Mary C. IS the perfect retreat buddy. I always have a good time with Mary.

  2. I've never done a writing retreat but it sounds wonderful. Our ACFW chapter keeps trying to get this to work, but we just can't get it on the books. Maybe this year will be our year!

    1. Oh, I hope you can work it out. Maybe, if the entire group can't get it to work, you can pull one or two writing buddies together to have a weekend away.

  3. I love writing retreats, especially with others who are there to work! Our retreat a couple years ago taught me a lot about how to prepare so that I could work toward a stellar word count.
    One thing we talked about last fall with our ACFW chapter was a one day retreat for a group of us who live in a smaller area. We'll have to get that going once the weather settles down!

  4. I am jealous of your snow! I haven't been on a writing retreat, but they sound like fun. Sometimes I need a "hug my friend" day, and we'll plan a day to have lunch and spend time together. I need that time to recharge and do nothing but spend time together and get a hug!

    1. Those kinds of days are the best, aren't they? They really do recharge your heart.

  5. I would want to visit with my writing buggies. Doubt that I would be productive. I'd be the one interrupting the peace and quiet as everyone else worked! :)

    1. LOL, we'd have to put you on the clock. No talking for 1 hr! Then have mercy and have a chat for a few minutes before going back to work!

  6. Typo alert. Buddies, not buggies. Can you tell I've been working on an Amish story?

  7. I am not much of a retreat person. I'm not sure if I would be able to be as productive. Sounds like you two had a lot of fun.

  8. I've always wanted to go to a writer retreat! I know how productive I am at the library so I think unplugging and going away for a couple of days would do wonders.

    I read somewhere that John Grisham writes one book in a two week getaway alone and then spends the rest of the Year editing.

    Can you imagine writing your book in two weeks????

  9. We had a blast! It was wicked cold, but at least we weren't tempted to go outside.

  10. Fun post! I love reading your books, Mary & Erica.


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