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Writing Retreat 101

Updated: Mar 17, 2019

RETREAT!!! But once you do, it's game on.

How I wrote over 18,000 words in 2 ½ days

So you’re thinking of a writer’s trip? Good for you! A writing trip or retreat can be just the thing you need to get a jump start or a leg up on your project. But often writer’s fall into the trap of going on a retreat only to get home and, to their disappointment, realize they didn’t get much done.

Fortunately this is a perfectly avoidable problem if you know some simple steps.

The key to a productive writing trip isn’t magic, luck or being a zombie writing drone, it’s preparation and sticking to a plan.

I usually go to a cabin with my writer gal friends, (No kiddos allowed). I also go with a large writer’s group of women (32 of us) to a lodge in the mountains.

The view from my writer room of solitude in Flagstaff Az.

What's Your Style

I write best alone. Some of my friends write best in a synergetic room full of people typing away.

Whatever your preference choose your set up location accordingly.

Also, if you’re a solo writer like me, let those at the cabin know in advance that you have to be alone to get in your zone, so that there are no misunderstandings, hurt feelings, or frustrations.

Me (on the far right) with some of my writer friends on our mother’s day writer retreat.

'Cuase Writers Gotta Eat

Both at the cabin and the lodge, we planned out our meals in advance. We planned who would cook what meals and who would clean up when. That way we all get a turn rotating through the chores while everyone not on the shift got to keep writing.

We also planned out what meals we would eat out for because we can’t stay recluses the WHOLE time!

Large Group Etiquette

At the lodge we all wear name tags, and on the back of those is a DO NOT DISTURB sign that we can flip over when we are in the zone, so that people don’t come up and start chatting with you once you finally have your groove on.

MY secluded spot on the porch, I spend most of my time at the women’s retreat tucked away here, typing.


Writer’s Retreat Planning Checklist:

1. Plan out the trip: dates, place MEALS, who is buying food, cooking and cleaning which meals

2. Communicate with your group in advance, writing preferences if you like to be left alone.

3. Decide what you’re needing or wanting most out of the trip: Writing a first draft, Editing, Plotting ect.

a- Writing a first draft

· Bring your list of plot bullet points (see my post Plotting can be murder)

· Bring any and all resource material printed out unless 100 percent sure you’ll have internet connection

· No editing allowed, let your finger fly and don’t stop until they are too tired to go on then break for 15min

b- Editing

· Decide what type of editing you want to do: specific chapters or scenes, line editing, scene order, dropping word count down, filling in holes (specify which scenes/areas of plot), Showing not telling ect.

· Bring any applicable material you will need to do those specific edits.

· Make a measurable goal of how much you want to accomplish

· Any writing tool books – Emotional thesaurus, Make a scene, Dialogue

· Stay on task and don’t get lured into side projects

c- Plotting – See “Plotting can be murder”

· Bring Bullet point list printed out (2 copies so you can cut one up)

· Bring any character sketches

· Bring a physical copy of Story Arc guide

· Choose what goals you want the story to accomplish and bring with you.

5. Set your goals before you go and STICK TO IT!

6. Pack anything you use for writing: music, ear plugs, pictures, blankets, PC power cords, extension cords ect.

7. Take breaks as needed, but time them, to avoid getting socializing or social media when you have work to get done.


Writer’s retreats are an amazing way to escape, have fun and get a boatload of work done. Make sure you know your motivation for going and acknowledge to yourself your expectations. That way when you get there you can relax, find your groove and do what you came to do.

You can have a blast and make excellent writing progress too -Write On!!!

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