Writing is a solitary pursuit--it's just you and your laptop and the characters in your head--so why not take a little time out from your routine and go on a writers' weekend? The company of other writers for a few days can be invigorating and productive--and an opportunity to laugh a lot!
I've participated in two different types of writers' weekends; for simplicity's sake, let's call them type 1 and type 2. They're quite different in terms of what we set out to achieve, but they're both all about writing and they're both loads of fun.
Type 1 involves writers who live distant from one another. While writing is the focus of the get-together, these weekends tend to be more social because we haven't seen each other for a long time. For these weekends, we set goals such as brainstorming plots, honing conference pitches, critiquing chapters or synopses--goals that are group activities, so that we can enjoy each other's company while we're working!
One interesting writing exercise we've tried is the following: X starts reading her first chapter aloud. The listeners raise their hands when their attention starts to wander. When everyone's hand is up, X stops reading. Then we all discuss why we lost interest when we did. (The aim, of course, is to create a powerful opening that listeners--and editors and agents--won't lose interest in.) This is a fascinating--if daunting--exercise, and is definitely best done in a group where you all trust each other enough to be a) honest and b) not offended by that honesty.
On the subject of type 1 weekends, author Sara Hantz says: 'I find our weekend retreats totally inspiring and always come away from them invigorated and raring to write. They're great to discuss vague ideas to see if they have legs. And even when brainstorming others' ideas, often I'll suddenly have an idea for what I'm working on. It's a win-win situation!! And of course the food (which I don't have to cook) and great company (we spend so much time laughing) is an added bonus.'
The type 2 writers' weekend is the one I do with my local writing group. We're incredibly lucky with the location available to us-a large house in the middle of a vineyard. These weekends are all about getting as much writing done as possible. Like a type 1 weekend, it starts with goal-setting. That done, we spread out through the house and get down to work. Silence reigns as thousands of words are written or edited. Two or three people will have their laptops set up on the long dining room table, another may be typing away on the sofa in the lounge, someone else will be curled up on the couch in the sun nook, and yet another person may be tucked up in bed with a pen and paper plotting a scene, or out on the deck. In the evenings we put aside our work, open a bottle or two of wine, and watch a DVD together, usually a romcom that we dissect afterwards. I love these weekends. Not only are they incredibly productive, they're also lots of fun!
One of our group, Margie Stewart, says: 'I don't have children or a huge household to look after, or a high-stress job, so it would seem I have lots and lots of time to write-and I do. But Kaituna [the vineyard house] adds something that's missing. That something is about being around fellow writers, where everything non-writing simply bubbles away, promoting the extra motivation and incentive I need.'
And in the words of author Sue MacKay, another member of our group, the weekends are a 'great time with like-minded people who fully understand that doing the dishes comes a long way after getting down and writing.'
There are, of course, many more types of writers' weekends than just the two I've mentioned above. The beauty of a writers' weekend is that you can tailor it to suit your own needs. Do you want to spend your time writing? Brainstorming plots? Collaging? The choice is yours! And, of course, it needn't be merely a weekend. Visit Anne Gracie's website for an article about a week-long writers' retreat--my idea of bliss!
I can't recommend writers' weekends highly enough as a way of recharging the writing batteries and getting lots of work done. So grab your writing friends and your laptop and head off somewhere for the weekend--or invite your friends home to you--and write, and enjoy!