Which Kind Of Writing Retreat Is Best For You: A Quick Guide
So you’ve decided to attend a writing retreat. But you don’t know which kind will most suit you and your situation. Check out this handy guide to help you choose…
This year we’re hosting two writing retreats at Albergo Leso.
The first is a relaxed gathering of various writers to meet, drink, and take time to indulge in their writing, with some writing exercises and feedback thrown in for those who want it. Also drink.
The second is a more formal structured retreat hosted by a well-known creative writing tutor which seeks to inspire and motivate attendees to solve specific issues they might be having with their current works in progress.
Two pretty different events, I’m sure you’ll agree.
And from a question asked on Facebook a few weeks ago, it turns out there are almost as many kinds of retreats as there are writers.
One person said they and some friends just booked themselves into a hotel for a few days once a year or so to see how much writing they could get done. There, the point is the friendship and the getting away from home distractions.
Others, of course, talked about structured and tutored retreats and workshops. Here the main differences concerned how long the retreats lasted. Some were a day in the countryside. Quite a few were a long weekend, while others of course were a week or so.
Lastly, there are the residential retreats where writers get to lock themselves away from the world for weeks at a time in order to meet some specific writing goals – often to kickstart or to finish a project.
So which of these many options are right for you? Ask yourself these questions for starters:
Are you getting too distracted to concentrate at home?
A common problem, this. The answer is usually yes – especially if you have family responsibilities to deal with.
If so, you have several options, but you probably can’t be gone for too long. So here, I’d opt for getting away for anywhere from a long weekend to a week. Longer than a week might be too hard to manage, but less than three or four days and you really won’t see much benefit.
Your next question:
Are you struggling with a specific writing problem?
You keep getting stuck with your novel. The characters just aren’t working, or the story doesn’t flow right.
(If that’s your problem, you might want to check out our plot and character retreat taking place this October right here.)
Whatever your problem, you need the help of a tutor. Clearly, a tutored workshop is for you in this case. The next logical question is:
How much time can you take?
A movable feast, this, obviously.
The less time you can create for yourself, the more you should opt for a day-long workshop or a long weekend. The more time you can free up, the more you should consider a week or even longer away.
A lot of people refuse to give their writing the attention it deserves, due to outside responsibilities of family or work or whatever it might be.
Some simply feel guilty about spending so much time on a hobby. But often, the issue is actually fear – or at least lack of confidence. A good writing retreat can work wonders for this, so your next question is:
Do you want to build confidence in your writing?
Often, friends and family do their best, but they just don’t get what you’re going through when the writing gets tough.
Other writers do, though.
If this sounds like your issue, look for a retreat which emphasizes team exercises as well as private time for writing. You need to meet other writers and bond with them. You need to share your struggles with people who will understand you.
There is nothing more confidence boosting with creative writing that getting to know other writers who are going through the same challenges as you.
If you want a tutored retreat, look for those where the tutors are well-reviewed by previous attendees – especially for their friendliness and openness.
Do you want to get published?
Publication is tough. Self-publishing is tough also, and a different beast altogether, calling for a host of extra skills.
The tricky part here is that no one can guarantee publication, but some tutors do have a track record of helping people do just that. Look out for tutors with this kind of reputation. Just don’t expect miracles. They can improve your chances of publication, but it remains a long, hard road.
Or perhaps track down some of your favorite new authors and see if they mention having attended any writing retreats – if so, who with.
Check out those tutors and those retreats. They could be perfect for you.
Do you want to meet other writers (that you don’t already know)?
Most aspiring writers want a support network of other knowledgeable and like-minded authors. Most of us need one for when the times get tough or you take another knock.
Most retreats can help with this, but again, it’s probably best to look for ones where previous attendees or reviews mention this as a specific benefit.
The friends you make at writing retreats can end up being some of the closest you’ll ever make. Even if you are a little shy and find it hard to meet new people sometimes, you’re still likely to find a kindred spirit at this kind of event.
Which kind of retreat to choose…
It’s still tricky, but in summary, the first decision is to commit to your writing and decide it is worth spending time at a retreat.
Once you’ve done that, ask yourself the questions above. Maybe you are halfway through your novel and you just can’t finish it, but a two-day workshop in your nearest city might give you the breakthrough you need.
Or maybe you really do need more time, and some one-to-one guidance.
Not all retreats are right for all people.
Author, publisher and writing tutor Amanda Saint sums it up like this:
“We all need to keep learning and developing our writing, and tutored retreats offer an excellent opportunity to do this.
“But we also need time just to write and get the words on the page, and time to edit to make stories shine. I go on un-tutored retreats every year to have the time to work on my own novels and short stories.
“I don’t often go on tutored retreats myself as I just don’t have the time, but I regularly do online courses to keep developing my own writing.”
[Check out our interview with Amanda here]
London-based marketer and author My Ly – a fan of writing retreats – has this advice to give:
“It is always useful to check out any reviews for the possible writing retreat you are thinking of attending and to find out more about the speakers to consider what might be helpful for your own writing goals.”
[Read our full interview with My here]
Author Ruby Speechley has attended so many retreats, she doesn’t actually remember the full number (see her full interview here).
For her, the reasons to attend retreats are pretty simple:
“Retreats gave me dedicated time to write on a particular project. They were an opportunity to meet other writers and take my writing more seriously.”
Check out Ruby’s interview here.
Need more inspiration? Read our article: Five Ways YOU Could Benefit From A Writing Retreat.
If you’re feeling motivated to come on a retreat yourself, check out the details of our plot and character retreat with Amanda right here. There are only a few places left, so do hurry if you’re interested.