Writing Retreats!

Why do we go on writing retreats? Well, I guess everyone has a different idea, but I go to crank out a bunch of words. Some people are able to be creative in fifteen or thirty minute stretches, then off to something else, then come back to the computer. Some people only get to write during their lunch hour or after the kids go to bed. Or they get up at 5 a.m. and write for an hour or two before leaving for work.


Glen Rose, TX

I’m lucky, I don’t have those time constraints. But stuff happens, you know. The clothes need to be moved from the washer to the dryer. The dishes need to be put in the dishwasher. Then it needs to be emptied. Emails and Facebook cry out for my attention. Occasionally, DH needs my help with errands: groceries, Walgreens, the cleaners, the wine store. Occasionally, a daughter needs assistance with our grands. And then I go to the gym twice a week and Pilates once. That’s a lot of stuff to eat into my writing time.

And I’m easily distracted. Charley, the dog, barks like crazy at something outside. I have to go see what that something is.

.img_3935 He looks calm here, but he’s contemplating taking out after the birds.

I am most productive in the setting of a writers’ retreat. I’m away from my regular distractions, mentioned above. I don’t go on line to look at emails or read FB or Twitter.

Even when I go with others, the agreement is we won’t chat when someone is working. Our interactions are over breakfast and dinner. It’s good to have someone to bounce ideas off of and to commiserate with each other about how hard this work is. LOL Lunch is usually on our own.

In recent years, I’ve cranked out 12,000, 15,000, 17,500 and 5000 words at writing retreats. That’s over a Friday evening through Sunday noon.  Why is the last number so low? Because I combined the writing retreat with a church women’s retreat. Still a good time away. See post on my blog. https://authormarsharwest.wordpress.com/2017/02/23/a-time-away/

Some things I think are necessary to make a writing retreat successful are:

  1. A place away—doesn’t have to be far, but best if you have a fridge & coffee & microwave in your room. (I live on a beautiful lake, but all that stuff mentioned above interrupts my writing at home.)
  2. A commitment from others involved to focus on writing
  3. Have a plan—have you  begun the story so you’ve already done whatever pre-writing you do? (this is necessary for a plotser like me, but may not be for a true pantser.)
  4. Laptop—make sure you’ve saved the most current WIP either on the laptop or on a hard drive.
  5. Have any extra materials you might need—print outs of pictures of characters, and character sketches, story outline (again unless you’re a total pantser).img_4901
  6. Snacks, iced tea (this is just me. I have a special blend I prefer. :), wine), a heating pad you can warm up in the above microwave. (needed for use on shoulders after long hours of typing. 🙂 )
  7. Family members taken care of at home, so you don’t have to worry about them.

PB080112.JPG Deer Creek Resort East Texas. Not close, but beautiful. Writers brainstorming.

Drive somewhere relatively close, so you don’t waste time getting there. I live in Fort Worth, Texas and have made several trips to Irving and stayed at the Jefferson Inn B & B, about an hour drive. Other writers from my NTRWA chapter have come and the number varied from about 12 to 5. Some people share a room, I usually have my own. We get there on Friday afternoon between 4 & 5 pm. Get settled in, and write for a bit before going to supper. We come home from supper and write until whenever.

The next morning, we eat breakfast and go our separate ways for the day. Sometimes folks will meet for lunch. I don’t. I’ve bring something I eat in my room. I might take a walk around part of the block after lunch then right back in the chair with fingers on the keys.

We meet for supper someplace close, again to keep travel time down. There’s a Mexican food restaurant and café nearby. Good quick, inexpensive food. Then back to the keyboards.

Sunday is a repeat except we pack up and leave after 1 pm.

Look at my numbers above. I can really crank out the words in this setting. So, if I’m shooting for a book of 70 to 80 thousand words, I get just under ¼ of the book written.

Of course, we can’t (or I can’t) take off 4 times a year on a writing retreat, which if I pushed the word count to 18 K would give me a book of 72 K and more once I added in emotions and description and internal thoughts.

fullsizerender42 My view from the computer. So, my plan is to pick one weekend a month and skip all the social media and just write. Oh, I’ll still have Charley woofing at whatever, like he’s doing right now. 🙂 Because my hubby is so supportive, I can skip the dishes and clothes that weekend or trips to Costco. It’s a plan. I’ll let you know how the reality is. 🙂

Have you been on a writing retreat? Where did you go? Was it productive for you?

I focus on getting words done, but you can also use it to brainstorm ideas if folksare agreeable.  Love to hear from you.

Please contact me at marsha@marsharwest.com , sign up for my newsletter http://eepurl.com/bBcimz , and follow me on my social media sites.


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Celebrating my first featured @Bookbub #Sale #MFRWauthor #RSsos @jacqbiggar

For an indie author, the tough job of writing a book, editing, choosing covers (all of mine are done by the fabulous Kim Killion), learning how to format (if you’re doing your own I highly recommend Vellum!) and uploading to your chosen vendors can seem overwhelming.


Fortunately, there are many informative blogs, such as Kristen Lamb, Writer Unboxed, and Bookbub to guide our tottering steps through an unfamiliar territory.

One of the main pieces of advice I’ve heard over and over again is the importance of building a backlist. It only makes sense; how can you keep a reader’s interest if you only have one or two books to share with them?

To this end, I’ve been hard at work the past couple of years and just listed my ninth book, Missing: The Lady Said No for pre-order!




Another tip I’ve learned thanks to the mentorship of two special ladies, Mimi Barbour and Anna Markland, is the importance of building connections in the writing world. One of the best ways to do this is multi-author box sets.

I’ve been blessed to be involved with some very fine authors in these sets and made friendships that I treasure. I can’t recommend this enough-if you get the opportunity to join a box set, go for it!

One caveat I have to make to this- do your research. I went into one set where I didn’t know the coordinator, but was familiar with some of the other authors. A few months later, after many unanswered emails and Facebook messages, we found she had taken our money and our manuscripts, and skipped out on her obligation to the group. It was only through the hard work of some of the other members we received our money and a legal letter that she would never publish our books in any part.

So now, how do you get the word out about your new book babies?

One way is to post on blogs like this. Another is to promote on the many Facebook reading groups and tweeting five or six times a day (yes, they recommend at least that much!), or you can apply to book promotional sites.

Some are easy and not too expensive, but they also don’t have the benefits you can reap from the granddaddy of advertising: Bookbub

There are many different rumors about the difficulty of landing an ad with Bookbub, and to be honest, I tried a LOT before they finally accepted me, yay!

One thing I can say, it’s NOT true that you need a bunch of reviews (I heard everything from 50-150) I have 5, yep, 5.

It’s also NOT true that you need to be on all vendors sites before they will accept you. I’m loyal to Amazon.

It IS true that a professional cover is critical. As is a good blurb- one without grammatical errors and isn’t five pages long 🙂

It IS true that Bookbub is expensive to advertise with, but then, they have hundreds of thousands of followers and almost always propel a book into the top hundred in Amazon (Fingers crossed!)

It IS true that you can advertise internationally for a minimal upgrade. (I did, hoping to gain a new readership)

I’ve tried to benefit from this promotion by booking some smaller sites before and after the big day. I also set one of my other books to #Free during that period, The Guardian.

#FREE Feb 5-9 2017



And don’t forget the pre-order for Missing: The Lady Said No. The book doesn’t release until April 25/17, but I thought this would be a good chance to gain early interest 🙂

So, I bet you’re wondering what book made it through the rigid Bookbub criteria?



Available for a limited time at just .99 pennies


And watch for it February 6 as Bookbub’s featured sale!

How about you? Any advice on writing or promoting you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you 🙂



Enter the Sisterhood of Suspense’s Rafflecopter #Giveaway for your chance at some page-turning reads!