It’s amazing how much I can get done, novel-writing wise, when I have the time to sit and work. I’ve been doing tiny little edits in fifteen or twenty-minute stretches lately. That’s what fits between my small press work, which has taken over most of my novel writing and blogging time, and everything else I have to do during the day.

I’ve never had trouble carving out writing time, until now. I have other authors depending on me to edit and publish their work, and there are a million tiny tasks related to each manuscript. It’s hard to justify spending what little free time I have on my characters instead of their characters.

Last month, I attend an Oregon Coast retreat with a few writer friends. I put my head down and wrote (or rewrote) 18,000 words from late Friday afternoon to Sunday mid-morning. I solved a series of story problems that have been plaguing me, keeping me from moving forward. And I realized that in my fifteen minute spurts, I’ve been circling the same passages, writing and rewriting.

While that method helped me get to know my character, and move from my first-draft scaffolding into a richer, more complex second draft, it hasn’t helped me get the book done. And after powering through those 18,000 words, I realized this: I know this story and I will finish it. Maybe not this year. But sometime, likely sooner than I was expecting, now that I’ve reminded myself to move forward and not just keep circling the same little patch of problems. Fixing those is what the third draft is for, yes?

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
This entry was posted in Community, Fiction, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Retreat

  1. bwcarey says:

    it’s amazing how words have changed the world, keep it going

  2. Sounds like you made some great progress, Laura. I know it seems like we go in circles sometimes, but try to remember that every bit you do gets you closer to getting the right story down. I know I constantly have to remind myself of that. 18,000 words is a TON to get down in such a short amount of time. That’s fantastic!

    Hope everything else is well with you.

    • So true, Phillip. It was pretty amazing to find my story right there waiting for me, but I’ve barely touched it since the retreat. I have another block of time set aside in July, so hopefully after that one I’ll do a better job of moving forward steadily like I used to. It’s the small press work that takes up my writing time and editing brain–those authors are counting on me, and the more I do to promote them and prepare their books, the better the result, so I have to justify leaving those tasks undone to work on my own writing.

  3. Strange to have to “retreat” in order to advance. 🙂

    And, yes, the key is to move forward. Computers are, in general, better tools for writing novels than typewriters (I’ve used both), but one disadvantage is that they make it much easier to fiddle and fiddle with one little section.

    • So true about the fiddling, Anthony! I (half) joke about spending last year writing chapter two, but I was really teaching myself how to use this historical voice, use omniscient to dip into different POVs, and getting to know my protagonist. I hope to power through a lot more pages.

  4. Laura, I admire the way you are looking at this as a learning process and/or scaffolding. Once the pieces are in place, I’m confident you will move head rapidly.

    You are an amazing, creative, and hardworking writer. Allez!

    • It was amazing to have that time and mental space to push through scenes, Michael. In about two weeks I’ll go on a longer retreat and I hope to get through a lot of pages. I spent so long figuring out how to work with this story, and now it’s time to use what I’ve learned!

  5. What a feeling of accomplishment, Laura. And what a treat to get to focus in such a beautiful place.

    • I felt so great afterwards, Marcia, and am now back to struggling to make time for my characters. I ended up going to the coastal retreat last-minute, filling in for someone who couldn’t make it, and the whole time I was there, I felt lucky.

  6. jmmcdowell says:

    Maybe we need to go through some of those stretches where we’re on the hamster wheel or circling over the same points. I think we have lessons to learn from them that help us improve down the road. And maybe we also need to spend time away from the WIPs to break out of those ruts. I think it’s no coincidence that as I find myself putting in more hours at work and spending less time with my stories, the break has refreshed my creative mind and ideas are flowing again. So maybe the focus on your new press and authors has cleared your mind, and this next retreat will be even more rewarding for you. 🙂

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