I have just returned from a writing retreat – no tutors, lectures or seminars, just half a dozen like-minded writers who decided to get together, all writing busily during the day and meeting up in the evenings to discuss progress, problems and generally talk "shop". On the first evening we had a quick catch up and discussed what we wanted to achieve, and we were all up early the following morning, raring to go!
This is the second retreat we have organised; last year we enjoyed a break on the breath-taking North Devon coast, looking out over rugged cliffs and rough seas, very inspiring, I think you'll agree.
This year our numbers were depleted by illness, so in the end it was only Louise Allen, Janet Gover, Sophie Weston and myself who arrived at a holiday cottage in Oxfordshire for three full days of intensive writing. We didn't have the dramatic scenery of last year, but we did have a lovely long lawn stretching down to the Thames, where we could wander out if we wanted a break. Equally inspiring, but in a very different way.
At breakfast we watched the red kites wheeling and diving to the lawn for scraps and around lunchtime we would convene in the kitchen for snacks or just coffee and a natter, then it was back to work again, each of us finding a desk or table away from everyone where we could work.
Writing can be a very lonely profession, and it was good to have company who understood the need for us to be silent and working for hours on end. There was a sort of friendly rivalry, too, as we all set ourselves targets – word count, getting to the end of a particular scene, etc. etc., but because we were working alongside other writers, we would always go just that little bit further, do an extra hundred words or sketch out another scene. And if anyone felt like slacking, the tap, tap of other writers' fingers on laptop keys was a mental slap on the wrist, telling us to get back to work.
When we came together for our final dinner on the last night we compared notes. No one had written "the end", but we all had a terrific sense of achievement, even though we all felt a certain amount of exhaustion after three intensive writing days. We came away refreshed, inspired and energised; words written, plots created, and in some cases endings resolved.
It was a real busman's holiday and I can't wait to go again!
Melinda Hammond / Sarah Mallory
Four Regency Seasons - Melinda Hammond (Kindle)
Return of the Runaway - Sarah Mallory, pub. April 2016 by Harlequin