Retreat, Hell! or, On the Importance of Having Writer Friends

This weekend, I spent four days in a cabin in the woods with four other women, limited internet access, and no phone signal.


And here’s why I love NaNoWriMo so gosh-darn much: you meet like-minded people. I have an ever-expanding circle of writer friends (and, cough, beta readers, cough cough), and it just tickles me all to pieces. I moved to town in early 2010, and I was here for a year before I met any real, serious writers. A friend of mine suggested I do this November thing, and now I’m in critique groups, I’ve got six finished (okay, four salvageable) novels under my belt, a handful of short stories, and a positively ridiculous group of people to beta read/plot bounce with me, all of whom are freakishly brilliant in their own ways.

So a gaggle of us went to YALLFest this year down in Charleston, where I got to meet/squee over the lovely and highly amusing Caitlin Kittredge:

Image Ahem. More importantly, the keynote speakers, Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, spoke at length about the usefulness and importance of having writer friends, and then started on about “writer retreats.”

The group of us exchanged meaningful glances, and upon our return to town, the Groupon holder started looking for cabins in the mountains so we could do just that.

Fortunately for me, I was smack in the middle of the umpteen-billionth revision of this novel that I wrote two years ago (BUT AM I BITTER? NOOOOOO), and I was able to get the whole damn thing wrapped up in 12 days. To be fair, I’ve revised the darn thing about every 6 months or so, usually followed by a desperate round of queries, all to no avail. (You, constant readers, will be among the first to know if someone offers me representation for anything.) So after a really awesome, heartbreaking rejection from a really heartbreakingly awesome agent at a heartbreakingly awesome agency, about a month ago, I decided to go through the thing ONE. MORE. TIME. with a fine-toothed comb. Because she rejected for reasons other than “not my thing,” which were enumerated to me in a heartbreakingly awesome email.

I finished it today, and I await only my beta readers to catch up with me.

The other four girls were in varying stages of the writing process themselves, one drafting a short story, one plotting a novel (which sounds RIDIC, you guys), one in the early first-draft stages of a novel, and one in the first round of revisions. There was a lot of idea-bouncing, a lot of problem-talking-out, a lot of arguments about who’s captain of which team in my book, some mountain climbing, some hottubbing, and a great deal of wine. It counts as a win.

So that’s kind of the point of all this: writers, get yourselves some writer friends. It’s nice to have friends, of course, but it is insanely nice to have someone who Gets It–who understands when you say you can’t because you have to write, who offers to hold your hair back when that very first rejection ever makes you get so drunk it becomes a problem, who will go with you to cons and sit through panel after panel after panel, and who, occasionally, will introduce you to other writer friends of theirs, some of whom are published and living the dream.

I’m not going to lie to you guys: it takes a village to write a novel. Every step in the creative process benefits directly from someone asking questions, poking motivations, suggesting grisly murders and tragic backstories, arguing that it’s “who” even though you could swear it’s “whom,” telling you what doesn’t make sense and what scenes need to be cut or switched or rewritten or set on fire.

And having them be awesome enough that you can spend four days in a cabin without phone or reliable internet is pretty nice, too.


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6 Responses to Retreat, Hell! or, On the Importance of Having Writer Friends

  1. Aww! /wipes away tear That’s so sweet. And I will ALWAYS be captain of Team Cal!

  2. Laura says:

    Awww! Group hug, group hug! ❤

    I'm still not ready for the real world. Can we just go hide in the hot tub and not go to work tomorrow?

  3. Jessica Robison says:

    Great post and all the feelings. 🙂 Aaaaaand the real world happened hard today for me. 😛


  4. Jessica, I was there first, but I’m glad that you and I share a team. The real world does indeed suck.


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