What Good is a Writing Retreat? And What Should You Look For?

I blog a lot about conferences, and the benefits a good conference provides to writers. Writing retreats are like mini-conferences, and offer their own set of benefits.

 15C Ross errilly

Retreats are smaller than conferences (writers can even do them alone) and have more variation in their setting, and the amenities they offer. Before you attend a writing retreat, take a look at the featured offerings and decide if it meets your needs.

Primarily, a writing retreat should help the attending writer accomplish whatever goals the writer sets for the event. Sometimes, that’s word count–or feedback from another author–or spending time in special classes tailored to the writer’s needs.

Writing retreats take place all over the world, and sometimes it’s fun to reach outside your comfort zone–and zip code–and treat yourself to a retreat in a more exotic setting. Travel inspires all kinds of writing, from memoir to mystery (and everything in between).

15C Cliffs of Moher

Here are some tips for getting the most from your writing retreat:

1. Make a list of your goals and priorities for the retreat before you pick one. That way, you can be sure the retreat you’ve selected meets your needs.

2. If you want a “guided retreat” with writing coaches or workshops, look for teachers whose style and experience interests you, and for classes tailored to the attendees’ needs. Some retreats offer general classes, while others offer one-on-one coaching and mentoring. Find the style that’s going to inspire you.

3.  Pick a retreat that offers attractive scenery and a location that inspires you. Some people like to write in the snow (ok, technically in a LODGE with the snow OUTSIDE, but I digress) while others think an Irish village the perfect place to get the words a’flowin. (If you fall in the latter category…keep reading…I’ve got good news for you.) You can have a writing retreat in any location, but if you’re spending the money to travel…why not pick the most inspirational scenery you can?

4. Go with a friend – and make a pact to keep each other focused. It’s tempting to turn a writing retreat into a retreat from writing. If you can talk a friend into going along, the two of you can keep one another honest about working–at least, during working hours!

5. Get your WIP in shape before you go. Don’t wait until the retreat begins to focus on your writing. Use the retreat (and the money you spend on it) as an inspiration to start writing before you go. Get those early-stage bumps worked out, and get excited about the work in progress so that when you get to the retreat, you’re raring to go!

15C Roundstone cross

Now…about that Irish village…

This August, novelist Heather Webb (author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE and RODIN’S LOVER) and I will be co-teaching at a writers’ retreat and tour in Galway, Ireland, through IRELAND WRITER TOURS. The tour runs from August 16-23, and includes small, tailored writing workshops, one-on-one mentoring for all attendees, manuscript critiques, and tours of some of the loveliest places on earth–including ancient stone circles, holy sites, faerie forests, celtic ring forts, and dinner in a haunted castle

The tour has only a few slots left, so if a week of writing and lovely Irish sights appeals to you, click over to Ireland Writer Tours’ website and get your registration booked ASAP. And if Ireland isn’t your thing, please do look into a retreat that appeals to you–I think you’ll find it a refreshing and inspiring way to breathe new life into your writing career.

Have you ever attended a writing retreat? Which one is your favorite? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!