My First Writing Retreat
I started writing this week’s newsletter on Friday night. Mentally exhausted after writing 5,000 words in one day for the first time in a long time. Some pulp authors will probably see that number and say, “Aw, that’s cute,” but I’m usually 700-1,500 words a day guy. If I’m really feeling it, I can do between 2,000 and 3,000 words. That’s all to say that 5,000 words in one day is a rare level of output for me. It was possible because I went on my first writing retreat ever.
On Thursday, I hit the road with, , Judith Sonnet, , and with the explicit goal of doing nothing this weekend but writing. For people who know our books, this is like an all-star lineup of Splatterpunk Award winners and nominees, Amazon bestsellers, veterans of horror fiction, and people making significant waves today, all gathered under one roof. For those that don’t know, well, there’s no time like the present to check us all out.
We stayed in a remote cabin by the river in rural Texas, just working on our respective projects. I’ve always wanted to do something like this, a getaway tailored for creativity and putting words on the page. I tried it once a year or so ago, but I was by myself and after I did a couple thousand words, I just ended up watching TV. Having other people with you can help hold you accountable. That’s not me saying Wrath threatened to punch me if I didn’t put down any words or Judith was badgering me about my word count every few minutes. It simply means that having other people excited about the same thing you’re excited about, especially when we’ve got the time and space to do it, can be a great motivator.
On Saturday, I did 4,500 words, and the only reason I stopped there was because it marked the end of a major project.
That’s right, friends. At 35,629 words, Barn Door to Hell is finished. I’m sure it will need edits, but unlike last time, I doubt it will need a full rewrite. Look for the cover reveal and a preorder link very soon.
I spent Sunday brainstorming a new project, writing about my characters and their motivations, and mapping out some plot points. I’m not quite ready to announce that project yet since it’s so new, but I’m pretty hyped for it.
By Sunday afternoon, I was missing my family. As much fun as I had, as proud as I am of the work I got done, it’s good to be home.
Barn Door to Hell took about nine months to write. It’s meant to be a fun, supernatural-menace-run-amok story, but that’s not to say there isn’t any depth to it. You’ve got father/son stuff, young adult angst, and questions about one’s responsibility when faced with something evil.
The first draft was a lot of word vomit and me trying new things. In a lot of ways, I overcomplicated the plot out of fear of being too predictable, too faithful to the genre and its tropes. I can grumble all I want that genres are just for marketing purposes, but if I love the genre and want to keep writing in it, it’s important to know the expectations, when it’s okay to meet them, and when it’s okay to subvert them. Subversion is cool, but to use a wrestling phrase, you’ve got to pick your spots.
Thankfully, Shane was friend enough to point all this stuff out a few months back, and he encouraged me to start over.
I’ve tried starting over with previous books, but this is the first one since Flesh and Fire that I saw the rewrite through to the end. It’s because I believe in this story. One, it feels like the literary equivalent to the types of movies I grew up watching. More than that, though, I care about the people in it—the characters and their arcs. It sounds basic, but that shit really does matter, even if you’re just doing a fun little tale about diabolical creatures trapped inside a barn who require a blood sacrifice every month.
Anyway, this newsletter is going to be a short one, as I’m still a little wiped out from all the travel and productivity. The biggest takeaway is this: if you’re a writer and you’re able to do so, get a few writers you trust together and get away for a little while. It’s a good way to get stuff on the page, whether you’re feeling stuck or pressed for time. I say you need to trust them because there needs to be an understanding that the main goal of the trip is getting work done, but also, you need people you can bounce ideas off of and chat with when it’s time to take breaks for food and whatnot.
That’s it for now. Take care of yourselves this week.
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