Hallie points the way

Little Writing Retreat on the Prairie, Part VII: The Road Ahead

  • “You’re going to have to learn to ignore a lot of advice, including some of mine.” 
  • You both have to, and can’t, keep your readers in mind as you’re writing.
  • Try writing some non-fiction, in addition to fiction.
  • Set up a place to write where you can close the door and won’t be interrupted
  • Put your writing materials there and books/resources that you use for writing

I’ve been back from the Windbreak House retreat for over a month now, and I thought I would write two, maybe three, posts about it. Instead here I am, wrapping up with Post Number 7.

During the last morning of the retreat, as I tried and failed to eat all the blueberries I had bought and eggs left for me by the ranch hens, Linda and I discussed what I would do when I got home. She showed me the published work of an author who had come to one of her retreats several years ago, a mystery writer named M.K. Coker. I’m not as big of a mystery fan as Linda, but I can still go for a well-crafted mystery, and M.K. Coker’s look great. She had this message for me and other aspiring novelists:

We live in an exciting time for novelists (genre anyway) what with the ability to go directly to readers. Keep writing, keep learning, and most importantly, don’t stop. I actually have the postcard you sent that says “Don’t give up, don’t give up, don’t give up” over my writing desk.

One of my most important goals for the retreat had been to try to establish a routine so that I could push forward and finish the novel that I’ve been working on since NaNoWriMo of 2012. Have I? Well, as is often the case, yes and no.

I still don’t work on the novel every day, but I’ve gotten better at doing some things regularly.

A bookshelf in my writing room

I did establish a writing desk in the guest bedroom, and I put some important books up there too. I have a note on the desk from a friend that says “Write on!” I keep the desk moderately clean–clean enough–and I get regular visits from Reviewer Cat reviewercatbut not too many others. Reviewer Cat is pretty mellow. She doesn’t hunt anything except cat treats.

Speaking of Reviewer Cat, she and I have started a regular Book Reviews section, which makes up a good chunk of my non-fiction writing. I only missed posting a Book Review this past week because I’ve been reading Oil and Water by PJ Lazos, the subject of the next review–and wow, it’s really good! It’s rich, multilayered, and complex, and taking longer to read than a week. Reviewer Cat hasn’t given many five-star reviews, but this one could be an exception.

And about Hallie’s Cache, the novel that started it all: it’s in Scrivener now. I finally bought Scrivener after winning NaNoWriMo the second time, with my winner discount. Everyone raved about it, but in my first attempt to use it, I didn’t get any value added relative to Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Also, it kept crashing, which was disconcerting.

Then I read this blog: Scrivener Increased my Productivity 10X.  In spite of the somewhat generic title, it turns out this blogger is facing a similar issue to me: a long, unwieldy rough draft. My plan to interweave different characters’ stories from different viewpoints was in danger of foundering on the familiar shoals of that unwieldiness. Scrivener, with its different views and ways to organize and reorder (outline, index cards, Scrivenerings), along with scene synopses, has made the work of thinking about the novel, and holding all its disparate parts in my head at once, more do-able. So I sit in the writing room, at the writing desk, and I’m able to do a little work on the novel at a time. It’s not like I have to re-invent the wheel every time I sit down to work on it. That feels like progress.

Hallie points the way

On the way out of Hermosa back to the Rapid City airport, I took Hallie, my geocaching doll, to find a couple of final geocaches in South Dakota. She sat quietly, patiently, on the dashboard of the rental car, pointing me in the direction of the road ahead.

Painting by a middle school artist at the Rapid City airport


“Little Writing Retreat on the Prairie” – The Set
–A series of blogs describing my experiences at Windbreak House, a women’s writing retreat in South Dakota run by Linda Hasselstrom


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