Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


The End Again

Last evening of the writer’s retreat, Sunday Sept 12, 2010

Hello dear readers,

Well, it’s over. Coming home from a retreat is a bittersweet experience. On one hand, I was ready to return to the comforts of home and family (not to mention a toilet I’m allowed to flush!), but on the other, I miss my little writing community horribly.

Writing is an isolating exercise. We sit at our computers alone, creating a world which no one else may ever see. If we are lucky, we have a trusted few who will read our work, congratulate us on a job well done, and tell us we can do better when we need to hear it. But to spend a week surrounded by like-minded people who are going through the same thing? It’s a heady experience.

The retreat theatre

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again. I learned so much from the collaborative spirit of the playwrights. And if I ever decide to write for children, I’d do well to remember the work of Chris and Jana, who write beautiful, meaningful TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences). Ryan, Tiana, and Josh have such passion about bringing awareness to issues like racial discrimination, the youth justice system, and what it means to be different from your peers. I learned so much from them, too. And Warren–well, Warren is where we all hope to be eventually, making a living as a successful writer and artist. Warren is definitely living a life less ordinary.

Susie & I went canoeing on Sat

What did I learn for myself? I’ve learned that I can still be a lazy writer. While I’m great at plot, I sometimes shy away from creating fleshed-out, well-rounded characters. Real people have real pain, and bringing them to life means sharing that pain. It’s been a long time since I’ve had someone like Susie read my work. Once she got over her hesitancy to criticize me, she let me have it about passive language and my caricature protagonist. My book in its first draft stage was good enough to be published as-is, she said. It was slick, well written, and a good story. What it lacked was depth. Susie wasn’t satisfied with that, and neither was I. I can do better, and will. Thanks, Susie.

I spend my last day at the retreat furiously rewriting the opening chapter to Dragonfly Summer. I’m still not happy with it, but it’s a step in the right direction. I have two GIGANTIC rewrites looming ahead  (Dragonfly Summer and getting Lost ready for the Minotaur contest), and I’m hoping the encouragement I received at the retreat will guide and inspire me. It’s time to stop being a person who writes and start being a writer.

Most of all, I’m grateful to Vern and Susie for giving us so much of their time and brain power. I didn’t fully realize how big a gift I’d been given until I was on my way home. Now that I do, I’d like to thank them with all of my heart. I not only gained the wisdom to make my novel better; I gained a family of writer friends.

And that, as the commercials say, is priceless.

Thanks for reading!
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  1. Ev Bishop

    I’m so glad it was such a wholly heartening and rejuvenating time away! Your new friends sound like a wonderful bunch. Enjoy your time at home and happy rewriting–your plans are very exciting.

    Good luck!

  2. Madeline Mora-Summonte

    It sounds like you had a wonderful time!

    I have the opposite problem – I struggle with plot more than character development. I have good “people” but they don’t do very much. 🙂 (I’m working on it, though!)

  3. Lisa

    Reading about your experience has made me want to go back and visit some old friends I have hiding on my hard drive. Two books – one is finished and I’m afraid to let go of it – and the other at the 50,000 word mark and still on pause…I kept making excuses…no more. I’m going to finish #2 and start exploring options for #1.


  4. Story Teller

    Thanks for your comments. I am so thrilled to hear that my experience can inspire others to reconnect with their own writing.

    @ Ev – they are fantastic people. Imagine if SIWC was for a whole week with only ten people. Very intense bonding experience.

    @ Madeline – I really did. If you have trouble with plotting, it may help you to outline the big events of the story before you begin writing. Just a thought that may be worth a try.

    @ Lisa – that’s so awesome. I’m very proud of you! Write, write, write!

  5. Lisa S.

    Sounds like you had a fabulous experience, took a lot away from the retreat – and made some wonderful new friends in the process.
    BTW: I don’t think you’re lazy. Anyone who has the tenacity to finish a novel gets kudos in my books!

  6. Story Teller

    Hi Lisa! Thanks for your comment. Ha ha! When I said “lazy writer”, I just meant that I get sloppy about doing my best. I’m that way with everything – I find it difficult to work to my full potential all the time, with everything.

    It was a fantastic experience. The people were incredible.

  7. Susie Moloney

    Holli, it was a great experience having YOU at the retreat. You’re a gifted writer and not at all far from your goal. I suggest we kick ass and take names until you’re in every DRUGSTORE AND BOOKSTORE AND AIRPORT IN AMERICA — YEAH, THAT’S RIGHT!! I SAID ASS!!

    Oops. Sorry. Better now <3

  8. Story Teller

    Aww, Susie, I love ya. Proud to have you as my mentor and as my friend. I’ll start kicking ass next week or sooner, I promise. The ideas are still percolating.

    Glad to hear you’re back in the writing saddle again. Hope things are going well…probably a lot easier without the pesky writers and meals and hikes and stuff…

  9. Cat Connor

    Sounds like a wonderful time was had by all!

    After spending five days away and three of those in quake stricken Christchurch I was pretty happy to be home myself… although home I’m lacking motivation. 🙂

  10. Story Teller

    It was pretty awesome, Cat. Good to hear from you again. Sorry about the quake…everything ok?

    I haven’t been up to much writing since I’ve been home, either, but I plan to change that on the weekend. No rest for the wicked.

  11. thefish

    Hey Hol,
    Glad to hear the writer’s retreat went so well. Proud of you…as always.

  12. Story Teller

    Aww, thanks Vin. You’re the best! Much love to you.


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