In a few days I’m heading up island to Schooner Cove for another Red Door retreat with the Pen Warriors. These ladies have been getting together every three or four months for fifteen years! I’ve been part of the gang (with a few breaks here and there) for a good part of that time.
Retreat is an act of moving back or withdrawing. And that’s what we do. We withdraw from the outside world. We retreat from our families, our responsibilities, and the news of the hour. We spend a couple of days concentrating on writing, publishing and all things related to both. We always leave time for personal catch up and we never go hungry (or thirsty) but for the most part, we work. We follow an agenda (thank you, Bonnie) which varies from session to session and can include everything from story critiquing or group plotting to blurb writing and promotion. And we generally leave time to talk about craft.
Up for discussion this time is Blake Snyder’s classic Save the Cat. Most of us read it soon after it came out in 2005, but we decided to read it again and discuss it at the Red Door. Snyder was a Hollywood screenwriter who maintained you need a log line to summarize a story even before coming up with a character or a scene. He felt the log line helps with clarity and focus and ultimately results in a stronger story. If you haven’t read Save The Cat I recommend it. If nothing else, it’s one more thing to consider and another possible tool in the writer’s tool kit.
Later this week I’ll be retreating with a few writers to ponder all things story and publishing. We do this four times a year, usually over a weekend. We laugh . . . we eat . . . we drink. And we work. We work hard. So hard that by the end of the weekend my head is crammed with information and ideas and inspiration, and it takes me a few days to sift through it all.
This time, though, my head is also full going in. Actually, it’s more than full; it’s a mess. I need help brainstorming a new novel. I have an idea – an inciting incident really – and I have a character. But the rest is a tangled mess of threads, mostly because I could take this story in a number of different directions.
Needing to send something ahead for the agenda, I wrote out a rough book blurb as a starting point for a brainstorming session. Except – the second idea had merit so I wrote that one out too. And then I wrote out the third one because it was different again, and also full of possibility. I tossed in a few character notes. A thought or two about the setting. A vague suggestion (okay, mostly a whine) about where I might find the love interest in all of this.
And I emailed the whole tangled mess to my fellow pen warriors. No doubt I’ll come away from the weekend with a head full of information, ideas and inspiration. But with some luck – and a little hard work – I’m also hoping that those tangled threads will be nicely sorted into one tight, cohesive and colorful story idea.
Wish me luck.