Saturday 22 August 2015

Retreating - by Nicola Morgan

I recently went on my first writing retreat. It was to Retreats For You, in deepest Devon, with Lucy Coats, Mary Hoffman and Anne Rooney. For some inexplicable reason, this quickly became referred to as the Naughty Retreat. *cough*

I'd put myself under pressure for this trip. I knew I had to break through some writing barriers. Or what? Or I was going to feel really bad about myself and my (fiction) writing. As you may remember, I've explained that I've been writing so much non-fiction for the last few years that my fiction brain has ossified.

This retreat was to sort that out. I didn't have a word target (though I did want at least 5000 words out of it - which isn't much but would be more made up stuff than I'd managed in the previous few months) but I wanted to "get into" the novel I had just started and get to know my fictional character. I wanted to get some kind of "flow" going in my writing. I wanted to feel like a writer again.

My agent, eternal supporter as she is, had inadvertently almost scuppered this before I started, by telling me that I should not for one moment think that only my fiction made me a writer. She told me to be proud of my non-fiction success and not beat myself up if that was "all" I was doing at the moment. Not so easy. Hearts and heads don't do the same things.

ANYway, should you ever want to give your writing brain or heart a boost with a retreat, Retreats For You is the place!

I walked for hours. And found mysterious and rural settings, objects and inspirations for my novel, which is not now going to be set in Scotland...

Once, I walked so far into the wilderness that my imagination started to get the better of me and I had to return hurriedly to human civilisation before I met the axe-murderer who was cracking those twigs over there.

I wrote, in my thatched cottage bedroom, fuelled by coffee.

I wandered in the village and loved its library telephone box. 

I found a dragonfly


And every evening at about 6pm, THIS was brought to my room! Yes, it is Prosecco! Which may go some way towards explaining why was this called the Naughty Retreat.  

We were delightfully cared for by Deborah and Bob, with their home-baking, their willingness to do or provide anything and their general laidbackness. And the roaring log fire every evening. Well, it was apparently July.

But, did it work? Well, I did write 5000 words and, reading them back a couple of weeks later, I like the words. My character did start speaking to me and I do love her and want to know more about her. I did spend a lot of time writing (more than the 5000 words suggest) and I did feel like a writer. 

On the negative side, I didn't achieve that "flow" I'd been wanting. I think this novel is too early, too fragile yet. And I think the ossification I mentioned is too, well, ossish. But I did get the sense that one day I could get flow back again, if only I would allow myself more time like this. 

More time like this? You mean I could go back to Retreats For You with the Naughty Retreaters? Bring it on!

Nicola Morgan writes fiction (really!) and non-fiction and still spends too much time doing speaking engagements about adolescence or the reading brain and readaxation. Information and contact at


catdownunder said...

I am jealous, jealous, jealous!

Sue Purkiss said...

Sounds good to me...

Joan Lennon said...

Bliss! AND productive!

Gill James said...

I'm going on Tuesday, I'm going on Tuesday, I'm going on Tuesday! Tee hee.

Nicola Morgan said...

Lucky you, Gill!

Anyone who gets the chance and who is considering it, should go for it :)

Kathryn Evans said...

Yippee! I am so pleased it worked for you!

Savita Kalhan said...

Fine company, Prosecco, and writing - what's not to like! Glad you're getting your fiction hat on again, Nicola.

Sheena Wilkinson said...

I spent a lovely few days here in 2012: what lovely warm hosts, and what a welcome. I recommend it to anyone who likes the kind of retreat where you don't have to cook! Booking in with chums is a fabulous idea.