Post Retreat

February 3, 2019

So, it is Sunday February 3rd. One week ago it was our last night at Mill House Retreat in Devon.

Mill House Retreat

The fire was roaring and we gathered in the main room to talk and to read. We talked about lots of interesting technical things related to writing. The use of the passive voice, the five act structure, our plans for the group in the year ahead…

Then we each agreed to read something to the rest of the group that we had written over the weekend. I think this is my favourite part of the weekend.

Pam got us going, reading a beautiful piece about using writing as therapy. As somebody who has a child who has used ‘art therapy’ as a coping mechanism for their anxiety and depression, Pam’s reading really resonated with me. I really hope you she turns it into a blog and you get to read it too, because it’s wonderful.

I’m not sure who went next, but I think it was Julian, who read from a new chapter on his current WIP that he’s been working on while on the Curtis Brown Course in London for the last six months. It was a wonderful insight into how the novel has developed since we critiqued it as a group last year. I like the change in direction and the reasons Julian has made it. There was some feedback from the group – positive plus some suggestions that Julian said he would take away and ponder.

I will pretend Helen went next who read from something very new for her – a children’s story. Written from scratch over the weekend. At 1200 words long, she read the whole story out and it was engaging and fun and we can all see the potential for a long running series of stories from this single idea. It was great to hear Helen doing something new in the run up to her starting a new writing course with her main WIP.

I think I might have gone next – I read three pieces of Flash Fiction I’d written/rewritten/remastered from snippets of ideas I had trapped in the amber of my 75-word stories that I often submit to Paragraph Planet. All were well received, I particularly liked Helen’s reaction to my final story about a werewolf. The thought of her expression will have me smiling for a long time to come. Of course the group made some very sensible suggestions and I edited the stories the following morning (just before leaving the retreat) and two days later I had submitted the entire Flash Fiction Anthology to the competition I’d been hoping to enter.

I have to say here that trying to chose from well over 150 pieces of flash fiction and then to down select, re-edit, re-write or just abandon some, to make what I hope is a coherent collection of Flash Fiction was much harder than I thought it would be. And, other than this blog, I haven’t written a word since I submitted the collection, as my tank of creativity is empty and only filling slowly.

Right – back to the evening. John Potter read next (I’m pretty sure). He gave us a chapter that contained a thrilling, fast paced fight scene from his futuristic but low-tech WIP. The group’s only criticism of the piece was that the fight was a little too long. John agreed and, like me, editing that section before he too, finally departed the retreat the next day.

Finally, Maurice, who has put himself in the unenviable position of having two novel writing projects on the go. The piece he read out that evening was from the first novel he started. As ever, Maurice is the master storyteller, he has a knack in both his writing and reading to spin you a yarn that on one level is somehow filled with the mundane and yet is absolutely real and engrossing. I’m really looking forward to reading the whole novel when it’s finished.

So, that’s it – a blog written almost as quickly as the weekend seemed to pass.

I am very lucky to be in such an amazing group and to feel completely safe reading to them (something that I had only finished a few minutes before reading it!), knowing that an points or criticisms will be aimed entirely at making the story better.

Mill House Retreats is a balm for the bruised writer’s soul and ego. It also seems to do the group as a whole a great deal of good too – we always seem to leave more invigorated, keener, with just a smidgen more self-belief our unofficial tagline – ‘Serious about Writing’.

WordWatchers pose for a group photo on our last evening of our retreat.


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