Artist Retreat III – January 2014

[Originally posted on my former blog, Michael Runs the Gamut]

In my last post, I talked about the writer’s retreat I went to in Alpine, Texas. A couple of months ago, I was invited to another retreat, much closer this time, in Galveston. A couple of friends of mine, Dominick D’Aunno and Matt Adams, decided to host a space for writers and artist to get away from their regular routine for a few days and just write or paint or whatever. I jumped at the chance.

I’ll be the first to admit that, in terms of creative space, I have it better than some others. My wife is very supportive of my work, and she leaves me alone for long stretches of the day and/or evening to create in whatever way works for me at the moment. Even so, there are interruptions. Daily life is like that, and I had been pushing myself to finish a number of projects this year. Unfortunately, I kept coming up with new projects; which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I was finding my ability to stay focused was eroding, and I was multi-tasking to the point that I wasn’t finishing anything. I decided the retreat would allow me time to finalize the plot outline for The Hawthorn’s Sting (my newest thriller), and to push forward with the first draft. I had already written about a quarter of it, and then I got bogged down in minutia. I think it’s a good story, and this looked like a good opportunity to move it forward.

Unlike the previous retreat, there were no specific rules or regulations. We didn’t hold classes, or critique each other’s work (although some of it was shared when we wanted an opinion). Each of us had our own bedroom in a wonderful beach house, next to Stewart Beach in Galveston. We brought our own food and beverages, but often shared it pot luck style. We ate when we wanted to, slept when we wanted to, and worked when we wanted to (which for most of us consumed more than half of our time). In the evenings, some of us watched movies, while others ignored the TV, inserted our earbuds, cranked up our iPods, and continued to work. It was wonderful.

Marti Corn and Alyssa Woods hard at work

In the end, I did very little work on Hawthorn’s Sting. I shifted focus to the problem I’ve been having with my first novel, If a Butterfly. I stopped querying agents on it about a year ago because of the response I had been getting. I know — as the author — I’m biased, but I think it’s an amazing story. The general reaction has been (from the few agents who have looked at it) that it’s a great idea, and the execution is good, but most felt it was too long (originally 330,000 words, now trimmed to 240,000), and they wouldn’t be able to sell publishers on a novel that long from a first-time author. I understand. It’s a big commitment.

I took the four days, and worked out a game plan to self-publish it after I split it into two novels. I realized when I examined it further, that the novel actually has two climaxes, and the first one occurs fairly close to the current mid-point. So I’m going to do some polishing, maybe even a little more trimming, but I will end up with a first novel and a sequel, each of them about 120,000 words.

I came away from the time in Galveston, with a clearer set of goals, and a concrete plan to deal with a couple of books that I think will be very marketable in these shorter versions.

Sunrise on Stewart Beach in Galveston

Next week I’ll do a post, listing all the projects I’m currently working on, partly to give you a sense of what I’ve been trying to slog through, and also to put them out there so I’ll be more likely to commit fully to them and get them finished.

How do you deal with all of the “real life” minutiae that works its way into your writing day?


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