Overview of the Writing Retreat


JR HandleyHey Space Cadets!  I just got back from my Writer’s Retreat – had to get away so I could get a handle on getting Book Four done.   It has been an interesting experience – five days with no children asking me questions or screaming in the background.  No wife with a honey do list.  It was almost to quiet – wait, is there a to quiet?  Well let’s get to it.

DAY ONE:  This was a very rough day, only 1,394 words written. The trip to getting here was long, and the traffic was horrendous. It made the drive to the hotel Writing Retreat Day Onesomewhat more stressful than it should’ve been. The hotel room wasn’t the nicest, so I had to wait an hour for the maintenance people to fix the AC and turn the hotbox into a hotel room.  It didn’t stop me from writing, but it slowed me down.  Finally, to fix parts of the strategy I had to research HALO and HAHO drops by the US Army so I knew what we were capable of now.  I tend to use modern tech as the base line from which I extrapolate my future tech.  Also, I compiled a document for Boss Man on what assets would be joining the main body of the Human Legion on the final battle for Earth.  The close of the Sleeping Legion story will link back up with his last book in the Human Legion Series.  I love it when a plan comes together!

 DAY TWO:  Today was a good day, I wrote 5,029 words and finished two chapters that were longer than I normally write. They were battle scenes, and I tried to keep the writing concise and the prose clear.  Hopefully my editors will agree that I succeeded. The trick for me, today, was writing my own beats to help me use my Dragon. Without the Dragon, today’s numbers wouldn’t have happened. I also let myself take breaks every 500 words to walk around and stretch and gave myself some YouTube or Facebook time every 1000 words.  This was huge, as it gave me a reward for hitting my stride. I expect that this draft will end at around 70K words, so I adjusted the goal. After my wife and mother both look at it, pointing out where I need to add details, I’ll flush out the story and the 2nd draft will jump to around 80K words, at which point I’ll give it to my editors. Now I better hit the hay, so I can do it all again tomorrow!

 DAY THREE:  Today started rough, as I learned the Dragon Dictation hates long Word Documents. Once I corrected for the ghosts in the machine, I wrote the chapters on a side document, and then did a quick cut and paste into the master draft.  I wrote these chapters entirely with the Dragon, and cranked out a solid 6,200 words.  I also learned that when I dictated the chapters, they were longer than the ones I’ve previously written. Not sure what that indicates, or how much my editors will hate me when I’m done, but I’ll find out soon!


DAY FOUR:   So today I allowed myself to get distracted, with friends calling out of the blue after months of radio silence and another friend needing a quick friendly shoulder as her neighbors nearly drove her to drink.  I won’t go into details, that’s not my story to tell, but my morning was garbage.  I also got sucked into the research rabbit hole, as I scoured my notes and Tim C. Taylor’s Human Legion novels for tech that could be creatively used to solve a problem for Colonel Lance Scipio.  Couldn’t have any calling my solution a Dues Ex Machina, so I pulled tech from the larger canon. Even with that, I wrote 5,763 words before my brain turned to mush and I had to call it a night. I learned that I can write faster than I previously thought, but only when my outline and other prep work is already done. I might have to take my goal form 70k back up to 80k, but I’ll let that happen when it I hit 70k. I’m excited to wake back up, refreshed and to write more of this story. This book will close out the Sleeping Legion Series, but leave room for a follow-on series if there’s enough of a demand. Maybe we’ll read about the Sleeping Fleet someday? Until then, my editor and I will have some big news to announce soon!!

 DAY FIVE:  So this was the last day of my writing retreat, and I wrote 6,063 words.  I feel like I could’ve written more, but I lost 4 hours planning and outlining the final battle of the novel.  Overall, I’m pleased with how I did and I found the experience to be earth shattering.  I know I’m capable of writing more words than I thought I was, and I realize how crucial outlining is to my process.  Oh, and I recognized how much I let myself get distracted by the parts of the writing business that don’t equal more books on the market.  Glad my wife and mother insisted I do this!  And I forgot to mention that I ended up pushing my approximate ending word count to 80K, where it started.  I made that decision because I’ve about 10 chapters left, and am 600 words from the 70K goal.  One positive thing about that change was that seeing the percentage jump helped trick my mind.  I plan on using the gamification of the process to my advantage, make my nature work for me and so I don’t get bummed out.

 Final thoughts:  this experience doesn’t have to be overly expensive, as we found a cheap hotel that rented by the week.  I used to refer to these as “No Tell Motel’s!”  With lodging covered, I kept the food cost down as well. I bought a lot of tuna kits, frozen meals, and bottled beverages. In the future, I think I would recommend healthier food though. The high salt content of my meals had me feeling sick, and by Day 5 it was slowing me down.  I’m still new to this healthier living, when I was a spry young warrior I could eat and drink whatever I wanted with little negative consequences. However, there has to be a way to make this work without breaking the bank.  Food wise, I was limited by a tiny dorm size refrigerator and microwave as my only means of preparation. If you have any ideas on handling the meal prep, given those limitations, I’d love to post your blog on the topic! Writers gotta stick together, and help each other.



Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!  




 –> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are videos used by JR Handley for use under the Fair Use Doctrine.


6 thoughts on “Overview of the Writing Retreat

  1. nicholeqw1023

    I’m glad that you had a positive experience on your writing retreat! Did you finish this draft or not quite yet? I’ll try and think of healthy meals/food prep and get back to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds like it was just what you needed! What about making yourself some bento box type meals? There are lots of plastic lunch containers out there that have separate sections for different food items. You could add healthy meats, veggies, etc in them and they last a couple of days. I know moms that make a whole weeks worth of them and keep them in the fridge then throw them in their kids’ lunch boxes.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow… what’s that, like 20,000 words in a week? Hot dog (sorry, it’s independence day, after all). Despite the hiccups, it sounds like it was worth it.

    I do almost all of my family’s meal prep, and when we’re really busy, we get by with huge batches of whole grains (brown rice, bulgur, millet, etc.), pre-cooked veggies, and beans that last days and days and days. It gets boring, but it’s really good for you and you can control how much salt and other crud you put in there. Season it any way you like. On it goes. I’ve used beans and rice for a few years as a great tool for me to keep off the weight I lost. A pound of dried lentils cooks in less than an hour, most of it hands-off, and will last you probably six meals. Once it’s all cooked, mix it together, microwave it, and off you go.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I wrote 24,449 words in the 5 days I was gone. I honestly don’t think I could’ve been as effective if I wasn’t in the middle point of the book. I know I want to try to learn from the experience and replicate it going forward.

      Thanks for the advice on the nutrition. Not sure how that would work with only a microwave and a tiny refrigerator but I will look into it.


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