I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Monday, July 18, 2011

Writing Retreat Take-Aways

I love writing retreats. Love them. Two weeks ago, I was able to attend our ACFW local chapter’s Great Lakes Getaway. Our chapter always head up to Lake Superior’s North Shore and spends a weekend soaking up writing instruction together. No matter how many retreats you attend, it seems like you always learn something new, or something strikes you in a brand new way. So today I’m going to share my top five take-aways from this year’s Great Lakes Getaway with My Book Therapy’s very own Rachel Hauck:

1. Let dialogue do the heavy lifting. Often times, the conversations my characters have are b-o-r-i-n-g, sprinkled with too much “Hi, how are you?” to maintain reader interest and tell a memorable story. Rachel taught us never to reveal a major emotion in prose, always drop it “between the quotes!”

2. Don’t rehash what the reader already knows. Don’t hang on to a plot point too long to make sure the reader gets it, or to boost word count. Move the story forward. My heroine shouldn’t spend thirty pages pondering whether she’ll accept the hero’s dinner invitation!

3. Set opposite goals for the hero and heroine. This ups the tension, ups the stakes, and provides opportunities for a good conflict or argument. (A classic rule, I know, but sometimes I overlook this one!)

4. Don’t quit. Press on and enjoy the journey. Just because you don’t final in a contest or get yet another rejection letter doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Persevere.

I promised you five, right? Well, usually the final morning of our retreat consists of a devotional time that we can relate to our writing life. And this year Rachel reminded me about the heart of God.

5. There is a you-sized hole in God’s heart that He allows of Himself. He doesn’t receive your love the same way he receives someone else’s. You are his favorite one, so bring him joy in the way only you can.

Your turn: what are some of the best tips you’ve ever learned at a writing retreat?

Now write on, and bring God joy!

Amy Lindberg


  1. It was a great time. I really appreciated Rachel's person as well as her teaching.

  2. Great summary, Amy. You said it better than I did! Get that thesis done and you'll be free to write romances! XO!

    LeAnne, it was very lovely meeting you too! Thank you for the kind words.


  3. Thanks for stopping by, LeAnne! (She is one of my lovely new friends in the microscopic picture!)

  4. I don't know about that, Rach! You are pretty eloquent when you get rolling! Thanks for coming to MN and sharing with us! Thanks for the encouragement about the thesis, too...I'm making good progress. :)

  5. Amy, it sounds like it was a fabulous weekend with lots of learning and fun. ;) I would have loved to have been there that weekend (even if I do live in Colorado!). :)

    I'd never thought about God having a "me-sized hole in His heart." What a great exhortation and encouragement to seek Him first and seek to love Him with all that I am.
    Let's see, I've only been to two retreats, but one of the takeaways I've received is the beauty of brainstorming my story with those further along the writing journey than I am. I learn so much, and I've been encouraged as I see writers helping each other to write breath taking stories. I have benefitted from this, too. :) Loved your post! Sorry this is so long.

  6. That sounds like the perfect retreat, Amy. Wish I could have been there. Maybe next year, right?

  7. Yay Jeanne, I would have loved it if you could have been there. Good point, the brainstorming that happens at a retreat is truly spectacular! Glad you have had the chance to experience it!

  8. Oh Brenda! I hope next year. You were truly missed! Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Amy, sounds like a great retreat. Rachel is always good. I love the me-sized hole in God...never thought about it that way, but it makes total sense! Wish I could've been there.

    One thing I've learned (and I've learned so much at DTs)is to start in the middle of the problem and not with backstory. Then sprinkle in backstory.

  10. Oh, such a good point, Pat! It took 4 retreats, but I finally am (Maybe!) ready to delete my prologue. It could be backstory, but is action too, so, hm...

  11. Great post and I'm sorry I'm a day late commenting, Amy! I thought of you all during the weekend...so glad it was a blast. Umm...I feel like every single thing I've ever learned about writing happened at a retreat, so picking one is hard...as many technical, storycrafting things as I've learned (especially through MBT and Susie and Rachel's teaching), probably the biggest and best have been the spiritual lessons along the way...trust in God's timing...surrender of MY plans...looking to Him to help me with discipline (ack!)...

    Hopefully some year I can come up from Iowa and join you Minnesotans for your yearly retreat!

  12. Ames, I'm so glad you had a great retreat. You and M put a ton of work into it, and it paid off. Besides, how could you go wrong with Rachel?

    My favorite tips include Rachel's "Tell the story between the quotes." and Susie's "What is the one thing that will break your character's heart? Use it."

    Great stuff comes from MBT retreats.