For those of you who don’t live in Winnipeg, we just had the best week of the summer and I, in my infinite wisdom and stunning foresight, booked it off as vacation days. In other words, I got lucky. Sunny and what must have been thirty degree temperatures all week long. It was divine.
It was also a working holiday. A writer friend of mine found a cottage for rent up at Winnipeg Beach. Over the winter, we’d been shooting the shit, talking about how cool it would be to go on a writers’ retreat. Then one day in the spring, I get an email from her out of the blue with a link leading me to an on-line rental ad. Throwing caution to the wind, I told her to book it.
Three months later, I ended up on my first summer vacation ever. Normally, I take a week in September or October. Originally it was because I didn’t have the seniority to pick prime time. Then I let people who had kids continue to take the hottest weeks of the year. I like it when it’s a little cooler anyway. But this year, not only did I book a prime time vacation, I made it a working one.
Because there were only two of us, we didn’t have a very structured schedule. It ended up being us writing in the mornings and the evenings. During the afternoons we could write, but more often we went to the beach (once to Gimli) or read or took a nature walk past the store on the corner that sold ice-cream, both hard and soft. We only stopped once. Honest.
Even two three-hour sessions were extremely productive. By the end of the week I was writing over 4000 new net words a day. My friend, 6000. Times six full days, that’s a lot of writing.
How did I do over all?
Day One – I wrote 2015 words on my sci-fi shifter romance. I also dug out an old script, re-familiarized myself with it, and edited the first 40 pages of it.
Day Two – I wrote 1800 more words on my sci-fi shifter romance.
Day Three – I ended up with negative 360 net words on my sci-fi shifter romance and that story was starting to really piss me off. I knew how the story was supposed to go in my head but it was coming out wrong on the page. I actually wrote about 2500 words but between what I cut and replaced and rewrote, I ended the day at a loss.
Day Four – After two days of reflection and no progress whatsoever, I decided to archive the sci-fi shifter romance from hell. It wasn’t working. And it wasn’t fixable. Believe me, I tried. After even more genuflecting, I think that I might have started the story in the wrong spot. And in a really surprising revelation, I think that for the first time ever, I started the story too late. At any rate, my ego has finally accepted my brain’s decree that it’s not yet ready to be written. The story needs to simmer some more and won’t be ready to be told until it decides it ready.
So the day wasn’t a complete waste, I edited and proofread a 40 page/12,000 word contemporary short story I’d finished a couple weeks earlier. It gave me back a little confidence and made me remember that a) I could write, b) do it well and c) finish a project.
Since I still needed a new project to work on for the rest of the week, my editing reminded me that I had a little idea for a sweet contemporary short story that had simmered to completion and just needed to be taken out of my brain and put down on paper. Word count for the day: 520.
Day Five: My sweet contemporary short story rolled along with 4320 new words.
Day Six: 2655 new words and I only stopped when my eyes threatened to fall out of my head.
Day Seven: 115 new words in the morning before we had to pack up and leave at noon. But I got home and wrote another 990 to take me to a grand total of 8310. That’s about 65% done.
The best part about the trip was there were so many best parts. I got to know a friend a lot better AND found out we could spend a week in close quarters and still get along at the end of it. I learned that I can do 2000 words in 3 hours and do it regularly. And that even when I think I know what I’m doing I still screw up and have to trunk stories I’ve invested weeks and thousands of words in. I learned that Winnipeg Beach is not just a vacation town that rolls up its sidewalks after the Labour Day long weekend; it’s a lot bigger than I expected and very pretty. And I learned that I want to do it again as soon as possible.