I’m at Trigonos for the Milford Writers’ Retreat, a full week of being closeted with my laptop in a quiet room (with a good view) and the company of nine other writers at meal times and in the library after dinner (for those of us who are not immediately dashing off to add more wordcount.
The day goes like this.
- 7.30 a.m. my alarm goes off
- 8.00 a.m. breakfast (continental – help yourself)
- 11.00 a.m. coffee and biscuits ( together in the dining room, though not everyone shows up if they are on a roll)
- 1.00 p.m. lunch (soup and salads – vegetarian)
- 4.00 p.m. cake o’clock (in the dining room again)
- 6.00 p.m. some people start to gather in the library
- 7.00 p.m. dinner (special diets catered for)
- 8.00 p.m. onward – most people gather in the library for general socialising until driven back to their rooms by guilt at not writing, or extreme tiredness.
My task this week is to edit my work in progress, a YA romance with elements of urban fantasy and faerie. I had a great skype call with my agent (Donald Maass) before I left home and he left me with a lot to think about and act upon. It’s Wednesday morning. I’ve done the first pass, deleting some stuff I don’t need, and now I’m on the second pass, adding in some deeper thoughts about characters, and occasional new scenes.
This week is not about adding word-count for me, rather it’s about getting under the skin of my characters. A few years ago (pre-lockdown) Catie Murphy managed to write 33,000 words in a week. That set the standard. We decided to measure output in ‘murphys.’ This year Mike Lewis has reached 30,000 words and it’s only Wednesday morning. He’ll have written a murphy before the end of today. At this rate he’ll manage at least one and a half murphys by Friday.
Am I jealous? Possibly. I used to be able to do 10,000 words a day for three or four days in a row, but then I needed a little lie down in a darkened room. I’m not sure I could do it now, and certainly not at home, where there are many calls on my time. The phone rings, emails come in for the day job (I’m a music booking agent in my other life); my 97 year old mother wanders into my office for no particular reason and then forgets why she thought it was so important to see me; my husband comes though from the studio and says he’s expecting a delivery, so I tell him not to worry, I have no plans to be anywhere other than my office, therefore I’ll be close to the front door all day. (Of course the delivery always arrives when I’m in the bathroom because that’s life.)
I have an office at home, so theoretically I should be able to write, but I can’t always, and that’s why the Milford writers’ retreat is so precious to me. It resets my writerly brain.
Trigonos, just nine miles south of Caernarfon, is tucked away in a Welsh valley on the edge of Snowdonia in the tiny village of Nantlle. It’s not a hotel, rather it’s a community business that caters for groups like ours, or groups who do yoga, or painting courses. It has a strong health and wellbeing ethos. On Sunday I watched a day group doing yoga on the back lawn. And Trigonos has 18 acres of land and a lake frontage on to Llyn Nantlle, where hardy folks can swim (at their own risk).
We all have our own en-suite rooms either in the main house or in one of the cottages in the grounds. Rooms vary in size. I’m in Room 4 this time which is a generously proportioned, twin-bedded room. I can (just) see the a tiny bit of lake through the branches of the burgeoning trees, but I can see up the Nantlle Valley to Mount Snowdon. At least, I can see the mountain when it’s not obscured by mist. (Today is damp and the mountain is hidden behind low clouds.)
I’ve just taken half an hour of my writing time to tap this out on my laptop, so I’m going to finish now and get back to my editing. I will just say, before I go, that there are few places more conducive to writing than Trigonos. There’s our usual critique-week-Milford here in September (which is now fully booked for 2022), but there are still places available on our Milford writers’ retreat in mid-May 2023. If you are thinking of joining us, you’ll have space and time to write in the congenial company of fellow writers. There are only 12 places available in total, so don’t leave it too late to book.