Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
Last November I attended a retreat in Santa Fe that advertised the participants would write a bestseller in a weekend. What? I’ve been writing since I was twelve, but I never wrote a book in three days. So was this a con job or what?
My research began with the Tombird.com website where I found free recordings of several seminars. I’ve experienced years of manuscript rejections from various agents who explained to me that, while they admired my writing skills, I don’t write genre, and mainstream fiction is too difficult to market. I gave up on agents. I had nearly given up on writing, so I snapped to attention when Tom Bird explained the new reality of self-publishing. The prices have dropped, the options for print, audio, and electronic versions of books have exploded, and every author has a shot at reaching a suitable audience through social media. A way around agents? I was hooked.
I’m guessing most of the retreat participants over the years had daydreamed about writing a book—mostly nonfiction spiritual insights or personal memoirs. I wanted to produce fiction. I already knew that even with the extensive writing and publication help available through the Tom Bird organization, the odds against my reaching financial success (which I define as making the book pay its costs and more) are astronomical. These days, an unknown novelist needs to be cemented into her intention as well as her cutting-edge savvy about marketing. I wasn’t. That was my rationale for paying for the retreat plus the optional Publish Now Program. There are other means to self-publish out there. I wanted a team to help me begin as professionally as possible. (The third part of the program guaranteeing the book reaches bestseller numbers is offered as an add-on.)
The retreats are constantly evolving, but I can give you a brief overview of what I experienced. The philosophy behind the method is that every person has a book inside, waiting to emerge. Tom Bird takes the spiritual perspective of believing the book comes with you into the world when you’re born. Rama Jon takes the psychological perspective of saying that if you don’t write a book quickly from your creative brain, you may block yourself and spend your life picking at your inspiration until it dissolves. As they both advise, I begin to write a book as though I were reading it—quickly, excited to discover what happens. If I plan too much, the book becomes trite or stillborn. I’ll explain more in later articles if you want to share techniques, but I write drafts in layers.
At the retreat, participants begin with a meditation and then are pushed to write as fast as they can (timing how many words per minute they’re creating). Breaks provide times to stretch and release tension as well as self-doubt. The days generally run long—up to 12 hours. Most writers have produced a rudimentary book before the three days have ended. I think of it as a first draft. Next, they plug their content into a structural template that maps tension. They take their draft home to beef it up.
As one of the more skeptical retreat participants, I found my novel surprising. Being pushed so hard to write from my subconscious took my content to places I hadn’t expected to visit—especially for the opening scenes. I’m working on polishing my copy edit now—several thousand words later. The book will be available soon. I’ll share the writing process I followed next time.
You’re welcome to send me questions or comments. This is exciting!