What’s The Advantage of A Writers Retreat

Rachel Hauck

I’m in sunny yet sometimes rainy Destin, Florida at the 5th annual Deep Thinkers Retreat.

Seventeen writers (all women at this event) gathered to learn the craft of writing a novel.

There’s laughter, fun, frustration, confused looks, pondering, break throughs and friendships being forged.

A writers retreat like Story Crafters and Deep Thinkers is the pressure cooker of learning craft.

You can’t escape. It’s all around you!

Everyone is talking, breathing, sleeping STORY!

So how do you know if a writers retreat is right for you?

It is a commitment of time and money.

Are you really ready to invest in your writing journey at the retreat level?

Maybe you’re asking what’s the difference between a retreat and a conference.

A conference is a smorgasbord of workshops, keynotes and industry professionals.

It’s a great place to network, to get a taste of craft, marketing and social media and/or professional insight via one hour workshops.

A writers retreat is focused. It’s a week of 8 hours a day — or more — of fiction craft instruction and writing.

There’s no keynote. No professional networking. No marketing or social media tips.

Just fiction. All day long!

At a writers retreat, you focus on your story, on your craft. Your weaknesses can be addressed and helped.

If you story is not working, we can dig in and help you figure it out.

At a retreat it’s all about YOU. 😉

How do you know if it’s time for a writers retreat?

1. You’ve been to the conferences, you’ve worked on your novel, but you just can’t seem to get over the “hump” toward a solid, finished novel.

2. You’re stuck. You can’t seem to get some aspect of the craft down. You’re great at beginnings and endings, but stuck in the middle.

3. You’ve finished a novel, sat with editors and agents who liked your work but… you just can’t seem to get a bite A writers retreat is a great way to talk one on one with the instructors on how to bump up your stories and plotting.

4. Learn deeper techniques such as peripheral plotting or how to add symbols and metaphors.

5. Develop more intimate writing relationships. Usually people leave a writers retreat with a writing buddy or two who talks the same craft lingo and can help you along your journey.

What kind of writers retreat? How much? What should I expect?

1. There are a lot of good writers get aways. Story Crafters and Deep Thinkers sponsored by My Book Therapy are two of the best, mind you.

2. Look for a retreat that dives into the nitty gritty of novel crafting.

3. Look for a retreat where the sponsors are perhaps experienced authors. Nothing like learning from those who’ve gone before you in the field of writing novels.

4. Expect to spend about a grand on the retreat and travel. Maybe less. But that’s also the price of a national conference. Less for a regional conference but your return-on-investment is so much greater at a retreat.

5. If you choose a writers retreat, make sure you have built in time when you return home to actually work on your novel. it’s a waste of time and money to go back home and fall into the regular grind where writing is last priority. Make sure writing becomes a higher priority after a retreat.

Can you get published without a writers retreat. Sure. Absolutely. But the more time and money and heart you invest in your work, the more you’ll learn and advance your writing journey.

Happy Writing.

RachelCloseUPBest-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She excels in seeing the deeper layers of a story.

With a love for teaching and mentoring, Rachel comes alongside writers to help them craft their novel. A worship leader, board member of ACFW and popular writing teacher, Rachel is the author of over 17 novels. She lives in Florida with her husband and  dog.

Contact her at: Rachel@mybooktherapy.com. Pre order her next release, Princess Ever After, book two in the Royal Wedding Series.

Do you need help with your story idea, synopsis or proposal?How about some one-on-one craft coaching. Check out our menu of services designed to help you advance your writing dreams.

Eavesdropping At A Writers Conference

I’m at the Deep Thinkers Retreat in Destin, Florida and it’s beautiful. We come to the beach every year in February and I help facilitate the conference for the week.  My main job during the conference is the care and feeding of the attendees. But I’m also watching, listening … and yes, sometimes I hear things.

Today I wanted to share some of my observations:

  1. Eat Well, Write Well. Sorry, a steady of diet of chocolate chip cookies and malted milk balls are not conducive to clear thinking and well developed plot lines.  Although they do help stabilize emotions, at least at the moment.  When all else fails, have a malted milk ball instead of a melt down. For the record, I resisted the temptation this year and only succumbed to four. (Although we have two more days to go!)
  2. Battle Uncertainty. I’ve heard, “I thought I had my story down, but now I’m not so sure.”  It’s so easy to doubt yourself and question the validity of your writing.  Just because a mentor or a teacher tells you the story needs to change it doesn’t mean you can’t write. Listen to the voice of experience and be open to making the changes necessary to strengthen your plot and deepen the characters. In this case, change is good and proves your growth as a writer.
  3. Know When To Stop. When the scene isn’t working or you can’t seem to get pass the wall, it’s okay to say enough for today.  Banging your head against the wall tends to be painful, not productive.  Walk away for a moment and return when your mind is refreshed.
  4. Expand Your Perspective. Brainstorming with others is a tremendous asset and gives you fresh ideas and insight. Even if you don’t use another writer’s idea, respect it.
  5. Take Advantage Of Your Friends. And let them take advantage of you. I’ve developed the most amazing friendships because I’ve attended My Book Therapy writers retreats. It’s awesome to have people around you, who speak the same “writing lingo” as you. They get it. They know what the Dark Moment is and when you get stuck, they can help pull it out.
  6. Utilize Community. Become A Stronger Writer. It’s great to hang around and brainstorm, but ultimately it comes down to you. Only you can take what you’ve learned and apply it to the story you’ve created.  Once you’ve attended the conference, do the work and see it through. You will be glad you did.

As the Retreats Coordinator for My Book Therapy, I’ve attended a number of the retreats. The most successful retreat is the one where you apply what you’ve learned.  Beth Vogt is a prime example of this.  She attended the first Storycrafters Retreat for beginning writers in October 2009. She diligently applied the principals of what she learned. By the end of 2014, she will have published three novels and two novellas.


Social Media Minute—Hashtags 101 for Writers

by Edie Melson

Hashtags can be a confusing concept, so today I’m sharing Hashtags 101 for writers. I’ll give you a list of popular hashtags and teach you how to use them effectively.

First, lets back up and evaluate the reason we’re all working at building an online presence. We are looking to deepen existing relationships and build new ones. But building new ones can be difficult if the only people we interact with are those we already know, either online or in person.

We can get a little bit of exposure to new folks by our existing connections introducing us, but that’s a time consuming way to go about it.

What if there was a way for someone to search a given social media network by topic and find new, interesting people to interact with? That would be a great way to grow our connections.

THAT, in the simplest of terms, is the purpose of using hashtags.

When you compose a social media update that includes one or two hashtags that summarize the topic, you are giving folks a way to find you.

NOTE: Use # (hashtags) to denote a subject, and use @ (at sign) to denote a person or organization. With organizations, you’ll find some that hashtag their names and others use the @ sign.

Twitter isn’t the only social media network that has hashtags. You can use hashtags in the same manner on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram. There may be other networks that also use them, but those are the main ones.

Hashtag Etiquette

Try to never use more than three hashtags in any one tweet. If you can make it two that’s even better. Otherwise you end up looking like a used car sales man. If you’re trying to reach more groups, schedule multiple tweets, at different times, about the same subject and target your groups two at a time.

Always research your hashtag before you use it. Never assume it’s the correct one. For example, I was targeting military families with tweets about my devotional for military families and I thought #military would be the logical hashtag. No, turns out that hashtag is frequently used by those trying to date someone in the military. Not really the demographic I was trying to reach. The hashtag I wanted was #militaryfamily and #deployment. The best place to research hashtags is also the easiest, just type it into Google or the search engine of your choice.

Now, I’m going to give you an updated list of popular hashtags. 

This list is extensive, but by no means exhaustive

For readers, the most popular hashtag right now is:


For writers, there are two popular hashtags right now:



If you’re editing something:


If you’re quoting a literary agent:





#Christfic Christian fiction

#devo Christian devotion

#devotion Christian devotion





#flashfic flash fiction




#fridayflash  flash fiction on a Friday


#Indiauthor self-publishing

#Indiepub self-publishing




#JesusTweeters from believers

#MBTWriMo My Book Therapy NaNoWriMo 


#MyBookTherapy writing community

#nano national novel writing month

#nanowrimo  national novel writing month







#pubtip  publication tips










#vss   very short story

#webfic  web fiction

#weblit   web literature

#wip   work in progress








#writetip  writing advice


#writingtips  writing advice


All of these should help you find the hashtags best suited to your situation.

I’d love to hear from you now. Twitter is ever-changing and hashtags come and they go. What are some of your favorites? Also, if you still have hashtag questions, post them below in the comments section.

Help! How do I make my reader care?

I sat on the tarmac on my way to Florida for five hours last week (#IloveMinnesotaweather), and while we were waiting, I stirred up a conversation with my seatmate.

“What do you do for a living?”  I asked.

“I break into building to check their security.”


Poor guy suddenly discovered the dangers of sitting next to a novelist. By the time the plane took off, we’d plotted a story about a man living two different lives – a spy living in suburbia, posing as a regular guy.

Then came the moment when we had to figure out the first scene.  “We need to make him relatable,” I said to 24B.  “Someone who the reader can relate to.”

“Why?” 24B asked. “He’s not a regular guy.”

“But the point of a great story is for the reader to feel as if they are on the journey with the character. Even a superhero has to be human enough for them to relate to them.”

In order to create a powerful story – and in order to hook our readers, we have to do more than understand the motivations of a character.  A great story allows us to experience  the journey of the character as if we were in the character’s body.  It’s more than the cerebral, intellectual connection – it’s a physical empathy that causes us to cry when they cry, fall in love and experience the happily ever after.

At MBT we call this the CHARACTER ID – or creating Sympathy for your Characters.

But, how do you draw a reader into the skin of a Crusader, in 15th Century Europe?   Or a Navy Seal?  Or a pioneer woman on the Oregon trail?  Or a Japanese Geisha?  Or even a time traveling space alien?

More to the point, how do you draw your reader into the skin of your character to create a physical, as well as psychological empathy?

Step 1: Interview your character to pinpoint how they feel about the situation you are about to write about.  Often, when I work with authors, they guess at how the character might feel, and thus how they might behave, from past prototypes, from other books, or even stereotypical behavior. But often that doesn’t resonant as real on the page.

In order to create an authentic character, start building your character by asking the following questions:

Ask the following questions:

  1. Who are you and what do you want?
  2. What do you fear, right now?
  3. What are you going to do?  Why?
  4. How do you feel about this?
  5. What is the worst thing that could happen right now?

Understanding where your character is starting the story will help you understand him on a human level – beyond his amazing identity.  It also helps you understand their motivations and intentions as you build their emotions.

Step 2:  After pinpointing the emotions and motivations of your character it’s time to help your reader into their skin by putting them in a relatable, universal situation.

The first step is to create a relatable situation for your reader.  What, about your character’s situation is universal in a way the reader might understand?  For example, in my book Flee The Night, my heroine is a spy on the run who, in the first scene, is on a train when she sees an assassin hunting her.  Because most of my readers haven’t been spies, with their life in danger, I needed to make my character’s situation relatable – so I put my character on a train, with her five year old daughter sitting next to her. Suddenly, she wasn’t  just a spy, but a mother, needing to protect her child – a universal situation.

In my book, It Had to Be You, my hero is a NHL hockey player – an enforcer, famous and good-looking.  To make him relatable, I gave him a terrible migraine in the first scene, something universal every reader could understand.

By creating a relatable situation, you take your reader one step closer to helping them understand – and empathize – with your character.

Step 3:  Determine the right emotional response.  In order to create characters who are not cardboard, your character must have realistic emotional responses.

The best way to determine a realistic response is to look at your own – or others – real responses.  Mine your own experiences (or ask someone who has had a similar experience),  by asking the following questions:

  1. When have I felt like my character feels?

Note:  It doesn’t have to be the same situation – e.g., I’ve never been on a train, fearing for the life of my daughter, but I have been in situations when I feared for my children, and felt helpless.

  1. Describe the feeling – physically.
  2. What were you thinking?
  3. What did you do?  Anything interesting or different?
  4. What do you wish you said, or did that you didn’t do?


Now, armed with these questions, take a look at the emotional response and put them through the grid of your characters motivations and intentions.

  • What elements are true to your character?
  • If you were this character, how would you have reacted?


Now you’re ready to start writing the scene, armed with the right POV motivations, a sympathetic situation and the right emotional responses.

Creating sympathy by helping your reader identify with the character is one more component to hooking your reader into the story.

Go, write something brilliant!

From Sunny Florida –

Susie May