How I planned a writing retreat to finish my book (book update no. 3)

How I planned a writing retreat to finish my book (update no. 3) - by Paper + Oats


Long time, no book update! I’ve been hard at work behind the scenes on the next few phases of the book writing process, so if you missed the first couple updates, click around below:

Now that you’re all caught up, let’s chat about how I finished my writing process with a writing retreat as my motivation AND reward, how I hired my editor, and what the next few steps look like in the coming months.


The first draft is DONE!

My initial goal before I actually started writing was 70,000 words (just based on looking at the length of other books and where I wanted mine to fall in that range). About halfway through writing I adjusted my total goal, based on how much I had finished, what I had left to write, and how I was feeling about the overall span of the book (was I covering everything I wanted to cover, saying what I wanted to say in a concise manner without a lot of fluff, etc.). I didn’t want to add words for the sake of adding words or trying to reach a number. So I reset my goal to 60,000, and was pretty darn happy with it ending up at 61,500.

I finished my first draft, that 61,500 words, the week before my goal date — my goal was to finish by my 30th birthday on March 10, so I was super happy to have it done a few days ahead of that! (More on reaching that finish line in a sec.) Once it was finished, I gave myself another a couple weeks to actually read the whole thing through, start to finish, which I really hadn’t done yet. I wrote the book out of order, so it was helpful to read it all back in order (obviously, haha). I did this two times through, made a few minor edits, and then sent it on to my editor.


My writing retreat

Finishing a book feels like you’re crawling across a finish line that you were, not too long ago, sprinting towards. It can be painfully slow. So I decided to give myself some motivation to finish with a built-in reward. I picked the last full weekend I had before my self-imposed deadline, and booked myself two nights at a nice hotel in a nearby city within driving distance. I didn’t want to mess with booking a flight or dealing with delays, I just wanted to get there fast, and start writing. I chose a nicer-than-I-would-usually-stay-in hotel to be my reward – plush robes to lounge in, amazing restaurant from which to order food up to my room (like the good introvert that I am), and a beautiful environment to fuel my creativity + inspiration. I stayed at the 21C Museum Hotel (art museum and hotel in one, genius!) in Bentonville, Arkansas – there are 21C Hotels all across the country and I cannot recommend them enough, it was fabulous.

I use this same trick when I’m stuck on any type of project or the inspiration just isn’t flowing — get up and move somewhere else. It could be as simple as working from the back deck for the day, or getting out of the house and into a coffee shop for an afternoon. Or it could be as involved as booking two nights at a hotel and vowing not to come home until your project is done. The book was an involved project, so I knew I needed more than just a move of rooms, I needed a complete change in environment to really finish this one off on a high note. Also, did I mention room service?

And when all the work was said and done on the last evening in the hotel, my reward was already in full swing – bath robe, dinner + dessert for one delivered to my door, glass of wine, and a face mask. An introvert’s dream.


How did I find an editor?

Funny story! I asked some writer friends for their recommendations and got some great referrals. I emailed my top choices to get some more specific quotes and timelines, and then I remembered another option: my high school English teacher. I know, I know, that’s probably not who you were thinking? Mine was no longer teaching, and had been doing freelance writing and editing instead. We had stayed in touch after high school via Facebook, and so when she popped in my feed with a pic of her adorable FIVE children (how does she do it?!), I emailed her on a whim. I’m so, so glad I sent that email, it has been so nice to work through this first draft with someone who is a friend and familiar with my story. It’s scary enough sending this story out into the world – open to criticism, eek – so the more I can ease into that with baby steps, the better. 


What’s next?

My editor and I are working through edits, chapter by chapter, for the next few weeks. After that, I’ll be sending the manuscript out to close family + friends to get their input, and then it’s on to production. I used to design book layouts at my previous day job, and naturally as a designer, this phase is one I’m most excited about! The book cover is already in process, I’ve been playing around with different options and layouts, trying not to put too much pressure on myself and just being free to play with different elements. It’s not quite ready to be revealed yet, but one thing I’ll hint at for sure – Poppy’s artwork will be a big part of the cover. The girl loves to paint, and even her big blobs and swashes are really beautiful (and hopefully not just in her mama’s eyes!).

After production work comes the launching bit. I’ve already got some ideas and plans up my sleeve for that phase of things, and I’m trying to refrain from letting myself dive into it too deep just yet. One step at a time, I keep reminding myself.

I can’t wait to share more as this crazy book writing thing gets more and more real, and we get closer to the fall release date. Christmas gifts, anyone? More soon.


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Kelsey Baldwin

Graphic designer + blogger providing design resources to help creative entrepreneurs navigate the world of design + branding for digital products so they can share what they know.

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