I am an extremely lucky person. I am very well aware of this.

Every now and then I get the opportunity to join my husband when he travels to interesting places. Sometimes I go along and decide that I’ll take a few days off to explore and experience a new place, and sometimes I choose to go just to get new surroundings in which to write.

This past week, my husband had to go to Romania for a retreat in the Carpathian Mountains near Braşov. I decided to go along both because I’d never been to Romania (where my grandmother was born) and to give myself my own private writing retreat.

We were there for three full days. In that time, mixed with two sight-seeing trips with my husband’s colleagues, I managed to get a little over 10,000 words written. I’m moderately happy with that word count—it’s the minimum amount of work I wanted to get done. If I hadn’t had gone on the sight-seeing trips or been ruled by the need to have meals with the others, I feel that I would have gotten a lot more done.

Writing retreats are fantastic for me. I had another once where I stayed home and the rest of my family (including the dog) left. At that time, I managed to get 25k words written in four days. I was on my own schedule and did nothing but write (with a few short breaks for sustenance). I have to admit, I’d been hoping this trip would be like that, but social obligations dictated otherwise.

Catherine’s Gate, Brasov

Even when I’m not on a dedicated retreat, I still try to get at least 2-3000 words written a day. If I don’t have any formatting or editing work that’s doable for me.

I know that some people are slower writers and some are really fast, but how do you increase your productivity?

I think it’s a combination of practice (writing is like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger and faster it gets) and knowing what you’re going to write.

Even if you’re a pantser and just make up your story as you go along, you still need to have in mind where your story is going to go next. Knowing where to start your writing makes it easier to write faster. Even if all you do is make a few notes to yourself as you finish writing for the day, you will be able to start your next writing session more quickly.

I used to start each day by going over my work from the previous day and then building on what I’d written. I’m a plotter, so I knew what I had to write, where I had to go. Now I do a combination—I do both: I make notes for the following day when I stop writing, and I go over those notes and what I’d written the day before when I sit down to work.

This allows me to have a good idea of what I need to write that day and gives my subconscious mind something to work on when I’m relaxing or sleeping in the night. With a firm grasp of the scene I’m about to write (not necessarily the details of it, just an understanding of my POV character’s goal and the conflict they’re going to face), I’m able to write at a good speed. I’m able to concentrate and get my 2500 words written. Enough days like that and I’ve got a book in a month!

So, what about you? What, if anything, do you do to prepare for your writing time? Have you gone on a writing retreat? Has it been useful? I’d love to hear your experiences!