Writing retreating

Left to right: Me, Carol Cooper, Jean Gill, Jane Davis, Karen Inglis, Clare Flynn, Lorna Fergusson in April 2024

No, I don’t mean retreating from your writing, but going on a writing retreat.

A retreat implies withdrawing from the world.

A writing retreat implies getting away from the everyday and being able to sit down and write without Real Life intruding.

How does this work?

Retreats can be single person ones. I know a number of writers who book themselves into a local budget hotel where they can get basic food on tap, where somebody else cleans the room and where they are left alone. They are in their home area, but do not have the distractions of making meals, taking dogs for walks or children to school or being tempted by household chores. (Believe me, sometimes loading the dishwasher is a great displacement activity!)

Fully catered retreats usually take place in a special writing venue or even off peak university accommodation. A little more upmarket from a budget hotel. You may know some of the others on the retreat or nobody else, but you do come together for meals.

Self-catered joint retreats are with a group of writing friends, usually at the same level of experience, but not necessarily in the same genre. One person books it with a property owner and everybody chips in with the food expenses and takes turns in cooking and tidying. You have to know the other people reasonably well…

Why do it?

  • Your mental health – you are a human being who needs contact with like-minded souls
  • Sharing experiences and information about competitions, agents, the ever-increasing number of routes to publication, conferences, writing and book events
  • Obtaining thoughtful critiques from other professional writers
  • Honing writing techniques and approaches to work – not just how to sling words together, but about characterisation, the senses, novel or poetry structure, research and, increasingly, technology
  • Um, having writerly fun which includes excursions to inspiring places.



But you do have to do some writing. This is not a jolly or a holiday.

I recently organised one lasting a week near Tours in the Loire Valley. We achieved word counts between 2,000 and 15,000. Some did in-depth marketing, others tech projects, others extensive research. But we all went home inspired.

We did manage some excursions – this was the Loire Valley, after all.

Château d’Amboise – dull weather, but a chance to touch (royal) history


La Mothe-Chandeniers – a romantic ruin


Château de Chenonceau – the castle of women

Why not organise your own retreat to spur on your own writing? It’s well worth it!


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. JULIA PRIMA,  Roma Nova story set in the late 4th century, starts the Foundation stories. The sequel, EXSILIUM, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste world the latest contemporary thriller Double Identity… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email update. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

2 comments to Writing retreating

  • Sounds like you had a super time. I love this sort of retreat and try to do something similar once a year with writing friends. Never managed to do it abroad though. How wonderful!

    • Alison Morton

      It was a very energising week! It was our third one and it made a lovely change to do one only two hours away from where I live.

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