Ahead of our week-long Crime Writing Retreat in Egypt this November, Literary Tours in Egypt sat down with professional crime writer Jonathan Whitelaw to discuss why writing retreats have been beneficial for him over the course of his illustrious career.
Read below to discover Jonathan’s top tips for how to enjoy a writing retreat and get the most out of your dedicated time away. Whether you’re a seasoned writer or coming to a draft your first novel, writing retreats can help form a cornerstone of your practice going forward.
A Word from Jonathan Whitelaw
The biggest challenge that faces any writer is writing. I’m sorry if that sounds glib, but it’s true. I don’t know how many authors I’ve spoken to over the course of my career who have agreed with that bold statement. It’s almost as if we don’t enjoy it or something! Of course, that’s not true.
But the challenge is very much a real one that scribes of any and all levels face on a day-to-day basis. Thankfully, there are remedies to that fact — namely in the form of a writing retreat. Here are just a few reasons why I find writing retreats so wonderfully useful.
1. Break Away From the Norm on a Writing Retreat
Routine. It’s a wonderful word that so adequately describes what it is. Staid, boring, dull, safe. Hardly the most inspiring adjectives in the English language. Put it this way, if your writing was described as any of those things, or indeed routine itself, you wouldn’t be very happy, would you?
Unless, of course, that’s what you were aiming for – then congratulations! However, for 99.9% of crime writers, routine is not what they want. Quite the opposite. A writing retreat is the polar opposite of routine. It’s a break away from the normal for the writer involved.
No trips to Tesco, no multi-story car parks, not even a look at the grimness of the nightly news. None of that – especially when you’re sailing down the Nile in the middle of Egypt!
Having the chance to change up your environment, your setting, surroundings and pretty much everything else is a great way of getting the creative juices flowing.
2. An Excuse to Write in a Beautiful New Setting
I’m a great believer in the following phrase: You don’t need to be a professional crime writer to be professional. In short, if you have serious ambitions about being a published writer, you can start acting like one right now.
And where a writing retreat can help is to offer you the chance to get to grips with that mentality and expectations of what professional writing is all about.
The image of a lonely scribe working by candlelight on their own is a thing of the past. Modern professional crime writers are out there, in the real world, working away. We observe the world and society, lifting parts that we want to bring our stories and characters to life.
We can only do that, however, by actually getting down to the business of writing. It takes practice, sure, and a whole lot of discipline. Where a writing retreat works well is when it shows those taking part just what the job entails.
Think of it as the best work experience you’ve ever had — in a wonderful setting with all the time in the world. Not bad, right?
3. Speaking and Working With Your Peers in Egypt
‘Writing is a lonely business’ is a phrase I”ve heard time and time again throughout my career. And to be perfectly frank, it’s a load of old tosh. Yes, only YOU can sit down and write your crime novel and tell your story. Nobody else can do that for you, unfortunately.
But writers and the writing community is one of, if not the most active, supporting and welcoming communities I have ever been a part of.
Every crime writer gets stuck – it’s just part of the job. Whether that’s unravelling the mystery, coming up with horrible deeds to happen to your characters or just plain writing yourself into a hole, it happens.
Writing retreats offer that unique experience – a captive audience of other writers just like YOU. You can share ideas, bounce things off one another and make new friends along the way. A problem shared is a problem halved. And a victory shared is a victory doubly celebrated.
Writing retreats give you that instant rapport with others in the same position as you. That’s very special and something every writer should cherish.
4. Learn Something New on a Crime Writing Retreat in Egypt
The publishing industry is, like every other business, a working, professional atmosphere with its own rules, regulations, and expectations. Just writing isn’t the only part of the job for a scribe in 2023. Far from it in fact.
There are expectations and commitments away from the writing desk that ALL crime writers adhere to and are asked to be a part of. Don’t worry, these are all good. There aren’t any odd rituals or bottom paddling events, nothing like that!
A writing retreat can give you an insight into how the industry works. Are agents worth getting? How many books are offered in contracts? Do I get to choose the cover?
Any and all questions about the publishing world can be asked and answered on a writing retreat — simply because you have the time and resources to ask them. After all, the only silly question is the one you DON’T ask.
We hope this has answered some of your questions about embarking on a writing retreat in Egypt! As always, we are on hand to answer any of your questions, just get in touch. You can also view our crime writing retreat page for details of what to expect on this week-long course.
About the Author
Jonathan Whitelaw is the author of The Bingo Hall Detectives and The Village Hall Vendetta, both published by Harper North. He is managed by Northbank Talent Management.