I’m excited for Rainforest Writers Village, and thought I’d share my prep process. This is similar to the process I followed last year as well.
It’s rare to have that much time to write, so I want to be ready. My primary goal is to be able to stay off the internet as much as possible — i.e., what would I want to have to hand as a reference so I can just write, and not get distracted? Plus, there’s no guarantee of an internet connection.
First, I pulled together a list of upcoming theme calls (magazines, anthologies), and made a table of due date, payment, length limits, and whether it’s for fiction or poetry. At this point, I’ll include any topic that pays at least semi-pro.
Then, I create a massive Word document with a section break and related header for each call. Then, no matter how much stuff I drop into that section, I’ll still be able to quickly scan through and find the section that I want.
And then I copy in research notes. At this point, I haven’t planned what I’m going to write. I’m just trying to pull stuff that might spark an idea. So if the topic is “dreams”, I pull some notes about the scientific process in case that becomes relevant, superstitions about dreaming, folktales involving dreams, etc. For a poetry call, I’ll also copy some reference notes about formal poems so I don’t mix up the refrain pattern of a villanelle, etc.
Then, I add a list of my stories that are currently out, and my stories that are “loose”, in case I want to cannibalize or re-frame one. (I have the files in my laptop already.)
For this weekend, the doc is about 250 pages long. I wish I’d had time and focus to pull even more research content.
Recognizing that I don’t, I use the doc to also pull books from my shelves that might be useful additions. This primarily includes non-fiction references, but can include other things. Grimm’s Fairy Tales. A book of Poe stories since there is a “Poe” call coming up. As a lifelong gamer, I can also raid the shelves for relevant gaming supplements, which can be treasure troves of timelines, glossaries, and other peculiar and inspiring facts about time periods and settings that might come up.
My goal isn’t to have everything I’d need to get every detail “right”. I’ll have time to edit stories after the retreat. I just want to have enough resources to hand that I won’t get bogged down…
Anyway, I think that’s my main process for writing-related prep!