If there’s one thing I’ve learned in this crazy writing journey, it’s the importance of sharing it with other writing friends. Every Frodo needs his Samwise. Every Pooh Bear needs his Piglet. Every King Tirian needs his Jewel the unicorn.

While I’ve been blessed with friends and family members who have supported me in my attempts at publication, there’s something special about having friends who are fellow writers. After all, who but another writer will understand the way your characters take on a life of their own? They get the fact that my unicorn character didn’t reveal something important about his heritage until I was in the middle of writing the chapter about it, or the fact that I had no idea one of my characters would die until I was working on my book synopsis for a writing conference.

You see, we writers have this odd way of looking at the world that “normal” people don’t always understand. We hash and rehash intricate plot points, weave worlds out of thin air, and befriend made-up characters as if they were real. We wake up at three in the morning and fumble around for a pen and paper because we just had an awesome story idea that we know will be gone by morning if we don’t write it down right then. We live in our imagination. We come up with weird questions, like, “How would a unicorn and a pegasus interact?” or “What’s the longest period of time my main character can survive after an attack from vicious, ape-like creatures?” We need to discuss these sorts of things with friends without worrying that they’ll start searching Google for the nearest psych ward.

There are several writing friends in my life that I could mention, but today, I’m going to focus on two. Sarah and Rosemary, the other two of my “three musketeers,” joined me for a writing retreat this past weekend at Sarah’s family cabin. No internet, no cell service, just three gals and three laptops in a cozy cabin in the mountains.

Well, okay, I did bring a few extra friends along. They’re nice enough to hang around with, but none of them ever give me any feedback on my writing. 😉 Thank goodness for real friends!

We spent the weekend catching up, brainstorming troublesome plot points, and critiquing chapters for each other. Other activities included sleeping, eating, and sharing rousing discussions. When we needed a distraction, we worked on a just-for-fun story about a unicorn named Bob. And when we were stumped on plot or characterization, we’d take walks outside to clear our heads.

When your surroundings remind you of the woods in Narnia, you can’t help but be inspired, no matter what words are evading your grasp.

Of course, I had to get in a toy photo as well:

One of the best things about these weekends is the feedback we give and receive. We’re all completely different, but we bring out the best in each other. Rosemary is the introvert of the group, a quiet soul and deep thinker, a writer of high fantasy and fan of dragons. It’s hard for her to share her thoughts out loud sometimes, but they’re always worth hearing. She’s got a great eye for grammatical detail and always has something encouraging to say.

Sarah is the extrovert, the natural leader and rebel. Her heart is in YA (young adult) fiction, because she’s writing for her daughters and their friends. She’s got this fantastic sassy style that leaps off the page. She has no problem sharing what she thinks, and can sometimes come across as a bit blunt. The thing is, she usually knows what she’s talking about, especially when it comes to character motivation or believable dialogue.

And then there’s me. I’m the extroverted introvert, not quite as shy as Rosemary, but not nearly as bold as Sarah. I see the world through unicorn lenses, and love beautiful, happy stories … which is why I need my pals to give me a reality check on my writing every once in a while. Their latest observation? My unicorn character needs to be more manly, er, or would that be stalliony? 😉 Neither one of them particularly cared for him as a character. That was a little tough to hear, but they both made excellent points about his flaws. I want my readers to love him as much as I do, so I’ve been mulling over ways to make him “stallion up.” I’m glad my friends are willing to give me tough love about my book. They won’t let me settle for second best.

Plus, they always make me laugh. Especially Sarah.

This past Christmas, I got matching charm bracelets for each of us, with the idea that they would be a special way of chronicling our writing journeys.

The rose charm represents me, the origami crane charm represents Sarah, and the dragon charm represents Rosemary. The significance of each of the charms will make more sense when you read our books someday. 😉  The cabin charm is brand new. Rosemary bought them and gave them to us this weekend to represent our cabin retreats. I’m looking forward to filling our bracelets with charms commemorating special moments in our writing adventures.

Overall, it was a great weekend. We all completed our writing goals for the trip and came back refreshed. I can’t wait until our next getaway!