Between attending the annual Writers of the Future gala in Hollywood and preparing to lead an intrepid band of writers during the upcoming Sci-Fi/Fantasy Story Weekend retreat Nina Kiriki Hoffman has been very busy lately.

She was able to find some time to discuss some of the aspects of her process and give us a peek at what writers are in for during their weekend of creative bliss.

You mentioned your “fabulous story-start roll-up.” What is that and how does it work?

I’ve created a series of lists where people can roll twenty-sided dice to pick elements of story — heroes, companions, settings, obstacles, etc.  On these bare story bones, writers can build complete stories.  It’s a fun way to get your mind working, especially if a blank page or screen frustrates you.  Everyone brings their own history and affinities to these elements, so every story will be unique.  I have sheets for six genres (science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance, young adult fantasy, and paranormal/urban fantasy), and some character roll-ups as well, plus a few other exercises.  I’ll bring these and dice for everybody.

That said, people who prefer not to work this way are welcome to do their own thing.  I’ll offer help and support as needed.

We tend to think of writing as a solitary and even lonely practice. How does participating in a writing community, even if only for a weekend, help writers?

I usually write with friends several times a week, so I don’t think of writing as solitary.  Taking a weekend off to spend with other writers is stimulating and exciting.  I love finding out how people work, and other people’s productivity spurs my own.  Often another writer has a technique or practice that can help — we share and learn from each other.  Plus, writers are fun folks.

On Sunday writers exchange critiques on the stories read Saturday night. Can you describe how that works? Is it scary/fun/useful?

On Sunday morning we will basically offer light feedback to each other.  I hope it’s not scary.  It’s not a full-on critique; it’s a response to the stories we heard Saturday night.  It’s a discussion over breakfast, basically, before we pack up and head out, a way of honoring and considering the work we’ve just done.

What are your top goals/priorities for the writers when you facilitate a weekend retreat like this?

I hope everyone will be inspired and have fun working on a story.

What do you most enjoy about writing retreats?

I like getting away from my regular life and its distractions to focus on writing for a specified span of time.  Being somewhere else helps me focus.  I also like a clear goal and the sense of community.

Fill in the blank: Above all else, writers should bring ____ with them.

A receptive mind, a clear goal — write a story by supper time on Saturday! — and a sense of fun.