5 Tips for Working with Writers from Home
As writers, we spend months—even years—within the pages of our story, and it can be lonely. But it doesn’t have to be. Throughout the years, I’ve leaned into my writing community to inspire me and keep me motivated.
I’m the writer who loves going to conferences and writing retreats with my friends to escape the daily distractions of life. This year has been especially hard, but it’s also given me the opportunity to expand my circle of online writer friends.
Several days a week, I participate in virtual video writing sprints with friends. Video sprints are when two or more writers are in a video setting such as Zoom, and are “face to face” while working on their projects. Mostly when in a sprint, writers mute themselves to not distract the others. This environment gives the illusion of writing with another person in the same room.
If you’re interested in learning how to create accountability for your writing projects at home, keep reading. Here are my best tips for working with writers from home.
1. Locate an Online Writing Community.
There are many resources to find writing communities from following hashtags or groups on your favorite social media platform, taking part in pitch contests, and joining local and national organizations for writers. I found many friends in my career when I was writing young adult novels at SCBWI conferences, and that’s also where I found the critique group I met with for several years.
Listening to podcasts with active Facebook groups (such as The Rebel Author Podcast or 88 Cups of Tea) and watching Authortube (a writing community on YouTube) have helped me create these connections. On Authortube many authors offer Discord groups for their writing communities through Patreon. You can find communities through Jenna Moreci, Brittany Wang, and Meg Latorre from iWriterly to name a few. Also, Sarra Cannon offers a writing sprint group on Facebook. A newer event started earlier this year is the World Wide Writeathon, which takes place over a weekend (the next event is October 10-11) where you can “meet” many writers virtually.
If you go where the writers are, you’ll make friends in no time.
2. Determine a “Meeting Place.”
For video sprints, I’ve used Streamyard, Zoom, Facebook, and YouTube. Video helps me especially, because having a person on the screen helps me focus on keeping my eyes on the work instead of playing on my phone or taking part in any other online distractions.
If you aren’t interested in video sprinting, there are also Discord and Twitter sprints, along with Facebook groups.
3. Decide how to a Format a Writing Sprint.
Timed sprints aren’t for everyone. For me, I find motivation when I’m on the clock. I created a timer on my YouTube channel, which I use daily to countdown the time depending on which group I’m with. But you don’t need a fancy timer. You can easily set one on your phone or on Google.
When working alone, I like to write in 25-minute sprints with five-minute breaks. But with one of my groups, we are most productive with 45-minute sprints at a time, and in another group we like to work in 30-minute sprints.
If you don’t like the pressure of a timer, you have that option too! This is customizable to how your amazing writer’s mind gets the words on the page. If you and your writer friends want to work with each other for an undetermined amount of time, and come out of your writing session organically that’s up to you. Though, if you find that you’re not motivated, I suggest trying a timer in various increments to see if that helps to increase your progress.
4. Coordinate a Schedule.
This is another customizable option based on your life and writing schedule. I have several groups I work with on different days of the week, and based on what time zones we’re in, I know the best time to suggest buckling down and getting to work. In the past, when approaching writers for sprints, I first made sure I had a good connection with them already. That can be done by getting to know the writer on a personal level, either through the community or on social media. Writers tend to be open about their process, and when I found someone who I enjoyed talking with, I asked them if they wanted to do online sprints with me. Once they agreed, we worked out the best schedule we could based on when we were most creative during the day.
For instance, there are two friends I work with from five to seven in the morning, and another group who prefers to work at night and on the weekends.
For me, consistency is key. So, if you can dedicate a specific time, or day of the week, this will help build your ability to stay on schedule with your writing and keep up that accountability. Dedicate yourself to that time and dig in, I promise you will love the results.
5. Stay Focused.
If you want to chat with your friends, there is a time and place for that. But we’re here to learn how to create a virtual writing environment primed for words on the page. To stay focused, I recommend setting a timer for those break times, or having one person in the group dedicated to being a timekeeper. Depending on the length of your sprint, I’d say no more than a five to ten-minute break to get another beverage and stretch before jumping back in.
During sprints, my door is usually closed (I have a sticky note on the door to alert my family when I’m sprinting), and I always listen to music or atmospheric sounds (rain with thunder, ambient room noises, etc.) to drown out the world around me.
I hope these tips help you find the perfect space to write with friends no matter where you are located. Happy writing!