The Strengths Behind a Writing Group
Our successes during NaNoWriMo this year are directly correlated to our accountability group
Like every year, writers embark on a month-long journey to write 50,000 in November. For some like myself, they tackle a brand new draft of a brand new novel. Others, lovingly called ‘rebels’, choose to write their words on an existing novel or aim to fix a written manuscript. All of this is in the name of finishing a novel by the end of the month.
When I first started writing, NaNoWriMo was a solo adventure for me. I held myself accountable for getting up in the morning, reaching my word counts, and crossing the finish line. I cheered silently to myself with each successful day of writing. I celebrated the finish line at 10AM on a Saturday morning when most people were still asleep after a party the night before.
But something magical happened when I moved away from that small town in the middle of nowhere — I found a writing group. With a new city and a little bit of writing time under my belt, I sought a group that would continue to hold me accountable to writing. Little did I know that in less than a year I’d be leading the charge and inviting new writers to join our group.
We are not a critique group (though there is a core of us who have broken off to help each other there). Instead, we offer accountability, writing time, and support.
This year, more of us are participating in NaNoWriMo… and more of us are determined to succeed. This year is the first year we have done something different — we’ve taken on NaNo as a group. It’s amazing to see what we’ve accomplished in just a week of writing, and I strongly believe our successes this year are tied to the group’s involvement with each other.
These are some of the strengths I’ve seen in just nine days.
Each of us announce our word counts at the end of the day. It varies, of course, because we all have different commitments in our lives. But because we are writers outside of this month, our daily word counts are often 2K or higher.
That’s not to say some of us don’t have bad days. One day last week, with a migraine, I forced out a single sentence just so I could keep my writing streak alive. Six words. That’s all I could do.
The accountability of posting word counts isn’t to intimidate each other. It’s meant to stay accountable to the act of writing. Sure, we might only get 800 words on a day, but we made the effort to sit down and write. The next day we try for more.
While similar to accountability, I’ve seen more of my peers actively make the time to write outside of our normal writing group. Some are getting up in the morning. Others are staying up later. Everyone is squeezing in some words during the day.
We’ve also started to do word sprints outside of our normal group time. If someone is writing, we text the group and invite others to do the same if they are available. It adds another layer of accountability to our writing efforts.
One of my favorite things we’ve done this year is doing additional writing groups during the week. They are solely meant to give people a couple hours dedicated to writing. We start a video call, say hello, and then turn off our videos and get to writing.
The amazing thing about this group is that we are familiar with each other’s stories. That means if someone gets stuck on a part or needs to name a star system or new character, instead of sitting and researching or distracting themselves, we can hop on the video chat and get some immediate help. I’ve gotten the chance to name a few things in one writer’s story, someone shared something that inspired a piece of my novel, and I know that the added session of writing has given a lot of people more than 1K additional words during the day.
In the last nine days, I’ve seen everyone’s story take off. Every single one of us has seen either a breakthrough or significant progress in their book.
That’s not to say they weren’t making progress, but the act of daily writing and having an accountability group has given everyone the inspiration to continue on this path. I think at some point in the nine days, someone has reached an ‘aha’ moment in some form or another.
And we have people to celebrate with.
Instead of cheering silently, we have a group that is following our progress and will cheer with us. We have a support system that is actively rooting for us. NaNo is not a competition with other writers, it’s a competition with ourselves, and having a writing group to support that endeavor is incredible.
Any small feat becomes a huge accomplishment because there are at least four other people standing behind you and making it a big deal. Because it is a big deal. We are each getting closer to the end of a book, one word at a time, and that’s incredible.
How is your NaNo going? Do you have a support system? If not, join me in the comments and let me know your struggles or triumphs so we can cheer each other along.