Writing can be a lonely, alienating endeavor, with hours spent only in the company of the characters bickering in your head. Arranging to meet up with a writing buddy and having an in-person co-writing session is a great way to change things up and keep your creative energy at its peak.
But there are some key things that will keep the writing session from devolving into a chatterfest, or blowing up into a debate over the musical taste of the coffeeshop staff.
Find the right partner(s). There is more to being a writing partner than just showing up with your Macbook. You are getting more involved in your own writing process, and investing in the other person's writing as well. Be sure that the person, or people, you choose to write with share similar goals as you, have work ethics that jive with your own, and hope to get the same things out of an in-person co-writing session. Most important is to be respectful of your writing partner. Be on time. Tell them you appreciate their help. Communicate with them frequently, checking in on their progress even if you aren't meeting with them to write in the near future.
Choose an appropriate place to write. The library, a coffee shop, your kitchen counter---it doesn't really matter where you write, as long as it's:
- Quiet. It can still be a crowded coffee shop, if you're both comfortable with that, but it's best not to schedule a session at the soccer field or, you know, a monster truck rally.
- Spacious. Not abandoned warehouse big, but with tables or bar seating set up and plenty of space for any and all writing tools: your notes, laptops, coffees, and pastries. It also needs to have outlets for those using a laptop.
- Convenient. Don't be that person who suggests a place two blocks from your house when the other person has to drive across town. Or at least switch off convenience so that both parties are putting equal effort into the partnership.
Set Goals. When you meet up with your writing partner(s), don't just say, "Yeah, I'd love to get some words in today." (Hopefully that goes without saying!) Make goals, be specific, and share those goals with your partner before you start. That way, when your attention wanders to the man making a fuss because his extra-hot non-fat three pumps cinnamon chai latte isn't foamy enough, you can say, "Hey! This isn't how I'm going to get to 2,000 words!" Which is more motivating than, "Hey! Some indeterminate number of words needs my attention, sort of, unless the 10 words I already wrote count for today!" Then, before the writing session is over, share your progress with your partner. The two of you are there to make each other accountable. Use that.
Keep Chitchat to a Minimum. If you want to get together and just talk about books, writing methods, revisions, the questionable-at-best Mortal Instruments casting decisions*, then set up a lunch or a dinner. Writing time needs to be writing time. Respect that.
Limit Social Media. You set up an in-person write-a-thon for a reason, right? To be social (kinda)? Well then if you talk to someone, make it's the person you're writing with and not the entire rest of the internet. It's like going to a fancy dinner and staring at your iPhone the whole time---it defeats the purpose! Having an in-person writing session is supposed to not only help you as a writer, it's to motivate everyone involved to develop better focus and work harder. If you wanted to tweet each other you could have stayed at home, where the coffee is free.
Finally, and most importantly, Celebrate together. When your partner reaches their goals (during writing time, and on a larger scale in the writing process) celebrate with them, and be genuinely happy for them. After all, you had a hand in their success---whenever they achieve something, so do you!
* I mean really. This guy?