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How I Tripled My Daily Wordcount with Google+

I've long been a social media early adopter--friendster, myspace, facebook, you name it--I was right there at launch. That was the case for Google+, too. I grabbed an invite on Day 1 and quickly began filling my circles with friends from across the kidlit industry.

Many people have dismissed Google+ as a facebook rip-off. I can't deny that it shares much of the same functionality--the front page of content (called here a "stream," rather than a "feed"), the connectivity and interactivity. So far, in my six months of using G+, I've come to like it more (the privacy management can't be beat), but until recently I could understand why users--writers included--dismissed G+ for the older service.

But recently something changed--I began to use one of Google+'s most unique features--and my daily writing output nearly tripled.

Normally, my writing day moves in skips and stumbles. I write a little bit, surf the internet a little bit, chat on IMs, write a little bit more. Over the course of a day, I typically averaged somewhere between 800 and a thousand words. At times, I've used word racing over IMs with other writers to encourage myself to focus, but it wasn't something I particularly enjoyed. I would have just as soon wrote alone as I would have with a partner.

But lately, some writer friends and I have been using Google+ hangouts to host "write-ins." During these two- to five- hour blocks, we alternate between dedicated writing time and socializing. This videochat face-time has proven to be a major boon.

Because I can be pretty extroverted, you see, even though I'm also fairly shy. Gabbing with friends refreshes and energizes me. And let's face it; writing is a solitary profession. Worse, it's been several years since I lived close enough to other writers to meet them for coffee, gossip, and work.

Hangouts have been the perfect solution. During a write-in, my friends and I will settle in--gathering coffee, catching up. Then I'll wind up my bright red kitchen timer for anywhere from a half hour to forty-five minutes. While we work, we can still see one another, though we usually mute our microphones and turn down the volume on our laptops. We type away, and since we can see each other at a glance, we all feel fairly accountable. I know when my writing friends have begun to shop on amazon (and they know when I've begun to gawk at goodreads). I've found that this extra level of accountability really helps me focus in a way that word racing, the #amwriting hashtag on twitter, and even turning off my internet never really has.

Also helpful are the spaces in between writing, when we gab and gossip and share our story frustrations and publishing fears. This chance to connect with fellow writers, even across vast distances (today I wrote with writers in Canada and Ireland!) is a great reward, one which makes the very endeavor of writing feel a little less solitary and a bit more social. Writing is now like going to work--with coworkers who I really, really like. I look forward to our little writing dates, even if the majority of our time together is spent furiously typing while making goofy faces.

As you can imagine, my productivity has soared. I've tripled my average output. Where, once, I meandered along at 800 words a day, I now reach 2500-3000 words--and usually over the course of just a few hours. Best of all, that time spent writing feels fun, even effortless. Rather than ripping myself open and bleeding out every precious word, I now spend that time breezing along.

So if you've been skeptical about what, exactly, Google+ is good for, you might want to give hangouts a try. A meeting of the minds has never been easier--or, in my experience, more productive.
Phoebe North

Phoebe writes stories about aliens for teenagers. She loves both Star Trek and Star Wars and doesn't believe you should ever have to choose. She is the author of Starglass and Starbreak, both from Simon and Schuster.

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  1. Damn, that sounds like a seriously awesome idea, Phoebe! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Replies
    1. My critique group and I use Google Hangouts for our weekly meetings (one of us lives in Denver, lucky girl). Also Jamie Ford hosts a Hangout with the same idea, 15 minutes to chat, 45 to write every hour on the hour. I never seem to manage to get into that chat because of too many distractions in the afternoon. BUT this is such a good thing, so glad you're telling everyone about it!

    2. Ooh, I hadn't heard about Jamie Ford's hangouts. Great minds. :)

  3. Wow, this is a really great idea! : )
    One of the things I'd miss from my day job would definitely be social interaction!

  4. Great idea! I'll have to try that. :)

  5. Oooh, I'm terrified of webcams and avoid them at any cost. Can't imagine having people watch me as I'm writing. But, I'm glad it's working for you! That's a significant increase in productivity.

    1. Word to the bashful! Just wanted to say, I don't do any serious work on my laptop because it has an unfortunate tendency to crap out on me. BUT, I ran G+ on the laptop for the water-cooler chats, and then moved myself over to the desktop machine to write. I got to see my co-writers' hilarious expressions while they worked, but nobody had to see mine.

      In fact, there's no proof I did any work at all! Hahahaha! Suckers!

    2. Hmm. You DO tend to be evasive about that wordcount, Rachel. ;)

  6. Unfortunately, I don't think any of my bibliophile friends even use Google+. D'oh!

  7. Oh, I would sooo love to try this, because you're right, writing is a solitary profession most of the time. But... I'm seriously shy. Hehe. The only reason I'm so comfortable with my online presence is that I get to hide behind my words. Do you have any advice on getting comfortable with face-to-face interaction? Thank you!

  8. That sounds fantastic. I do something more basic with friends on Facebook called Word Warring. It's 10-15 minute writing sprints.

    My main issue is the time 1) because I have a full time job and 2) because the majority of my writing friends are overseas I'm not always on when they are. But I think I'm still going to have to try this.

  9. I am on Google+, and I tried a hangout once...

    I'd LOVE to connect with more authors (Heck, I'm trying to find some that would be willing to talk to my middle school writing class via something like Google+ or Skype, but none have come forward.), my question is this:

    How do you FIND writers with whom to "Hangout"? My scheduled writing time is Saturday mornings. Anyone "hanging out" at that time, or just "hanging over?"

    SM Johnston, I'll look up that Word Warring on Facebook, first I've heard of that, too.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I'm curious about this too. How do you find hangouts to join?

  10. I found my word count during NaNo was very high ebcause I did word wars with other NaNoers every night

  11. I wish I could participate in hangouts, but I have 3 dogs and 1 - soon 2 - kids as a stay at home mom. I don't want to break etiquette but it would take some major planning for me to join or host a hangout.

    But those are my woes. Congrats on tripling your word counts. :)


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