Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Guest Post: Patrick Thunstrom

While I'm on vacation, my friend Patrick Thunstrom of A Digital Magician has generously provided a guest post.

Not content to focus on just the present, Patrick Thunstrom is always thinking about the past and dreaming of the future. He writes speculative fiction to examine ways to fix the problems he sees around him. When he's not lost in his dreams, he explores games with friends and family, occasionally turning his creative skills to game design.

You can follow him at his blog, or on Google+ and Twitter.

One of the most useful tools available to a writer is the writing group. They might be critique partners, dedicated beta readers, or just cheer leaders. The key point is the writing group is positive peer pressure to keep up your work.

As the world became more and more connected, writing groups have changed. Locally, I’ve had a lot of trouble finding a writing group whose goals and outlooks were similar enough to mine to be able to help me reach them. Thanks to the Internet, though, I’ve found a number of good groups that I’ve stuck with for a time and moved on when we were no longer compatible.

This evolution is great for writers, since these virtual writers groups aren’t bound by locality, they can take many different forms, and base their organization on other things.

Google+ has produced a new evolution in the concept of the ‘write in.’ Instead of meeting at a coffee shop or library, a group of writers can use the Hangouts feature to meet via video conference to chat and write.

I’ve been a participant in such a Hangout, led by Jason Sanford. The meeting is three days a week, and the writers interested log in to the Hangout and we chat for ten to twenty minutes, then it’s a collective writing session for the rest of the hour.

It’s a brilliant use of time, as it incorporates a natural task batching with breaks built in. The other thing about it, that really seems to drive everyone’s productivity, is that because it’s a video conference, you can see everyone working, and hear the sound of others keyboards flying.

In my experience, these chats have almost doubled my minute to minute productivity, which is absolutely wonderful for me!

I’d encourage everyone to try a Hangout write in sometime, whether it’s a NaNoWriMo, Camp NaNo, or just a bunch of like-minded writers doing their thing. I promise, you’ll enjoy it.


  1. Great idea, Patrick. I'm in grad school, and my best friend is in law school, but we live 300 miles apart. We've been doing regular google video chat sessions for a few months now, and it's been a great motivator. I'll have to give these writing hangouts a try, too. They'll be perfect for NaNo!

  2. I've participated in the same kind of 'write in' twice now, only we didn't call it that. Tina Laurel Lee runs The Practice Room on her blog where writers check in at a certain time in the morning, state their goals, write for 45 min. or an hour, then meet back in a chat room. Well, they're all on the East Coast and The Practice Room is happening around 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. for me, West Coast. But they decided to try The Practice Room on Google+ and started it at 11:00 a.m. my time, and we did the same thing you did. We chatted for about 15 min., then worked for about 40 min., checked back in and discussed our progress, then worked for another 40 min. There were 9 of us at the one session and I believe 8 at the other. It was definitely very productive and you're right, the positive peer pressure is quite motivating. I was pretty much unplugged last week, caring for my daughter and newborn grandson, so I've been out of the loop, but I agree that this is a very helpful thing to do and a great way to use Google+ Hangout.

  3. Interesting. I have shied away from Google+ - really not wanting to join another networking site. But I find I get this same sort of interaction with the #1K1hr sprints on Twitter. It definitely focuses me!

    Great post, Pat!

  4. What a fantastic idea! I haven't used Google+ much. I didn't even consider the possibilities. Thanks for sharing. :D

  5. It is lovely to see some bonus points to Google+! I just haven't heard the writers raving. Can you invite me in Patrick? JennyHansensMail AT aol DOT com.

    Thanks...this post actually got me excited. :-)