This post was originally published March 27, 2014, and was updated January 19, 2022.
Writing is an incredibly lonely and isolating activity. It’s just you, your words, and your thoughts. And if you’re anything like me, not all your thoughts are positive.
That’s why it’s dangerous to write alone. And no, I’m not talking about co-writing. I’m talking about a group of writers working on their own projects. Without someone—or a group of someones—to get you out of your head, writing is an uphill battle. Can you do it yourself? Sure. Of course. But why take the hard road when you can take an easier one?
Here’s why writing with someone kicks serious butt.*
*Sometimes that butt is yours.
1. You get encouragement
Sometimes all you need is for someone to throw up the Internet cheerleader *\o/* and tell you that you can do it. (You CAN.)
It’s easy to get locked in your head and self-talk your way into not writing at all. Having someone else to write with means they cut through the negative self-talk and tell you what you need to hear.
2. You’re accountable to someone else
Knowing you have to answer to someone else may be one of the most motivating factors there is. If you say “I want to write 500 words every day” and don’t, you have to tell your accountability partner(s) that you didn’t reach your goal. And that pressure can be the difference between achieving your goals and not. We can justify not reaching our goals to ourselves, but disappointing someone else? Just thinking about it makes me cringe.
Being accountable to someone else also encourages you to set goals. And goals give you a way of moving forward and tracking your progress. Mapping out your plans helps you visualize what you need to accomplish.
If you’re neurodivergent or struggle with executive dysfunction, writing together can be a form of body doubling, which has been shown to help people complete tasks.
3. You receive support
Whenever you frustrated or stuck with a writing problem, talking about it helps. Everyone needs someone else to bounce ideas off. And sometimes, just having to explain your thought process to someone makes your writing stronger. Writing partners might also be able to suggest a solution that you’re unable to see or point you in the direction of a resource that might help.
4. You’ve got built-in alpha readers
Many writers never move beyond the writing stage because they’re too afraid to share their writing. And the longer you go without sharing your writing, the harder it becomes to put it in the hands of someone else.
Alpha readers are people who read your book as you write it. While you can ask for detailed feedback at this point, it’s just as beneficial to share and get a thumbs up in response. Nothing’s quite as uplifting as hearing someone say, “I like this! Write MOAR!”
What does not writing alone look like?
Not writing alone can be as simple as finding a friend who writes and choosing to write together or as big as joining the NaNoWriMo movement. I’ve had a writing partner, but I’ve also used an accountability group that met once a week to discuss our goals and accomplishments.
Try whatever option feels right to you. But most importantly, never think you have to do it alone.
YES! Your point about having alpha readers is so important, but it seems like no one lets new writers in on the secret. Not only does it prep you to share your work and become open to constructive criticism, it makes it 99.9% more likely that your first draft will be better than it would’ve been if you’d gone it alone.
I should really devote an entire post to talking about alpha readers. I started sharing my work with someone whenever I got stuck in the “My writing is TERRIBLE!” stage and realized how valuable the whole practice was. Plus, she was able to point out a plot thread I’d left dangling. Super helpful.