The camaraderie of novel writing

One of my favorite things about working in an office is the friendship and support of my colleagues. The people I work with are intelligent, funny and compassionate, and having them around helps me be better at my job. Not only do they keep me sharp and help me out when I need it, but I work harder because I know that my success or failure affects them as well as me.

It’s hard to believe that novel-writing has been a mostly solitary profession since it was invented. Novelists would have talked to each other about form and function and frustration when they met in Parisian cafés and New York bars. But they wouldn’t have had writer-friends available to chat with and spur them on 24/7.

The internet and social media have changed that significantly.

As someone who only started writing novels a couple of years ago, I find the same camaraderie and support that I get in my office in the writing community. And just like in my day job, I find myself working harder and refusing to give up because I know other people care about my success.

For the past 50 days, I’ve been taking part in the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood‘s Winter Writing Festival. Participants set their own goals in mid-January and checked in on the blog every Friday. Back in the bleak days of January, I decided I would write an average of 500 words a day on my new manuscript. That would total 25,000 words by today, the end of the festival. I also wanted to blog more frequently and polish the manuscript I wrote last year.

By doing writing sprints with other writers every weekend, I smashed my goals. That goal of 25,000 words in 50 days? I wrote 30,118. I write slowly, so that’s my best-ever word count in such a short amount of time.

Two weeks before the end of the festival, I felt like I was gaining momentum on the downward slope instead of slowing down. In fact, I wrote 14,500 of my 30k words in the last two weeks. And in that time there were three days when I was ill, and four days when I was in Scotland hanging out with my husband and friends.

I increased my productivity because I was worried I wouldn’t make my goal, and I’d have to tell my writing friends that I hadn’t done it. I’d have had to come up with excuses – there were two weeks when I worked a lot of overtime and had to travel for work; there were days I was ill; I went away a couple of weekends – all true, but still all excuses for failing to keep the promise I’d made myself.

This past weekend, I was in Edinburgh, and I was 6,000 words shy of my goals. But I still found time to write, time I normally would have wasted – like while my husband watched a couple of rugby games on TV (I wrote over 3,500 words) and when a girlfriend I’d come to see announced she’s 13 weeks pregnant and needed a nap (I gave her a big hug, sent her to bed, booted up my laptop and wrote over 1,500 words).

And though my internet connection in Edinburgh was rubbish and I couldn’t join the writing sprints that had helped me so much over the previous weeks, I thought often of the friends I’ve made in the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood. In fact, I couldn’t escape them even if I’d wanted to. Check out the door stopper at the flat we rented in Edinburgh:

Ruby slipper doorstop

The thing that amazes me about novel writers is how much effort they put in to helping each other succeed. Maybe this isn’t true for all genres or for literary fiction, I don’t know. But the romance writers I’ve met online are as selfless and encouraging as the charity workers I spend my day with.

A massive wet kiss (on the cheek, of course – I’m married) to all the women who made the RSS Winter Writing Festival such a success.

Do you take part in writing challenges, sprints and festivals? Or do you prefer writing to be a solitary activity?


  1. When I write, I prefer it to be solitary so I can get totally immersed in my characters (and maybe some of the plot!). But there’s no substitute for mingling with other writers who “get” what we do. I was at my RWA chapter meeting yesterday, and listening to their ups and downs helps. Knowing you’re not the only one facing the same issues really helps. (Kind of like the first time I waled into a “Mothers of Twins” meeting decades ago and found all these other women who knew what I was going through–and were sharing how they coped.)

    Terry’s Place
    Romance with a Twist–of Mystery

    1. I can definitely understand wanting solitude for the writing itself, Terry. And I wish I had a local chapter. It would be wonderful to get together with other romance writers in person instead of being confined to virtual meeting spaces. I’m always jealous of writers who live near a great local chapter.

  2. It’s this exact camaraderie you speak of that got me novel writing in the first place! I had never written a novel until I stumbled across National Novel Writing Month and it looked like so much fun, I had to try. I’ve been noveling ever since!

    And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention GIAM. They’re the best!

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