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Google Plus for Writers

by Christopher Gronlund on July 19, 2011

Yesterday, I mentioned some of my initial thoughts about Google+. So far, I like it. I have friends who don’t; I have friends who like it but won’t use it because it’s yet another social network.

I get all that–I feel the same way myself about many things I’m told I should use as a writer. If Google+ isn’t your thing, that’s cool.

If Google+ is your thing and you’ve figured out how you will use it, that’s great–everybody should use things in a way that works best for them.

If you’re still trying to figure it out, here’s how I’ve been using it–and some things I’ve thought about for writers. I hope it helps.


I know Facebook has the ability to create and share things with specific groups you create, but it’s a bit cumbersome, so many people don’t use it. And face it, just like Facebook chat automatically turning back on, lately, Facebook has a tendency to one day change everything you’ve spent time setting up.

Everybody I’ve talked to about Google+ loves circles. If you haven’t checked out Google+ yet, circles are a great way to filter the people you follow. For a writer, it makes it not just easy to follow writers in general, but allow you to break things up even more (e.g. a circle for screenwriters, comic book writers, etc.).

Let’s pretend you want to create an all-encompassing “Writers” circle, so you can click the circle in your stream and see what all your favorite writers are up to. Here’s how you do it:

1. Click the Circles icon at the top of the page.

Result: The Circles page displays.

2. Hover over the “Drop here to create a new circle” icon.

Result: The icon changes into the “Create circle” icon.

3. Click “Create circle.”

Result: The Create empty circle window displays.

4. Type the desired name for your new circle in the field at the top of the window.

5. Click the “Create empty circle” button at the bottom right of the window.

Result: Your new circle displays on your Circles page.

Note: You can add people to your circle from the Create empty circle window, but I prefer finding people back on the Circles page.

6. On the Circles page, type the name of the writer you’d like to add to your new circle. (I use Chuck Wendig in this example.)

Result: A Chuck Wendig icon displays.

7. Click and drag the Chuck Wendig icon to the “Writers” circle.

Result: Chuck Wendig is now added to your “Writers” circle.

8. Return to your Stream view. The “Writers” circle now appears as a Stream viewing option.

9. Go buy Chuck Wendig’s new e-book 250 Things You Should Know About Writing for $.99. (When’s the last time you got 250 things for less than a dollar?)

* * *

One thing I hope Google does soon: allow users a way to designate which of their circles displays in their main Stream view. It would be great to see just a few circles in that view, and then have the option to see what’s up in other circles only when the user wants to see them.


Google+ Hangouts allow you to set up a video chat with members of specific circles, or a free for all where anybody can jump in. I’ve only tinkered with Google+ Hangouts so far, but here are some uses I can see for writers:

Writing Groups – If you’re in a writing group and unable to meet in person, Google+ Hangouts makes meeting easy. There have been times I’ve traveled for work that has gotten in the way of the writing group I’m in. With Google+ Hangouts that never has to happen again.

Readings – If you have enough of a following that would love to listen to you read sections of a work in progress and discuss it, Google+ Hangouts gives you the ability to set that up.

Interviews – Let your blog followers know they can attend a live interview you’re doing with another writer.

Feedback – Create a circle for your beta readers and set up a Google+ Hangout to discuss their thoughts on your latest work.

Camaraderie – Face it: writing is lonely. Take a fifteen to thirty minute break with writers all around the world.

So now you know that Google+ Hangouts are. How do you set one up?

1. Click the “Start a hangout” button on the right sidebar of the main Stream view.

Result: If you do not have Google Voice and Video Chat installed, a window displays that allows you to install it. If you have Google Voice and Video Chat installed, the Hangout setup window displays.

2. Decide who you want to hang out with. If you do not want to hang out with all your circles, click the “Your circles” X. (If you want to hang out with potentially everybody in all your circles, click the green “Hang out” button and proceed to the Result in step 5.)

Clearly, I didn't check my hair!

3. Click “Add circles or people to share with…”

Result: A drop-down menu of all your circles displays.

4. Select the circles you want to potentially hang out with.

5. Click the green “Hang out” button.


Result: A control window displays, telling you there is no one available right now. (But that will [hopefully] change.)

Note: On your Stream view, anybody in your selected circles can see that you are wanting to hang out, and join in.

6. Wait for people to show up and hang out!

7. Click the “Exit” button when you’re ready to stop hanging out.


Sparks are a quick and convenient way to find shareable content for your stream. (If that’s your thing.)

1. Click the “Sparks” link in the left sidebar of your Stream view.

Result: The Sparks window displays.

2. Type your interest in the search field.

Note: Google gives you a drop-down menu of suggestions as you type.

3. Click the Magnifying Glass icon.

Result: A list of shareable content appears.

4. Click the “Add interest” button if you’d like this spark to be easily accessible.

Result: The “Fiction” spark now appears below “Sparks” on the left sidebar of your Google+ page.


One of my favorite things about Google+ so far is people seem to really be discussing things and having conversations. (Granted, this is the result of how I use Google+ compared to other social networks.)

With Twitter, everything is reduced to 140-character blurs. While I like the immediacy of Twitter, I am rarely on in time to jump into conversations.

With Facebook, since I use it to stay in touch with people I actually know, I only chat with those people.

With Google+, I’ve taken part in longer conversations about art and writing, and I’m loving it. Maybe you’ll hate it; maybe you’ll love it.

If you weren’t sure what it’s all about, I hope this post helped. If you’re on Google+ and want to add me, feel free: I’m right here.

* * *

So…how are you using Google+ for your writing (or whatever it is you do)–I’d love to hear.

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