Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

On Accountability

writer-friend Liz
also, sangria-drinking, star-trek-watching-friend Liz

I have a writer-friend (who occasionally helps me drink martinis) who needed some motivation to get pages written to bring to our local crit group. She had long been a writer, but had never finished a novel, and after an extensive post-group discussion over tea about all things writing, I suggested that we become page-swap buddies.

Here was the deal:
1) Every Monday we swap however many pages we have.
2) We say "yay! go team!"

That was pretty much it.

The idea wasn't to critique, but to provide accountability and encouragement. For me, this was right at the beginning of Debt Collector, and I told her I would be writing fast-n-furious, and it would help me to have someone reading pages as I went, even if they weren't for critique. Just to know someone was keeping up with the story with me. For her, the idea was to make sure she would always have pages for our monthly meetings, and eventually, to finish her very first novel.

In my head, I was thinking this was mostly for my friend's benefit. After all, I'm a professional writer, right? I write full-time and make a living at it. I set aggressive goals and regularly meet them. I don't really need someone to help me with "accountability," but I was more than happy to help her along her journey.

Boy, was I wrong.

You see, it's awfully easy to make excuses for why that episode isn't done yet, especially when you're publishing every-two-freaking-weeks (trust me, that's an AWESOME excuse). Yet, when Monday rolls around and you only have 500 more words written than last week, it quickly becomes obvious that you're doing everything BUT getting new words on the page. And when you're writing and publishing a nine-part serial, there's really not room for that.

By the time Debt Collector is done, I'll have written, revised, and published 9 episodes (approx. 124k words) in 4 months. Considering my best previous time was an 85k novel in 5 months, that's kicking some serious booty, even for me. Especially considering all that publishing (read: distraction) in the middle.

And for that, I have Liz to thank for keeping me accountable every Monday morning for what-in-the-hay have I been doing for a week, besides writing.

And now here's Liz's POV:

I think one of the big ways this exchange has been helpful is that you gave me a strict goal to just “finish the book” – for good or for bad, just get it finished.  I’m not done, of course, but I can already tell that has helped my discipline as a writer, because I have to write all the not-so-fun bits that  connect all the really fun to write scenes to make a cohesive story.  Before, I would just write what I was inspired to write at the moment, which has given me volumes of pages, but no finished book.

Also, knowing that you are expecting pages every Monday has forced me to find times to write when I would have previously told myself I don’t have time.  I look up to you as a writer, and I don’t want to disappoint you by breaking my commitment.  So I write when I’m tired and when there is noise and distractions – situations that perhaps aren’t producing the best words, but are producing words nonetheless.  I want to prove (to you? To myself?) that I am taking this writing business seriously even if I don’t have much time as I’d like to write.   I feel a happy little boost every time I hit Send on my email to you.  I did it one more time! 

And when I get a comment from you, even if it’s just a word or two, that is such a boost for me.  I instantly want to go write more.  I’m ridiculously motivated by any sort of positive comments.  It’s pathetic, really.  I think I was a puppy in a former life.  

Liz

Liz is definitely not a puppy! (I can't vouch for former lives.) She's a great friend, and being page-swap buddies has been a great experience (for both of us, I believe). In case you (or a buddy) is looking for a way to boost your productivity and reach those elusive writing goals - the ones you strive for, but struggle to reach - consider teaming up with someone to stay accountable, no matter how crazy the goals.

Write on, my friends.


6 comments:

  1. It's amazing what we're capable of that we thought we could never do. Accountability is always good no matter how many words a week we're writing. :)

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  2. Susan, I think you're a freaking machine. (In a very good way! lol) I've been staggered by how quickly you've been knocking out the Debt Collector series. Writing a novella series myself, I know full-well these stories don't take (proportionally) less time than longer work to get into shape. And as you've said here on this blog, sometimes the shorties are even more labor intensive.

    So even if you miss a goal day here or there, I'm still very impressed by your discipline. And also understand the need for martini/sangria breaks. :)

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    1. Thanks, EJ! I'm not a machine, but I will be channeling a machine-in-the-human vibe when I write my Singularity series. I think maniacal discipline could be a characteristic! As for me, I'll definitely be partaking in a martini (or three) once this series is done. #celebratethewins #thanksforyourkindwords

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  3. Hi Sue and Liz!
    It's never easy to commit to writing. It's the same 'life gets in the way' excuse that we use to put off any and everything that requires time and effort. This is true for me, too; most days I'm challenged to find 5 minutes for a shower!

    And yet, when I find that time to write something in me releases. I get energized in the process. So, while I may not have more rest, but I feel more peace and am more productive in my day.

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  4. I love this!!! I want one of these. We live too far apart~ :P <3

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  5. I found my accountability by going to the mountains and facing myself for two weeks. Oy. http://obsessedwithconformity.com/1783/how-i-wrote-a-novel/

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Erudite comments from thoughtful readers