Friday, May 8, 2015

Accountability for Authors

One of the biggest struggles that we have as authors is keeping focused on doing our job in a world that is full of distraction. And I’m talking about distractions like family, the day job, sleep, and the need to occasionally eat. Not having time to write (or procrastinating away that time) is one of the top problems that we writers have. I know that the busier I get, the harder it is for me to stick to my writing schedule. I’m sure the same goes for all of us.

What’s a poor, busy writer to do?

I’ve recently discovered a fabulous way to stay on task and to receive encouragement from other writers who are in the same boat as I am. You’ve heard of critique groups and writing partners, well, I recently joined an accountability group.

We're all in this together
photo by Liam Quinn via Flickr Commons
So what’s an accountability group and how does that help the writing process?

The accountability group that I belong to was organized as an off-shoot of another, much larger writer’s conglomerate that I’m a part of: The Pioneer Hearts authors. The Pioneer Hearts authors group is actually a segment of a much larger group. Pioneer Hearts is a Facebook group for readers and writers of Historical Western Romance. It’s much more than a fan group or a promotional space, though. It’s become a family of over a thousand, at least 80% of whom are readers, united by our love of the genre and a general silliness. You’ve heard about the importance of socializing naturally with readers because readers want to buy books from people they know? That’s what we do. Side note: I invite you to come on over and join the group whether this genre is your thing or not to see what kind of magic we’ve created.

The PH Author’s group is a place where we, the authors, come together to discuss projects and what we can do for our readers. The accountability group was born from that group when one of our members fretted that they were terrible about getting their butt in their chair to write every day. A few others agreed, and someone came up with the idea of a group where we could check in daily to keep each other on track.

Okay, but does it really work?

Absolutely! This is what we do. Every morning, a post goes up from one of the core members asking what our goals are for the day. We each reply to that post, stating what we’d like to get done. At the end of the day, we check in again to say what we actually managed to accomplish. Simple, right? There’s no judging in the group, no brow-beating, but there is a TON of encouragement. Sometimes one of us will share that with everything else going on, there’s no way they’ll get any writing done. Some days a member will write 10k words.

Sometimes a member will ask for help, which usually results in a couple of people joining them in a sprint. Have you ever done a writing sprint? It’s where you pledge to write non-stop for a set length of time, or to write without stopping until you get X amount of words done. Sprints in our group are coordinated through a chat room, where participants cheer each other on before and after the sprint happens. A lot of us have been able to get our butts into chairs to write this way.

This sound so simple. Why does it work?

Easy. When you know that someone else is looking over your virtual shoulder, especially when they’re also struggling to get things done, doing the actual work becomes so much easier. It’s the definition of accountability. It’s also a living demonstration of all those things you hear about the future of writing and writers being author groups and grass-roots partnerships. This is where the rubber hits the road.

Writing is no longer a strictly solitary endeavor, nor should it be. The internet gives us incredible tools to form networks with our fellow writers so that we can bolster each other when we most need it. I encourage you to use these tools wisely and to connect yourself with a group of like-minded writers so that you have your teammates in place as you tackle all of the challenges of writing.

Merry Farmer is a history nerd, a hopeless romantic, and an award-winning author of thirteen novels. She is passionate about blogging and knitting, and lives in suburban Philadelphia with her two cats, Butterfly and Torpedo. Connect with Merry at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.


  1. Sounds like a good idea, Merry ... but not for Homey ... having someone looking over my shoulder sounds way too much like the job I was 'retired' from after thirty years.

  2. Sound like a great idea. My critique group always kept me going, especially knowing I had to have something for our sessions. Even when I had nothing finished and nothing published, they made me feel like writing was worthy of my time.

  3. Great idea. I need that "deadline" of a weekly critique group to keep me going.

  4. I like the idea of motivating others to write and vice versa. On the other hand, I don't want to feel compelled to meet some arbitrary goal because that's too much like a 9-5 job, an assignment, a requirement, which for me will not promote creative endeavor. Having said that, I do believe we all need some kind of accountability to combat those distractions you mentioned. I'm going to ponder this for a bit.

  5. That's exactly why I love writing retreats -- no one is looking over my shoulder to make sure I'm working, but the shared intention and the shared energy makes me work really hard.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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