The thought of writing a novel can be daunting. With our lives growing fuller all the time, it may seem impossible to find the energy to put sixty thousand words on paper, let alone take the next steps of revising, pitching, and publishing your book. It’s easy to set aside your writing or procrastinate when you have so many other important obligations, exiting events to attend, and distractions to occupy your attention. But reaching your writing goals doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you set your mind to it, put a plan in action, and stick to your chosen parameters, you’ll find that taking accountability for your goals can be quite manageable and even enjoyable. Here are nine resources that help writers become better at accountability and successful at reaching their writing goals:
Before setting your writing goals and plan in place, a good starting point is to better understand what motivates you. Gretchen Rubin theorizes in her book The Four Tendencies that there are four ways people react to expectations. Depending on your tendency, you may find different ways to hold yourself accountable. This quiz helps writers identify our tendencies to help piece together what motivates you.
Next, take it from one of the greats. It never hurts to take advice from someone whose tried-and-true practices have led them to a successful career as a published author. Stephen King does a stand-up job of explaining, as a writer, what it takes to reach writing goals, day by day. He goes into the how of what he does to achieve his own goals as well as the why for setting goals and putting parameters in place. Plus, King’s insight into writing are motivating as well as educational.
When you’re ready to establish your goals, finding a good productivity planner can help you establish a realistic writing plan and put your goals onto a tool that will allow you to track your progress. Setting smaller milestones that ensure you reach larger milestones will help spread your writing into manageable pieces rather than letting you procrastinate until your goal is too large to get done in the time you have.
Don’t be afraid to go public. Sharing your goal with others will not only make you more likely to hold yourself accountable, it will also provide an avenue for others to keep you on track. Each encouraging comment can support your drive, and every time someone asks how the book is coming along, you’ll want to have made progress and give them the good news! But if sharing your goal with others seems too daunting, try talking about the process. You’ll be surprised how many people share not only the need for accountability but are willing to support others on the path.
When writing, try focusing solely on the task at hand. Abstain from or moderate distractions to avoid unnecessary diversions, and hold yourself accountable to your designated writing time. These four apps can help remove the tech distractors and help keep you on track.
Use a timer to help concentrate your writing time. When you’re allotted only a certain amount of time to reach your goals, you don’t have the liberty to waste any of that time by getting sidetracked. The pomodoro technique, developed by Francisco Cirillo in the late nineteen hundreds, uses a timer to break up tasks into short windows of time to help focus and keep the brain engaged. By writing in twenty-five minute intervals, with short breaks between, you might find you’re less likely to acknowledge distractions or allow your concentration to be broken. And at the end of the designated time, you’ll be able to see real word count add up.
Build momentum and create a habit. The more consistently you write, the easier writing will become. To help stick the habit, reward yourself by achieving your goals or use a more high-stakes approach by punishing yourself when you don’t write. Apps like StickK.com and Write or Die require you to pay when you don’t reach your daily goals, whereas Beemind and HabitShare provide more reward and support for success. Tracking your progress and accomplishments with a spreadsheet of your word count can also help reinforce your writing habit.
Writing communities are a wonderful asset. Finding peer reviewers, critique buddies, and beta readers can keep you accountable. Try setting up writing dates (even online) with a friend. This will hold you to your writing time because someone else is expecting you and relying on you for their own accountability. Writing groups such as NaNoWriMo can motivate you to write as well. Even forming or finding a Facebook group dedicated to a writing community can be motivational.
Pay for a writing course. Sometimes a writing or productivity coach can be the best form of accountability. Not only does it make you put your money where your mouth is, taking a course combines the above accountability strategies into one resource while providing valuable education that can make your writing easier and results better. This month-of-accountability course provides accountability strategies and exercises along with helping set goals you can reach, a connection to a community of peers, and a calendar to track all your progress.
Accountability can be tricky to master without the right tools and resources. But when you succeed at holding yourself accountable to your writing goals, they become far easier to achieve. Strong support, good practices, and consistent reinforcement can make a world of difference. So take the leap, learn to hold yourself accountable, and start meeting your writing goals today.
Since the age of five I have been passionate about reading, writing and language. The power of a well written story is greater than any one person for it can touch countless lives. In 2012, I graduated Magna cum Laude from the University of Colorado with a BA in English and creative writing and went on to graduate from the Publishing Institute at the University of Denver in 2014. Over the last eight years I have proofread, copy edited, line edited, and substantively edited many papers, stories, and manuscripts. I worked as the fiction editor on the CU honors journal until I graduated. Since then I have interned as a proofreader for Genius Book Publishing, proofread for Forte Information Resources, and edited manuscripts for Red Adept Editing and Green Ivy Publishing as well as individual authors. I've written many short stories and novellas as well as an honors thesis. Currently, I freelance edit for Red Adept Publishing and write for Romance Writing Academy.