Who holds you accountable?

Frustrated man at a laptopYesterday I read Jessica Faust’s post about a day in her life (not a typical day, just a day), and it occurred to me that I always get warm fuzzies when I read about agents checking in with their clients to see how they’re doing.

Maybe it’s just the agents whose blogs I read, or maybe it’s that agents who are the best with people will be more likely to set up helpful blogs, but I love that a writer could go on Twitter and say they’re having a hard day, and get a call from their agent the next day.

Now, before you call me naive, of course I know that agents and writers have a professional relationship. And yes, it makes good business sense for an agent to check in with her authors. But just because it’s done out of professionalism doesn’t mean it’s not helpful.

Sometimes it makes me think that the best thing about having an agent would be having the kind of relationship where I could send an email to say I’m struggling, and have someone to talk it through.

Before I started blogging, I didn’t have that at all. Over the last year, though, I’ve been able to virtually meet loads of writers who’ve helped me out.

As an unpublished, unagented writer, I don’t have a professional obligation to write. I do it because it’s my passion. But that also means the only deadlines I have are the ones I set myself. And that means they’re easy for me to shift.

It can be difficult to find people who will encourage you to set goals and then cheer you on while you try to meet them.  By being active online, and keeping my eyes open, I’ve found two groups that’ve done that for me.

The first is my critique group, Rumored Romantics. There are currently three of us (we’re going to start looking for a fourth in a few days), and every week one of them critiques one of my chapters. That means I need to have a new chapter for them to look at every other week.  Even better, when I’ve struggled with a chapter until it felt like my eyes would bleed, they’ve put extra time aside to help me.

The second is my group on Savvy Authors. We’re a small group of people who write contemporary stories. I joined about a month ago, just in time for the Savvy summer scrimmage, where each team kept track of how many words they wrote, how many pages they edited, and how much time they spent writing. Every day, my team emailed each other our stats, along with loads of cheers and encouragement. Every evening as I stared at my word count, I thought, “I bet I can get to a round number. I told them I’d write 1,000 words today. I’m going to write 1,001.”

Who do you have holding you accountable? An editor, and agent, or other writers? How did you find them?

Image copyright Rajesh Sundaram/sxc.hu


  1. Tough one! I think ultimately we all have to learn to be accountable to ourselves to set and respect our own deadlines, and it’s hard. I become accountable to my editor only when specific projects are in production, but the bulk of the time it’s up to me to motivate myself to start new projects and get them completed. My agent comes into play only once I’ve finished. Then, while she’s out doing her thing, it’s up to me to start something new. When I’m actively working on a book, I try to hit a minimum of 500 words per day on days when I have to toil at the day job, and 1,000 on weekends.

    1. You’re right; we do need to be accountable to ourselves first and foremost, Suzanne. I find it easier to do if there’s the threat of missing out on something (like a contest deadline or a crit) or if I know others are counting on me (like in the Savvy scrimmage, where every word counted). I used to write my weekly goals in my planner, and it was easy to let them slide (though I still felt disappointed in myself) when only my planner and I knew the goal. Now, when I post online how much I wrote or edited, it becomes public, and unless I have a good excuse for not making my goal, I feel like I’ve let myself down. It makes me willing to work harder during the week to avoid feeling like that on Sunday night.

  2. I have an accountability agreement with two writing buddies.

    I write early in the mornings before work. I get up at 4:00 and write from 4:30 until about 7:15. One of my accountability partners gets up around the same time. Since we’re both on Pacific time, we’d run into each other quite often on Twitter in the mornings. Eventually, we started egging each other on–celebrating each other’s progress.

    Quite often, simply know she is going to be waiting for me on Twitter at 4:30 in the morning is the only thing that has gotten me to the computer when all I wanted to do was stay in bed and sleep.

    My other accountability partner is a longtime writing buddy/Crit partner. We email each other every morning with our totals from the day before. I have a daily goal of 1K a day in new words. If I make it I get Kudos. If I don’t I get a metaphorical *WHACK*

    Accountability partners really can make a difference in output.

    I’d love to snag an agent too. But not so much as an accountability partner, as a sounding board on premises. There are always so many ideas competing in my head. It would be nice to know which idea would have the best shot of selling. *G

    1. Hi Trish. Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. I’ve been away.

      I’m glad you’ve got such a strong relationship with your accountability partners! Especially at such an early time. And it’s great that you use Twitter to encourage each other, instead of its usual use as a complete time suck!

  3. As a total neophyte when it comes to the “real” writing world, I’m wondering what kind of relationships writers have with their editors? Do they come to their house to spend the weeks helping them write and edit like we see in the movies? Do they party together? As Seinfeld would say, “What’s the deal?”

  4. No worries,

    I saw from your previous blog you were taking some time off all things electronic.

    And no question Twitter can be a big time suck, but it can also be a great source of support. Like most things in life, you just have to use it in moderation.


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