The Crime Writers’ Association

Staying Accountable

Even writers don’t feel like writing all of the time. When you’re part-way through your book and the rest of it stretches out ahead of you like an insurmountable task, the temptation to do something else instead can become strong, and if you’ve got nobody hovering around making sure that you get on with your work, it’s even easier just to put it off until another day.

The way to make yourself get on with it when you really don’t want to – make yourself accountable. If necessary, to another person! Accountability means that you’re taking responsibility and putting pressure on yourself to get the book written. It can also mean answering to someone else, someone you choose to keep you focused.

If you trust yourself to self-manage, get into the habit of setting yourself frequent deadlines. Don’t let things slide because you don’t have to finish the book for another six months, or you don’t have a deadline to complete it at all. Set smaller targets that mean you feel obliged to write at least something every day.

If you find it hard and still keep putting it off, thinking it doesn’t matter as you’re the boss – get another boss! Find a friend who you can promise to send a chapter to by a set date, and ask them to nag you about it. If you’ve promised to email someone a chapter to read by next Friday, that deadline is more likely to concentrate your mind than a vague promise of a chapter ‘when it’s finished’.

Make sure that whoever you choose to keep you accountable will do so, and won’t just be a partner to your procrastination. Ask them to email or message you if the next chapter isn’t in on time, or even to remind you on a daily/weekly basis of your writing goals. Ask them to give you enough pressure that you feel as if you can’t let them down.

Another great way to encourage yourself to stick to a deadline is to make it public. Declare on Facebook or your blog that you will be writing an important scene or finishing the next chapter by a certain date, and that you plan to publish a short excerpt for preview… you won’t want to look disorganised in front of your future readers and fans, so it’s in your best interest to get that work done and avoid making too many excuses for why it’s still unwritten.

Events like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where you agree to write a certain amount every day are great for motivating you, and writing forums are excellent for a bit of a push when you really don’t feel like it. You’ll get support and advice from people who know exactly how you’re feeling and you can rely on them to give you a friendly kick in the posterior when they see you making excuses for slacking off!

Try a local writing group – book shops and libraries often have them. Meet with other people and set yourself targets – you can all cheer each other on and even critique each other’s writing at the same time.

Whichever method you use to keep yourself accountable, when you feel yourself losing the urge to write, just keep going!


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