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:
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.
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!
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 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.