Writing can be an elusive task. You may start out with the best intentions- setting a time to write that morning, grabbing your coffee, asking your spouse to watch your kids for an hour. You've set the mood and booted up your computer, your idea fresh in your mind. But when push comes to shove, you find that your motivation vanishes twenty minutes into sitting down. Your mind wanders to your never-ending to-do list, your kids, what you need to make for dinner. Anything and everything besides your writing.
Sound familiar? Procrastination, distraction, lack of motivation, creative block, lack of structure and lack of accountability are all common issues that writers may face during the pursuit of writing a novel. It keeps you from achieving your word count or writing at all. Many times the excuse for not writing is that it's simply not a priority. When it comes to day jobs, childcare, daily household responsibilities, and everything else in need of our attention writing often gets left on the back-burner.
One effective (and fun!) way to help get past these writing struggles is to create an accountability group. For writer's who are prone to lack of motivation, need structure, and generally need the support and encouragement of others, an accountability group may be the solution!
What Is An Accountability Group?
An accountability writing group is when a bunch of writers join together and commit to keeping each other on track with their writing. It provides structure, accountability, and support in a creative environment. The goal is to set individual goals, group check-in's, and collectively assist in solving common writing problems. The primary benefits of this type of group is connection, belonging, and being able to effectively continue writing due to being able to overcome writer's block, self-sabotage, and writers' doubts. It's a great way to connect with your current writing friends and make new ones who will help guide you through the early stages of writing on to publishing and beyond.
Creating A Successful Writing Accountability Group
1. Define Your Group's Purpose
Not all writing accountability groups are created equal. The wonderful thing is that you get to decide what the primary objective of your group is going to be. Whether it's reading and giving feedback on your writing, discussing the writing process, or an accountability check-in to help keep everyone on track with their self-imposed goals your writing group can be anything you want it to be. It's important to have a specific purpose and some ground rules, particularly if you plan on growing your group or are hosting online where anyone can join.
2. Find Members Who Fit
After you've defined your goal's purpose, it's time to consider who you'd like to get involved and the size of your group. Think about what will work best for your overall goal.
For a group focused purely on accountability and critiques, it's best to gather neighbors, coworkers, writing friends, and acquaintances rather than those you have close connections with, like family or best friends. The chief reason is because of objectivity. With a family member or close friend, you lose that objectivity because they're often afraid to hurt your feelings. The best feedback doesn't necessarily come from a writer, but rather someone who enjoys reading who can be completely honest. If your goal is purely to discuss the writing process and to troubleshoot writing-related problems, only seek out other writers. That way everyone will be on the same page and be able to share their own anecdotes and advice.
Next consider the size limit of your group. When reviewing, it's ideal to keep the group small, about 3-5 people. This is because everyone must be able to read and provide feedback for each meeting. With five people max, you'll have several perspectives providing input while still keeping the workload manageable. If you're only looking for an accountability partner, then you might not even need that many people. Simply finding one person to be your accountability partner would suffice.
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3. Determine A Time & Place
Once you have your group assembled, it's time to discuss time and place. It goes without saying that the more invested everyone is in the group, the more likely the group will succeed. Fostering good relationships between group members is vital for it's longevity and individual growth. Scheduling regular meetings (either in person or via Zoom), encouraging group chat through group text or calls, and keeping to a schedule will all help members remember and show up to meetings. An hour a week typically works well when it comes to sharing goals and writing tips. If you're sharing feedback, two hours is generally sufficient. Form a routine by keeping meetings at the same time each week or month and send reminders before-hand to keep everyone engaged.
In regards to time commitment, begin with a smaller time frame. Discuss this with the group during the first meeting and see what everyone is willing to do. Three to six months is usually a good trial run period. Once things have been going on for a while, you can increase the amount of time to a year.
4. Create Specific Goals
Having a game plan for each meeting will ensure that your time together will be focused and useful. Creating specific goals will help you reach your writing dreams, whether that's finishing your first draft, building your publishing plan, or brainstorming a new story idea. If you're in the early stages of writing, perhaps your goals are focused around creating a writing routine, setting word count goals, and gaining tips and technique advice. If you're further along in the writing process, say on a second or third draft, perhaps your goals are aimed more towards gaining feedback, tweaking weaknesses, and holding yourself accountable. Further along, your goals might look like learning about the publishing world, polishing your writing skills, and building your author brand. Whatever stage of writing you're in, setting realistic and well-defined goals will help you and your group make the most out of your time together.
5. Determine Your Sharing Schedule
Creating a schedule for what you'll be sharing, how much, and how often will help streamline your group's process. Having a required page amount, timeline, and due date for feedback to be turned in will keep things moving forward. You can do this in several ways. If your group meets every two weeks, have everyone turn in twenty pages of their writing along with their feedback for everyone else's work. If your group meets once every two months for critiques, then consider having everyone submit 20-40 pages, two weeks prior to the meet-up.
6. Ask For Help, Advice, Or A Pep Talk
Once you get past the initial awkwardness of figuring out scheduling and get to know one another and how the group dynamic flows together, don't be afraid to lean on your fellow writers and readers for support. Share when you're unsure if a scene you wrote works, ask them for specific feedback on techniques or areas you aren't sure about, let it be known when you're struggling with writer's block, or are simply doubting yourself as a writer. One of the biggest perks about joining or creating a writing accountability group is that you have an entire support team to cheer you on when you need it.
7. Celebrate Successes
Don't forget to celebrate all the little milestones and big successes that members in your group reach along the way! Writing can be an emotional roller coaster so it's important to boost morale every now and then by stopping to appreciate accomplishments both small and large. Creating a positive group environment will help build momentum and keep everyone motivated to continue.
Writing isn't always a solitary pursuit, and it shouldn't be. By forming an accountability group your chance of successfully writing a book and publishing it will increase. Your group will lend you support when you need it, motivation when you're lacking, and the discipline needed to achieve all of your writing goals.
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