Writing Accountability Buddy

Martina Tyrrell
February 1, 2024

Having a writing accountability buddy will improve your chances of reaching your writing goals. I'm going to tell you how.

A New York Times article from 2002 reported that 81% of Americans believe they have a book in them. Most never write that book. Another statistic widely thrown about is that, of those who start to write a book, only 3% finish. There are variations on this, based on type of book (non-fiction v. fiction; memoir v. academic, etc.), and other stats for those who complete a first draft or those who complete a first round of editing. According to one site, only 0.6% of completed novels get published (although, whether that’s traditional or self-published, I’m not sure).

Writing a book is hard. Full disclosure here – I have three unfinished manuscripts (two memoirs and one novel) languishing on my hard-drive in various stages of completion – from rough chapters, to can’t figure out the ending, to multiple times edited. That’s my own personal writing.

The books I write for other people as a ghostwriter don’t languish. They get written, on time. The difference between writing for myself and writing for other people is obvious: As a ghostwriter, I’m getting paid, I have a deadline, I’m accountable to someone else. It’s my job. I can’t put ghostwriting on the back burner. I can’t let it slide while I concentrate on other things. It’s the exact opposite of my personal writing.

Of the three aspects of ghostwriting that push me to completion, only one can realistically be applied to my personal writing and that’s accountability. Just like having a gym buddy or an AA sponsor, being accountable to another person can push you to achieve writing goals that might otherwise be de-prioritized. Therefore, to get your book written, I recommend an accountability buddy.

Your accountability buddy might be a writer friend, a writing group (IRL or online), or a professional writing buddy, with whom you have agreed-upon writing goals and deadlines and an agreed-upon time to check in once every day/week/month. You might devise a contract of what your buddy should expect of you each time you check in and what the consequences of not meeting your writing goals should be. And you can be their reciprocal accountability buddy too.

At the start of 2024, I asked my sister to be my accountability buddy for an unpaid personal writing project that could all too easily slip down my priority list. My plan was to devote a specific day each week to the project and report back to my sister at the end of that day. Why my sister? She’s a twice published novelist, with a third novel on the way. She’s self-employed. She works from home. She understands the pressures and distractions that can hamper unpaid projects. And she’s someone who will lavish praise on me when I deserve it and tell me to pull the finger out when I’m coming up with poor excuses. So far, it’s working. I get uplifted knowing that I can call in good work for the day and there is a growing number of satisfying lines struck through the items on my project to-do list.

So, what are you waiting for? Find a buddy. Devise a plan. Make this year the year when you are not one of the 97% who start writing a book, but one of the 3% who finish.

Copyright © 2024 - Martina Tyrrell
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