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First Monday Mentoring for July – don’t be a no-account writer

Today is the first Monday in July, when I open this blog to your questions about writing, publishing or any aspect of the process, and answer them here. The blog is read by many terrific writers who’ll add their thoughts or experiences to the mix. Post your questions and ideas, argue with mine, share your war stories. This is the day, heck, sometimes the whole week.

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To kick things off, I’m looking at accountability. The new financial year (in Australia, anyway) makes us think of accounts in the money sense. How much or how little did you earn? And where did it all go? How can you manage better this financial year? When can you give up your day job? All fodder for a later blog.

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There’s a kind of accounting that can make or break your writing future. It’s your output. It’s OK to want to BE a writer. A lot of the time, being a writer is more fun than writing. Attending groups, workshops, posting on Facebook and Twitter, reading craft books and critiquing friends’ manuscripts are all part of the scene, but they’re not writing.

As author, Neil Gaiman, says, “Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.” That’s writing. Set yourself a word target you commit to meeting no matter what. It doesn’t have to be seven days a week, or an impossible number. Writing 500 words a day every week for six months gives you a 60,000 word manuscript, the length of a novel these days. And that’s with weekends off. 500 words is about two typed pages.

Recently a writer friend, Diane Curran, posted on Facebook that instead of asking members of her group what they wanted the group to do for them over the next year, she asked them to name their writing ambitions. Then asked what they needed to do by the next monthly meeting to get them closer to their goals. As Diane said, making the members accountable for their progress kept her accountable, too.

There are many ways to make yourself step up. NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, is probably the best known. It’s an international must-do for thousands of people who commit to writing 50,000 words during November. Some make the total, some far exceed it. Others do 20,000, 30,000 or whatever they can manage. But every one of them produces more than they would have going solo.

In June, Romance Writers of Australia runs 50k in 30 days. https://romanceaustralia.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/need-a-push-to-get-the-words-down-50k-in-30-days-is-here/ Then there are “sprints” when writers challenge each other to achieve targets such as #1k1hr on Twitter. This stands for one thousand words in one hour. You simply tweet that you’re looking for a 1k1hr partner to start sprinting at the quarter, half or full hour mark. You don’t have to know your partners or live in the same country. Adding the #1k1hr hashtag to your tweet links you up. You write like crazy, achieve whatever part of 1,000 words you can and report back an hour later, using the same hashtag. Sure, you can lie, but this is all about being accountable. Writing is an account of…your character’s adventures….and yours, too.

What does accountability do for you? How do you achieve it? Share your thoughts and experiences here.

Valerie
“In conversation” about romance writing at Southern Highlands Writing Festival in Bowral NSW July 12-14

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