Accountability and Motivation

I was recently talk­ing to one of my Agile Writers about why the work­shop is so suc­cess­ful. In the last 3 years we’ve invited over 100 peo­ple to our group. In that same time we’ve com­pleted over 20 first draft nov­els. That’s about a 20% suc­cess rate. For most any writ­ers group, that is a pretty high percentage.

To what do we owe this suc­cess? Part of it is the plan­ning that we do. The Agile Storyboard is an impor­tant first step to under­stand­ing your story and your char­ac­ters before you get started.

But just as impor­tant is the way we do cri­tique. Each writer is assigned two cri­tique part­ners. The three writ­ers will work together for the full six months they will be writ­ing their books.

This cre­ates a sense of account­abil­ity. You know that there are two peo­ple wait­ing to receive your work each week. So you have to get your writ­ing done by Sunday night to email to your part­ners. That’s the motivation.

Likewise your part­ners are send­ing their work to you. You feel a sense of respon­si­bil­ity to cri­tique their work by the fol­low­ing Wednesday night.

This also breeds a strong sense of cama­raderie among the cri­tique part­ners. It’s a coop­er­a­tive arrange­ment. Everyone is work­ing together toward a com­mon goal. Your cri­tique part­ners are your friends and they’re giv­ing you great advice. And so, you want to give them your best advice as well.

We write about 10 pages a week for cri­tique (double-spaced, about 2500 words). This is about the right amount so that every­one gets cri­tiqued in an hour’s time. It’s also the right amount to cre­ate a 250-page novel in 6 months. Which is our ulti­mate goal.

How are you man­ag­ing cri­tique in your group? How does it work? Do you have the same cri­tique part­ners each week or do you get some­one com­ing cold into the mid­dle of your story? What do you think are some of the advan­tages to your way and how does it com­pare to what we’re doing? Leave your com­ments below!

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