Writing accountability comes in all shapes and sizes, with writing buddies offering support, editorial advice, listening to you moan about the draft over coffee, and buying the champagne when it’s done. Some writers take accountability so seriously they’re prepared to sign a contract to hold themselves to account. Find out about the writing agreement.
Getting a contract with an agent or publisher is what many writers dream of. A contract is a symbol you’ve arrived and a brilliant way to hold you to account. It lays out the terms and conditions of your writing, with deadlines and money attached – all enforceable by law. Contracts are serious business and there are stakes attached if you don’t comply.
But, contracts are rare, and for many are only a possibility once a book has been written. What if you haven’t written your book yet? You can use the principle of contracting to commit to a writing routine and nail that draft.
Related reads: Accountability part 1: critiquing partners
The writing agreement
That’s exactly what fiction writer Aimee Bender did. Bender believes that if someone wants to write, it’s worth finding a way to do it. She sees the contract as a “fighting gesture against the ever-present idea that writers walk around with alchemy boiling in their fingertips.”
She trashes the idea that writers are dreamy wanderers who have elegant sentences available on call. Instead she reckons that most find their voice “through routine, through ordinariness, through some kind of method of working.” She believes that a writer’s agreement can help you stick to a routine.
A formal commitment to write
The idea is a writer will formalise their commitment to writing in a contract and have it co-signed by someone who will enforce the agreement. In it, you outline the terms of your commitment, what you promise to deliver, when, for example she suggests: As Writer, I shall write one hour per day, five days per week.”
“As Writer, I shall write one hour per day, five days per week.”
Then you need to deliver on that promise, for example emailing, messaging or tweeting your writing buddy / enforcer to confirm you’ve done it.
Related reads: Accountability part 2: friends and family
Bender says your buddy “will acknowledge what you are doing, and know that it is hard, and that it is important. Someone who will call you on it if you stop.” They are there for you, as you need them.
Get creative with your contract
Formalise your commitment to writing by typing out a contract, signing it and putting in above your desk as a daily reminder of your commitment. You could tell a friend, share on social media, or go so far to draw up a contract.
Think about how you could use a writing agreement to hold you to account:
- What would the terms of your contract look like?
- How will you deliver on the terms to show you’re complying?
- What incentives will you include?
- And what about if you fail to meet the terms – how will you be punished?