Set writing goals together, and pay in money that you'll forfeit if you don't hit your target — or win off each other if you do!1
How to start your own writing challenge group:
- Get a group of friends together who are writers — Facebook groups work well for this.
- Decide on a challenge length. It could be one week or one month or some other length.
- Choose the amount of money you'll ante up. About $20 US seems right to motivate but not impoverish.
- Someone is in charge of holding the kitty and being the challenge cheerleader. Everyone pays in, usually through PayPal.
- You each publicly set a challenge goal and then check in and cheer each other on every day.
- By the end of the challenge, you each declare whether you met or missed your goal. The honor system prevails.
- Losers forfeit their money. Winners get their money back plus a share of the losers' money.
For instance, assuming a $20 buy-in from 6 participants, if two fail, the other four collect back $30 each. A nice little prize for completing your writing goal!
And even if you fail, you got to work on your writing and you're several steps closer to your goal than you were before, so despite the loss of funds, it's still not really losing!
Some tips on starting your own writing challenge group:
- Post on your Facebook profile, writers fan page, or writing groups you're part of that you'd like to connect with other writers seeking accountability and motivation to meet writing goals. Aren't we all? You should get some takers!
- Start a closed or secret Facebook group and add interested parties. Here's a chart of Facebook group privacy settings to help you choose. Basically, public means anyone can find it and join and see what's going on, closed means anyone can find it and ask to join but can't see what's going on until added, and secret means no one can see it unless invited by a current member.
- In your group description and in a pinned post at the top, state the group's theme, something like: This is a pay-to-play writing challenge accountability group. Participants pay in to the current challenge via PayPal and set their own writing goal. Losers forfeit their money. Winners get theirs back plus a share of the losers' money.
- Make sure to avoid unnecessary PayPal fees for the kitty holder. Participants should send PayPal money as a gift with a PayPal balance or bank transfer. If you have participants from multiple countries, the kitty holder should reside in the predominant country. PayPal fees and exchange rates can mess things up otherwise. You might want to set a policy that participants not in the same country not participate monetarily or give their money only in the event of a loss (though you'd need to trust them to follow through).
- To set the challenge length, you can do a poll to let the majority decide, or you can mix it up as you go. Having a variety of lengths can help satisfy multiple goal needs. Challenges could be as short as a few days or as long as a couple months. The best lengths tend to be, my opinion, 1-2 weeks: long enough to get going on a project, not so long that you lose motivation or get distracted by other life needs.
- Have a thread for goals before the challenge begins. Remind participants that their goals can be whatever they want: Maybe it's to complete a chapter in their novel, send off a certain number of queries, publish three blog posts, research on a particular topic, finish up a book proposal, or journal for twenty minutes a day. Goals can be as challenging as the participants need them to be, and focused on any aspect of writing. Sometimes as writers, we need just a little kick in the pants to get started, and then we'll do more than we intended! If participants set a daily time goal, such as "write for one hour a day," then they should decide upfront if time can be banked or whether it's sudden death: In other words, can they make up for one day with extra time another day, or do they have to complete that much time every 24 hours or lose? Different participants will appreciate different motivational strategies.
- Have daily check-in threads. Be sure to tag all stated participants so that they'll be alerted by Facebook to check in. Unless you're Facebook friends with them, you'll likely have to tag from your computer rather than a mobile device (or, at least, that's been my experience).
- Cheer on each other's successes, and encourage each other in the struggles and failures of being a writer. Share each other's blogposts, writing news, and social media updates to make more of a community.
Most of all, have fun, and enjoy the camaraderie of working toward a goal with fellow writers!
I'm in the middle of a challenge right now, and one of my goals was to write two posts for this blog. Ta da! This writing challenge idea really works. I don't want to lose my twenty bucks!
Have you ever participated in a writing accountability group? What motivates you to keep on track with your writing?
1 I don't know the legalities of this in every region, but I'm hoping it's generally okay to do a little friendly gambling. if you're concerned, you'll want to check your local laws. Here's a handy chart for U.S. states.↩