Meet FRED: My Favorite Writing Accountability Partner.

Writing is damned hard work.

And you have to do so much of the hardest work up front, before anyone even knows you’re a writer. Probably before you’re even ready to admit out loud that you actually are a writer. And long before you have any one official, like an editor or an agent, standing by to give you deadlines and remind you to put your butt in a chair and write.

So, I have this tool that I use that has made a big difference for me. It keeps me on track, gives me a little boost everyday, and is just an awesome inanimate accountability partner that lives in a manila folder on my desk.

I call him FRED — the Folder for Reaching the End of my Draft. FRED is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, efficiency wise. He keeps me on track. He kicks me in the butt, without saying a word.

So basically, FRED is a calendar and a writing log stapled into a file folder. FRED isn’t fancy — but that’s okay. Fancy isn’t required. What matters is that he works.

I use the entire folder. Inside, I staple a calendar on the left side and a writing log on the left. I use the outside for mind mapping, goal making, lists, doodles, whatever my brain needs at the moment.

There’s a place at the bottom of the calendar for writing my most important writing goal of the month, the steps I need to take to reach that goal, and a reward for when I meet my goal.

Every morning, I write a goal on that day’s calendar square. When I hit my goal, I get a sticker. I just slip a page of star stickers between the calendar and the folder. Easy peasy. You might be surprised at the power of a simple gold star. Especially when you see them all in a row on your calendar. Just not wanting to see a gap in your string of successes goes a long way.

Every evening, I make a little note in the log about what I did toward my writing that day. Word count, query letters sent, plotting progress — it all depends on where I am in the process on any given day.

I find it very helpful to see my log. It reminds me that I’m working hard toward a specific goal, and that I really am making progress even if some days it feels like I’m just spinning my wheels.

So there you have it. FRED requires nothing of me, and just gives and gives and gives.

And guess what? I want to give you your own FRED. Just click here.


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Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She lives in Reno with her husband, three superstar kids, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation and is the original Ninja Writer.

Follow Shaunta on Twitter @shauntagrimes.

If you want to be a Ninja Writer, too, start with the Ninja Writers Academy. You’ll get a lesson every Saturday, share your work for feedback, and Shaunta holds office hours on Sunday afternoons. And it’s all free.