So, you want to be a writer? My condolences. It’s not all luxury mansions, penthouse apartments, and crime solving like the idiot box suggests. There’s a lot of hard work goes into producing a submittable manuscript and every writer worth their salt will tell you that, sooner or later, you’ll be up against deadlines.
Now, this is an apt topic area this week as all of the muses are suffering from deadline-induced panics. All expect Amanda. Amanda is buying mountain bikes. Yeah, I don’t understand it either. What’s up with that? Anyway, I thought I’d take the time to share with you a few tips on meeting (and beating) those deadline blues.
1) Set realistic deadlines
Some deadlines are set for us and we have little control over those. Others, we set ourselves. Call them what you will — goals, aims, chocolate rewards — a deadline is a deadline. Sometimes these can help keep us motivated, especially on longer projects like novels. But, when used incorrectly, they can hinder your creativity and leave you wanting to give up.
When you set your own deadlines, ask yourself “Is this realistic?” You’re going to get disheartened if you constantly set unachievable targets and miss every one. While we would all love to complete, edit, and submit a novel in a month, it just isn’t feasible. However, it is reasonable to aim to complete a first draft in three months.
2) Don’t be afraid to say no
When deadlines are outside our control, we reserve the right to say no to them. This can be difficult for new (and even seasoned) writers, but it’s important. It’s better, and much more professional, to tell an editor that the deadline is too tight than to rush and submit something that doesn’t show you at your full potential.
The publishing industry is fast moving and we all have to turn down anthologies and other work sometimes just so that we can cope with the projects we already have. On the flipside, new opportunities come along just as quickly.
3) Plan your time
This is important so I’ll say it again, slowly:
Plan. Your. Time. Carefully.
Most deadlines are achievable if you have a plan and stick to it. Sure, you need to build in flexibility, but a plan is imperative to keep you on track and to get you to that due date.
4) Write when you’ll say you’ll write
This should be a no-brainer, but I’ve been guilty of it myself. Facebook, Twitter, emails, they’re all big time sinks. An hour spent on Facebook equates to three earth years (it doesn’t really, but it’s still time you should be writing). Use your plan to keep yourself on track and disable your self-control is anything like mine.
5) Factor in time for editing and proofreading
Writing isn’t the end of the story (haha…story). Your first draft will likely be terrible no matter what you think. Factor in time to let your stories sit before you edit them. Trust me, after a week, you’ll hate your story as much as I hate all mine. That’s where the fun begins. You need to give yourself enough time to read it back, edit it, re-read it, edit it again, cry a few times, one final polish, and then it’s out the door. Anything else and you’re selling yourself short.
6) Reward yourself
You met your deadline? Great job! Go you! You deserve a pat on the back for that and so you should give yourself one. Better still, buy yourself that bike (I still don’t get this bike thing, Amanda) you always wanted or, go and see that movie you really want to see. You’ve done a fantastic job getting here and you should be proud. Show yourself some love.
What are you current goals/deadlines and what strategies do you have for meeting them?
Good post Chris.
Good post – especially since I’m in the middle of the slog. I have a present for myself in the near future, but for now, I slog on to meet the deadline..
I think I will take your suggestion of a rough draft in three months. Especially helpful now that I have a semi-scheduled writing time and I’m sticking with it.