Writing with Deadlines

Writing with DeadlinesSo, 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?


Get Away From The Desk

Get Away From The Desk

Now just where did I leave my inspiration?

Writing’s a solitary profession. Writing’s an indoor sport. We’ve all heard this before and while it holds a grain of truth, there’s always two sides to a story.

Anyone serious about writing should be able to knock out a few words wherever they are and make use of all that dead time we find ourselves in on a daily basis. There are times when getting away from the desk is the best thing that can happen to us, the thing that gets those blocked noggins working again.

1. Coffee anyone?

NaNo may be over but that doesn’t mean you have to stop speaking to or meeting with your local NaNo group. Get your laptop/tablet/pen and paper and get yourself down to a local write in. Drink coffee (too much coffee) and watch that pen burn holes in the paper. Those new friends you made in November could be the ones that give your rear the necessary boot when you’re ready to throw in the towel.

2. Talking to oneself in the great outdoors

As I mentioned last week, you don’t need to be chained to a desk to write (“But I can’t write unless I’m surrounded by my collection of surgical samples stored in formaldehyde.” Quiet you!) or even have the use of your arms (“Guess where the samples come from?” I said quiet!). There are so many smart phone applications for voice memos around these days or you could always invest in a standalone device. Many of them even transcribe for you with pretty good results.

3. Take the notebook somewhere new

I’ve lost track of the number of times a simple change of scenery has helped me knock the words loose. So I urge you, grab your notebook or your laptop and explore your city/town. Go somewhere you’ve never been before, find a spot, and just start writing.

Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever written and how did you fare? Please share.

Maximising Your Word Count

Maximising Your Word Count

There’s old school, then there’s old school.

It’s the start of another year and the Muses have already started asking me about my ‘resolutions’ (same as last year really, make it to 2017 with everything intact) but it did get me to thinking. Over the festive period, I’d seen an article or two making the rounds with the daily word counts of famous (and infamous) authors and there are some pretty phenomenal numbers on those list. Whilst I acknowledge that most, if not all, were full-time writers, it made me consider my own productivity and how to maximise my writing time.

Technology has come in leaps and bounds over the last decade. We’ve never been more connected than we are now and I’m sure many of us received a welcome gift of a tablet, smartphone, or something else with flashing lights and buttons. All this technology provides us writers with so much more than the ability to stream funny cat memes directly to our armchairs and, to paraphrase the Webbed Wonder, with great tech comes great opportunities.

So, I hear you cry, how will my phone/tablet/smart TV make me a better writer?

1. Dead Time

There’s nothing worse than waiting. All that dead time lost standing in line, sitting in waiting rooms, waiting for your significant other to just try on one last item of clothing. Use that dead time to boost your word count. Write using your phone or tablet’s built-in keyboard, write on the back of your hand if you have to. At worse, you’ll look like everyone else playing Candy Crush.

2. Commutes and Car Rides

A tablet/phone and a word processing/note taking application are perfect for jotting down all your thoughts on those long, dreary commutes. Throw in a Bluetooth keyboard and you’re typing at your normal pace. Most of these keyboards are small enough to fit in your bag and many integrate into the tablet/phone’s case.

3. Go Hands Free

Audio recorders and voice reminder applications are exceptionally useful when your hands are being kept busy by other things. Many of them come bundled with transcription software which, while not 100%, is pretty accurate on the fly.

4. Old School

For the technologically-challenged among us or those who simply prefer to kick it up old school, you too can maximise productivity by keeping a pocket notebook and pen secreted about your person for just such an occasion.

P.S. I lied about the Smart TV. The only way that’ll help is by switching off Netflix.

How do you sneak in those extra few words? Answers in the comments.

10 Great Writing Tips, in Quotes by Carly Watters

After a month of dealing with unexpected life events, I find myself struggling to get back into the writing habit.  Earlier this week I read a post by literary agent Carly Watters where she shared 10 writing tips accompanied by author quotes that validated her inspirational tips.

Click here to read Carly’s post 10 Great Writing Tips, in Quotes

At this current time in my life, # 2 resonates the most with me:  You don’t have to write every day. In fact, it’s perfectly okay to avoid burn out and take a day off. It doesn’t mean you’re not a writer.

I am learning that sometimes life just happens.  And sometimes things become so overwhelming that you have to take a break from writing.  In an upcoming post in April, I will reflect upon this break and detail out the process I took to get back into the writing habit (which is still a work in process).  We all go through busy or tough times in our lives, and sometimes our writing suffers from it.  But you know what? One day the words will start flowing again, because…

Many suffer from the incurable disease of writing, and it becomes chronic in their sick minds.  -Juvenal

Two Heads: A Guide to Working Collaboratively

Two Heads: A Guide to Working Collaboratively

A good handshake is a must! (c) Yoel

Writing is usually viewed as a solitary pursuit, insofar as it is typically one writer slaving away in secret (or Starbucks depending on your preference). Yet, once in a while, we get the urge to join forces with others of our ilk and write collaboratively be it as a pair or part of a larger group.

Last week, Heather B. Costa of the, often hilarious, blog Trials of a wanna-be-published Writer (go over there and show her some love) asked me if I had any tips for writers wishing to collaborate. As a matter of fact, I do and this post was born.


The absolute minimum we require to work collaboratively are:

  • An idea (harder than it looks);
  • Something to write with/on; and
  • Some means of communication.

In the bygone days of yore (a period of history succeeded by the My dynasty), collaboration between writers was confined to face-to-face meetings, through letters or by telephone and was an arduous project.

But in this digital world we now find ourselves occupying, ideas and documents can be exchanged across the globe in the blink of an eye and the world of collaborative writing knows no bounds.

What does this mean in practical terms? Well, there now exists some pretty good services and software that smooth the collaborative process, making it easier than ever to write as a team.

Online Notebooks

Most online notebooks now allow for and often include cloud storage and sharing of documents created within. Prime examples of these are Evernote and Microsoft OneNote which allow multiple users to update documents with the effects seen in real time.

Document Storage

Research materials, photographs and other imagery, and all the acquired material generated when working on a project require storage. Emails are okay but some limit the size of the document that can be sent. Dropbox, iCloud and other online storage sites allow for the creation of shared folders where this research (and even the manuscript) can be stored and viewed easily be all parties.


An essential part of the collaborative process is the need to communicate. If you happen to live in the same area, this isn’t an issue. Even international collaboration is possible these days through technology such as Skype, WhatsApp, and Google Hangouts.


So you have the tools, you have an idea, you have a willing partner, now it’s time to get collaborating.

1. Brainstorm separately as well as together

While two heads may be better than one, sometimes one head needs to plot away on its own without distractions before the diamonds are unearthed. Produce your own little mindmaps before you start to discuss the joint one.

2. Outline extensively

Without a clear direction (or, at least, a subtle steer), projects can easily go off on a tangent and risk ending up on the scrap heap. Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, sit down with your writing partner and bullet point the key events in each chapter/part. Keep this safe and return to it often, but remember that it is never fixed until the final draft is accepted.

3. Meet regularly

This is a bit of a no-brainer and yet we all get so wrapped up in our projects that we forget to talk to our writing partners. Set aside a regular time to meet and stick to it. Discuss the highs as well as the lows and use the time to iron out any plotting/writing issues that may have arisen.

4. Keep plenty of notes

A shared online tracker or even diary is almost as essential as an outline. When you encounter problems with a particular scene/character/etc. note it down in the diary. Likewise, note any changes needed to the manuscript and what resolutions have been found.

5. Plan for conflict

As much as we like our friends and colleagues, we’re only human (some of us have a certificate to prove it) and conflicts are inevitable. They could be minor disagreements over wording, differences of opinions about the last scene or the direction of the next one, or even major spats over rights and workload. Plan for these in advance. Decide between yourselves who gets the final say and stick to it. If you want to avoid that, nominate a trusted third party.

[N.B. consider what will happen to the project if one party decides to leave. Who will own the rights? Will the remaining partner be able to continue and complete the work?]

6. Reward yourselves

Working collaboratively isn’t easy and you should be proud of yourselves for your achievement. With that in mind, reward yourselves when you meet your goals. Even if that reward is taking a break from the project for a few days.

7. Patience. Patience. Patience.

This kind of goes with point 5 but many a writing friendship has been lost over an inability to not sweat the petty things.


Has anyone else had any success with working collaboratively? Do you have any tips to share/pitfalls to avoid?


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