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The Joy of Deadlines

Whether you hate them or not, if you’re crazy enough to make it a go of this whole writer thing, deadlines are going to be a part of your life. I’ve heard people say they work better with a deadline – the sound of that little clock ticking lights their creative fire. Others lament that the pressure of a deadline drives them down Writer’s Block Lane, sometimes with a short stop at Xanax Drive.

In my experience, every writer vacillates between embracing and running from deadlines. It depends on your mood, the project (horror writer takes on romance novel for single grannies – wtf???), what’s happening in your life at the moment and – here’s an important one – the money. I’m not saying that money makes it easier. Heck no. Sometimes, the carrot of a big advance can cause temporary paralysis. Other times, you want to put that pool in and that advance will pay for it and the party to christen it, so watch those fingers fly!

deadline2So, what do you do when a deadline looms and you can’t get the words from your brainpan to the keyboard? Unfortunately, there’s no magic pill. I’m sure Pfizer is working on one, but we’re years from it hitting the market place.

All I can offer is my own experience. One thing I’ve done over the past few years is to set a personal deadline for everything I write, whether an editor has a set expectation or not. This way, I’m training myself to write both with a purpose and a plan.

Here’s an example. It’s May 1st and I’m about to start my new novel. Now, my editor has only asked that I send something to him any time in the next year. Well, if I want to build my brand, I can’t rest on my laurels. I have to write a couple of novels and some short stories and maybe even a novella for good measure within that year. Oh, and I have my day job that requires most of my time and my family.

If I didn’t set deadlines for myself, I’d be sunk. So, on May 1st, I estimate that my book will be about 90,000 words. I figure 4 months is a good amount of time to get ‘er done. In my mind, the book has to be complete on September 1st. I want to get that first draft finished by mid July so I have time to show it to my first readers and do several rounds of edits. That means I have about 75 days to write my first draft.

Editor deadline

If I do 1,000 words a day on weekdays, and 2,000 on weekends, I’ll cruise on in to my deadline. Then I have to take into account days when life just prevents my ass from sitting down and writing. Well, I’ll make up those words with a week of 1,500 words or maybe cram 5,000 on a Saturday.

The key is that through the entire process, I know exactly where I am, where I need to be, and what needs to be done each day to make it. You have to factor in situations that will throw a monkey wrench in the works. Shit happens. You’ll be fine as long as you’re planning ahead how to get back on track without adding more gray to your scalp.

It’s vital to remember that you’re in control. Writing is more than just something you’ve chosen to do – it’s something you love to do. Always, and I mean always, strive to have fun.

And repeat after me. Deadlines shmeadlines.

What’s been your experience with deadlines? What are some of the tricks you use to get over the hump? Inquiring writers want to know! I’ll give a free e-copy of my book, Sinister Entity, to a random person who comments about their deadline joy.

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