To Deadline or not to Deadline, That is the Question

This past week, I managed to finally make Shadow of Stone available as an ebook, several weeks after I had originally intended. But that’s ok. I had some self-imposed deadlines for formatting and editing, but then once I had addressed the changes suggested by the copy editor, I decided to give the novel another complete editing pass. And I did catch a couple more mistakes, so the novel is better for the extra work I put into it. Seeing as I am an indie author now, I might as well take advantage of the fact that my deadlines are flexible.

I’m doing my best not to beat myself up about my writing progress or lack of same these days — as long as I’m working consistently on my career. I spent a couple of years making myself miserable regarding my daily word count, because it wasn’t high enough. It seemed as if everyone I knew was producing thousands of words a day, seven days a week. I should be able to do that too! So I made words and more words, trying to achieve those fabulous numbers. The result was that I got less and less of my fiction out onto the market because I was neglecting editing and marketing, since that didn’t contribute to the ultimate goal of Words Words Words!

I’m much happier with my writing life these days, now that I allow my goals to shift with what needs to be done and the time at my disposal. So there is more editing to do than I thought? Then I will keep editing! I no longer have kids at home, but I do a lot of babysitting of the granddaughters, and if something comes up and I need to take the girls (which I just did this weekend, for example), I adjust the deadlines I have set myself accordingly. Same goes for day-job interferences.

The one thing I hold fast to — I spend time on various writing-related jobs at least five days a week. If I let that slide, I would get out of the habit and I would no longer feel like a writer anymore.

So anyway, I am now back to my Aphra Behn time travel, Chameleon in a Mirror. Since I had to put it aside for over a month, I am reading through what I wrote earlier in the spring, revising as I go. This is mostly to refresh my memory on what I’ve already written so I don’t have to start cold, five chapters into the novel. Since publishing Shadow of Stone, I’ve read and revised about thirty pages. Once I get back into the swing of things and see how many words I can comfortably get done in a week, I will set myself a new deadline for finishing the novel. I already have a wonderful critique partner in Stephen Gaskell lined up, and I need to be able to tell him when I expect to send the novel to him.

Normally, however, I don’t set deadlines for finishing a novel, since when I start, I usually don’t know how long the project will be, and that makes it very difficult to figure out when the first draft will be complete. Then there are all those life things that crop up that I can’t calculate into my progress.

Once I get to the final stretch, however, deadlines can help a lot in keeping me focused and help me finish editing, formatting, etc. by a certain date.

We writers can be very good at making ourselves miserable, what with our vivid imaginations and all the nasty epithets we can come up with. Of course I still reprimand the writer in me too, but when I catch myself these days, I try to stop and remind myself of just how much fun it is to be a writer. I get to explore all these wild worlds in my head! I get to research cool places and fascinating inventions and obscure historical facts! I get to play with words!

Which I will now go and do. 🙂

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7 thoughts on “To Deadline or not to Deadline, That is the Question”

  1. Yours is a blog post to keep and re-read, and I mean that sincerely, Ruth. The writing life is within our whole lives, which is easy to slide out of, as you say.

    More than once you have helped me with the “words, words, words” mentality; frankly, your encouragement helped me turn a corner in my writing. These days, I could not be more pleased as I am writing words that work their ways into essays and a bit of fiction. Again, thanks.

    So excited to read your Aphra Behn novel, as you know, so always glad to hear updates about it. Have a great week, Ruth.

    Karen

  2. I set deadlines for my books based on the 1st and then discovered last year it can’t work – how can we know how a work will turn out? how can we know what life slaps our faces. I like the deadlines of places like NaNo because it kicks me into gear and gets ideas and words down I can play with after – but they are not a month of writing a novel just an aid – goals word counts and deadlines should be flexiable and within our power ,I agree with you – all the best:)

  3. To paraphrase Douglas Adams: I love deadlines … especially the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. (Which might be a paraphrase of Widdershins’ quote.)

    I was just thinking, on reading this post in particular, how ROW80 posts would make a wonderful guide to beginning writers — they show the constant give and take of pressures and enthusiasms as we go.

    The writing life is nothing if not varied.

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