Why bother with deadlines if you’re writing a story? It’s understandable if you have a publishing date, or a contest you want to enter or even a class you have to hand a story assignment into. But if not, why bother?
Why? Because a writer without deadlines is looking for trouble.
Without deadlines, you could tinker with your work forever – oh, this ly-adverb must go; let me layer this description just a bit more; my character is too flat; my plot too thin; my ending too weak.
“You fail only if you stop writing” — Ray Bradbury
No one – no one is ever finished. That’s why you need deadlines.
You also need deadlines because life gets in the way – there’s a dog to be walked, work to be done, dinner to think of, kids to yell at – laundry – the list never ends.
How do you impose deadlines on yourself?
It’s easy enough if someone gives one to you – a publisher, for example or an agent or a creative writing coach who is a bit of a bully. But since we don’t have that option right now, how in the world do we keep yourself motivated and on track?
First, there are some things to consider when you are setting a goal and deadlines for yourself. They don’t have to be set in concrete but it’s wise to know your strengths and weaknesses:
- Do YOU work better under pressure? Or do you work better when you have all the time in the world? In my case, it’s the former. The more I have to do, the more I can do. The less I have – well, I become a giant pudding and can’t do anything at all.
- Second thing to consider: do you prefer to work in short bursts – perhaps scribbling a page here and there or do you like to sit down by your computer every morning at 9 a.m. with a coffee and then let your muse descend.
If you’re taking writing seriously, then once you institute a deadline, it’s doubtful you’ll be willing to miss it. Why?
Because it will make you feel like crap; anxious, moody, unpleasant and whoever you are with will tell you to go to hell or meet your deadline because you’ve become unbearable.
That’s where a writing schedule comes in. This can be as little or as much as you need or want. I always say you should write an absolute minimum of 500 words. What’s that? 2 double-spaced pages? If you really want to be a writer – then that’s your minimum. Or spend a minimum of a half-hour going over your work. That’s not a lot.
How much time do you spend on TV, surfing the Internet or playing Words with Friends online?
Take half an hour away from that and here’s what you can do in that short time:
- Pick out stale and clichéd phrases and things that don’t make sense
- Plot your arc
- Think about your ending
- Think about sub-plots
- Names for your characters – I find that really big. If you’re writing a contemporary novel you really can’t have a name like Dottie or Beatrice or something ancient like that. Names date a piece. If you’re writing a fantasy kick-ass chick novel – very popular these days – you’ve got to have a strong female name.
Another way to stick to a deadline is to JUST WRITE. So many writers think way too much – about their plot, their characters, the colour of their character’s hair, ad nauseum. Just wing it. Start. You can revise as you go along.
Do deadlines work for you?
2016 Spring Writing Classes for Beginners and Advanced
Creative Writing 101 – Tues. afternoons April 12 – June 28 in Oakville
Crafting Your Novel – Wed. afternoons April 13 – June 29 in Oakville
Crafting Your Novel – Thurs. afternoons April 14 – June 30 in Oakville
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