If you are a writer, then the word “Deadline” makes you want to shrivel up in your shell. And never come back out. I don’t know about you, but it definitely doesn’t help me to write. The whole act of writing is my choice, not something that I’m required to do. I don’t enjoy it unless it feels free and alive like that, not all blocked in.
Some people get pumped to write and get stuff done because of their deadlines, but that makes it even more unfortunate for the rest of us who just cower back and stare at blank Word documents.
The idea-crushing feeling of knowing your deadline is coming up may be, well, idea crushing, but there is a point to it. Whether this is the time limit you have to fit in another draft or if your publisher wants your book done by a certain date, it helps to keep us all organized. Problem? Creativity is literally thinking outside the box, and deadlines put everything in little neat boxes. So here are a few tips on how to deal with deadlines!
Firstly, you can forget about the deadline. Keep it in the back of your mind, but don’t plan everything out meticulously around it. Don’t plan on working right up until it’s due. Instead, just make a rule to work on your book once a day at least, and you’ll get more done than if you were under the stress of the actual deadline. Keep it on a day to day basis and only check in once or twice along the way to make sure you are on the right track.
That one hardly ever works for me… but it might for you. So I had to put it in there. My problem is that I can’t get myself to actually edit when it comes to this method, so I end up leaving it to the very end.
Secondly, here’s what tends to work for me: I give myself deadlines along the way. I know that sounds crazy, but it gives me the control I need to keep up instead of letting some stupid date diable my writing hand. I usually have a lot of time on Fridays and Saturdays so I give myself a goal to accomplish each week on Sunday and try to get it done before the next Sunday. This is good for me because my schedule can be unpredictable, which means a lot of times I can’t fit writing in every day. Instead, I usually have marathons all night to keep up.
That is the informal-route of scheduling yourself.
Finally, here’s the third tip. It’s more strict and formal than the previously mentioned way of scheduling. This is where you measure how much you have to do in however much time. You assign a specific amount to do on certain days up until the deadline and work at completing those tasks day by day. This sort of combines the scheduling and day-by-day methods. The only problem with it is that if you happen to miss a day, then you get super behind and have to try and make up for it before the whole plan falls apart. However, it does work very well when your deadline is close and you still have a lot to do.
I’ve done this a few times in a pinch. For example, over NaNoWriMo, I was trying to write 100,000 words in a month (instead of the usual 50k). I had to write over 3,000 words a day, so I had it plotted out on what word count I should be at on whichever days. This actually works very well because it gets you to kick off the beginning of your draft effectively. You start out following the guidelines you set for yourself and then forget about them pretty soon because you’re on a roll. This usually includes writing a lot in a little amount of time, which is almost always bound for a good writing-streak.
My challenge for you is to consider trying out one of the coping methods above to meet your deadlines. You might be more equipped to take the day-by-day approach, or maybe you’d rather take a more general approach and have regular goals (self-set deadlines). Maybe you want a balance between the two and have every day plotted out for you like a nice, neat check list. Maybe you find a way to combine them effectively and get a lot more done that way.
Also, if I were you, I would invest the time in a outline. It’s going to save you so much time in the long run. You won’t have the problem of plot holes or runaway characters or loose ends. For me, outlines (even if vague) save me at least five more drafts worth of editing. And to a writer, five drafts is a lifetime.
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Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!