Writing on a Deadline
Writers are known for pushing deadlines as far as they can go. Even when they’re not doing it on purpose, it’s a generally accepted, well-known piece of information that if you are a writer, you will one day find out that you have to write something in a ridiculously short amount of time.
I, personally, am the type of person who always ends up doing things last-minute. A few months ago I mentioned that I wrote a story for the Speculative Faith Writing Challenge, if any of you remember that—what I didn’t mention was that I didn’t even know of the existence of the contest until afternoon on the day the contest ended. I ended up writing the story (which, admittedly, wasn’t very long) and editing the story in the time remaining before midnight. When the Tales of Goldstone Wood Fan fiction Contest came up, though I planned on writing the story with plenty of time in advance, I ended up changing my story last-minute and writing a whole new short story for the contest that day. About a month ago, I participated in a small, private writing contest and ended up—you guessed it— once more not working on the story at all until the last day.
There have been other times when I’ve pushed deadlines to the limit or barely made deadlines, but suffice to say that I have had some experience with working on tight deadlines, sometimes by my choice and sometimes because that was simply the way it was. I’ve learned what works for me on deadlines, and what doesn’t.
Get something hot and preferably with sugar in it. Coffee, hot chocolate, tea, whatever your favorite is. Prepare to drink a lot of it.
If you’re working on paper, put it on a clipboard and take the little piece of cardboard wherever you go. Don’t set it down for a minute, whether you’re wandering around the house or being still. Whatever you do, don’t set the thing down.
When you’re on a computer, it’s easier to remember that you’re working on something; computers are considerably harder to misplace than a small piece of paper, so you shouldn’t have to worry about being perpetually touching it. When on the computer, turn on music. If it’s a short story or the end of a novel, you’ll probably find that there is one song that keeps you writing the fastest, and you will end up clicking for it to replay that one song out of ten others that you would normally listen to (while writing my Tales of Goldstone Wood Fan fiction, that one song was Through Heaven’s Eyes, from Moses: Prince of Egypt. I don’t even usually listen to that album while writing, but that song ended up having the perfect rhythm and sound; without it, I don’t think I would have succeeded in finishing in time).
Avoid the internet. No further information required.
Always be aware of how much time you have left, but don’t panic over it. Put a clock where you can glance at it so that you won’t have to waste extra time finding a clock, and be sure to remember that you may need time for editing. If you’re writing it on paper, you’ll also most likely need extra time to type it out.
Remember to keep moving. This advice can be discarded during the last hour you’ll be working on it—at that point, your heart will probably be starting to beat pretty quickly anyway, and you won’t need extra effort to keep the blood flowing. Also keep yourself hydrated—but, again, if you’re like me, you won’t need to remember to do this as your time runs out, because as you get more nervous, you’ll slowly start to consume more and more water.
When it comes time to edit, read it, read it, and read it again. You’ll still miss most typos and the like, so get someone else to read it, too, if at all possible. Turn off your music before editing to slide out of the breakneck speed you were writing in. You’ll still want to go fast, but not quite that fast.
In the end, though, don’t be too horribly concerned if you don’t finish in time; you’ll still have gone through an excellent writing exercise.
What are some things you’ve learned about writing on deadlines? How do you be sure that you’re writing your fastest?
What? You think I’m hinting at something? Well, you may not be wrong…