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Stories will not be written easily. A story without a heart is dead, and the only place it will get a heart is from the author.

Archive for the tag “Deadlines”

Writing on a Deadline

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…

Setting Writing Goals

Most of us have at some point, seen something about setting writing goals. I know that over the course of my use of the internet in connection with writing, I’ve seen dozens of them at best; hundreds at most. Yet, even with how much posts on blogs and websites, with how many more you can find by searching Google, there are many different ideas about setting goals, and many of the articles written about goals don’t present clear reasons as to why, how, and how much of goal-making.

The Why: If you’re a writer, you have to write. Even when we don’t want to write, we have to, but often, it’s not when we don’t want to write when we have trouble, it’s when we want to write, but we can’t make time.

Or so we tell ourselves.

While sometimes we can’t find time to write, sometimes we can, and we simply don’t try hard enough. Yes, life is… Well, life, sometimes, and when life happens, it’s hard to write. Hard being the key word here; hard is not impossible. When we set goals for ourselves, we force ourselves to find the time to write regularly, an essential part of getting things done.

When we’re writing stories, particularly stories that are difficult to write, when we pause in our writing, we step out of the story-world. We’ll move farther away from our characters, losing touch with them as time passes.  If we’re writing regularly,  we spare ourselves the pain of trying to force ourselves back into the story when we start writing again each day.

When you sit down and start to write, distractions will start to fade away. If you’re making yourself write, you might hate the first five minutes of it, but you’re likely to enjoy being productive after that. 

The How: ‘Tis simple, really. Decide on a number, amount of time spent, or event you want to reach in your novel. Whether it’s five hundred words a day, one hundred, or two thousand, it’s a goal. Whether you’re spending one hour, thirty minutes, ten minutes, or eight hours, it’s a goal. Whether you’re taking your character to the end of the prologue or to the climax, it’s a goal. They’re words, and words move your story along. Make it doable and start small, especially if you’re not used to writing every day or every week.

Make sure you stick to it. Find what makes you work hard, and apply it to your writing. For me, if I tell someone I will get it done, I usually will. Pride works as a pretty good motivator for me, though it’s chocolate for others.

Don’t panic over missed goals. Even if you don’t make your goal daily, don’t panic over it, and don’t exhaust yourself trying to catch up. As the song continually prods us, “Let it go” and make sure you do better next time. You’ve failed that day. Accept it, and move on.

Set aside a day to rest. In all the years I’ve undertaken major writing projects (NaNoWriMo, Camp NaNoWriMo, a challenge to write 500 words a day), Sunday has been the day of rest. I think that it’s always good to have some period of time to take a break from your goals. Don’t write anything, don’t look at your novel. If you do get a brilliant idea, you may write it down, but other than that, try to avoid writing on the days you set aside. When you rest, you’ll be able to lose some of the exhaustion you’ve gathered, which will make your work in the future better.

The How Much: This changes drastically from person to person. How often you should set goals, how large your goals should be, how frequently you should reward yourself for reaching goals–that all changes depending on who you are. I have seen people say to set daily, weekly, or monthly goals, and they stress varying degrees of urgency on reaching your goal on time. I think the only solid, steady “rule” I’ve found is this: Your goals are meant to stretch you, but also be attainable. 

Make your goals fit you. At the moment, my goals are to finish a short story I’m working on this week, write a snippet from a Prompt this month, and patiently wait until I’m allowed to start editing my novel. They’re not normal “write five hundred words a day” goals. They are the things I need to get done.

What are the things you need to get done?

Procrastinating and Deadlines

Before I started this blog, I decided that, instead of making things up spur-of-the-moment and trying to pull together a legible blog on writing with regular posts and no planning, I wanted to put together a schedule for at least three weeks before opening the blog. So before the opening post, before even the blog was created, I had three weeks of posts planned to be written.

The only thing that I missed was that, as most authors do, I have a strong amount of procrastination, which tends to interfere with deadlines and goals. Yesterday, I was supposed to write and post an article. Clearly that didn’t happen, and while I have excuses–even reasons–I doubted that you would like to hear them. While thinking today about whether or not I should just ignore the fact that I didn’t post it, post it today and apologize, or simply post it today, I came across something that I should have planned to post about, but didn’t.

Undoubtedly you’ve already guessed the topic of this post (the title also makes it fairly easy).

I don’t believe that I know of a single human being who has not, at some point, struggled from procrastination. Procrastination is a leading cause of failing to achieve…anything. But for writers, learning how to overcome procrastination is massively important.

I know of authors who have beat seemingly impossible odds to finish their books. While writing Wednesdays in the Tower, Jessica Day George was pregnant with a baby, had a baby, and spent time in the hospital while she and her baby had a potentially life-threatening disease. And yet she still finished the book. This shows an amazing amount of perseverance.

Anne Elisabeth Stengl entirely re-wrote her novel Veiled Rose in two months while being courted, proposed to, and planning a wedding. This shows an amazing amount of perseverance.

I see these things that writers have somehow managed to do, look at them wide-eyed for a second, and then shake my head. “There is no way,” I tell myself, “that I could manage that.”

I think that most of us couldn’t for the simple reason that we haven’t started training for it.

When runners run a marathon, they train. When knights prepared to fight a tournament or a war, they trained. When writers are serious about writing and being published, they should train also.

Being published means deadlines. Deadlines demand perpetual work, every day. Which means that procrastination has no place.

Since I have a goal to be published in the near future, this is something that I need to learn. As I am the Queen of Procrastination, I fear that it will take both a lot of work and a lot of will, as it does for everyone.

But, as writers, we have an obligation to readers. If we write blogs, we have a day-to-day obligation, and if we write novels that we plan on someday releasing to the public, we have an obligation to write them well and develop our craft and perseverance for the days we’ll need it (so that, ten days before a deadline, you don’t realize that you didn’t write a word of your novel).

As Christian writers, we have an obligation to God, to let our every task honor Him. Putting off writing does not seem to be the best way to do that. Do your best. If you’re going to take the time to write at all, do whatever you can to make it worth the time you’ve already spent. That includes not procrastinating. Make your writing worth having His name on it.

As people, we have an obligation to ourselves. If we avoid doing the things we ought to do, we reinforce bad habits in ourselves and cut down the quality of our writing by depriving ourselves of the time that it takes to perfect a skill.

Don’t keep what you’re going to do to yourself. Tell the world that you will be writing five hundred words by the end of tomorrow, and should your personality resemble mine in any way, you’ll be more likely to do it.

Train yourself. Get over procrastination. You won’t regret it in your writing or your life. I’ll do it with you.

What are ways that you deal with procrastination in your writing? Thoughts go in the box!


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