Monday, 19 March 2012


Love 'em or hate 'em? I'm currently 30,000 words into my WIP and have set myself a deadline of the end of the school year (around the 23rd of June). The reason being, it's harder to get stuff done when the kids are at home, but I'm hoping to do some editing during the summer. As I expect my first draft to work out at about 80,000 words, this should be achievable if I write 1000 words on every day that I can (taking into account holidays booked (two), Easter, and other odd times when the kids are off such as the Queen's Jubilee).

I should be excited to know that it's doable. So why do I feel faintly depressed? Because I might beat myself up if I fail to meet my daily target on a number of occasions? Because a deadline makes it feel like real work? Which it is, of course... just the most fun type imaginable.

You could argue that a deadline is something to be relished. To be able to reach that end point on time, and bask in the glory of a job well done. I've always worked best under pressure - at school and uni, my essays tended to go in just under the wire.

But I can't help feeling, as I'm not a published author with a contract and no one is standing waiting, tapping their foot, for me to deliver this book, I should allow myself more freedom and flexibility and let things proceed at their own pace. On the other hand, I don't want it to drag on for an inordinate length of time. I don't want to spend two and a half years writing a book again, as with my first novel. Granted, we had a baby and moved house simultaneously in the middle of it, but that's lame: everyone does that stuff, right?

What are your feelings on deadlines and targets in general? Do you find they hamper creativity, or does it help you to work with some sort of time frame in mind - to get the job done?

Before I go, I've been musing on the subject of critique partners lately (thanks to Nancy S. Thompson's great post). I'm always nervous about sharing my work with others, but maybe if I knew there was someone waiting to read it, it might help motivate me to meet my goal. (Nancy's just had some amazing news by the way, so head over and congratulate her!) Anyone got a manuscript they're looking to finish up by the summer and want to swap? I'm too shy to ask people, so consider this an open audition. Any offers welcome! My WIP falls into the thriller category, so if that's your bag, I'd love to hear from you.

And finally, I apologise in advance if I might not be around quite so much over the next couple of weeks, as I attempt to get my posts together for the A-Z Challenge (two down, just 24 to go!) My wife booked a last-minute deal to Blackpool on the 2nd to the 6th for the Easter holiday, and while I'll regret not being fully involved for those days, it does mean I have to preschedule those dates at least. We're also going on a cruise from the 28th, so I'll miss Y and Z, which look to be among the most entertaining. Ah well, we all need holidays eh? Don't forget, it's not too late to sign up at the A-Z Challenge blog. If you're taking part, how's your post planning going, or do you intend to play it by ear?


S.P. Bowers said...

I set deadlines for myself too. It keeps me moving forward and I work harder. At the same time I realize they are self appointed. If something comes up and I need to slow down, or if I have a great idea but it involves some rewriting I can redo my deadline. It's the best of two worlds, professional job and flexibility.

Ruth Schiffmann said...

I set a deadline for myself for my last novel and it worked well for me. I even completed it a few months early. I definitely need to keep myself focused like that or I could let projects drag on forever. With my current WIP, I've set a deadline of next February. And I hope having that concrete date in mind works it's magic again. But I don't do well with daily word count goals. I don't know why. That pressure is just too much for me on a daily basis.
Have a great family vacation and good luck with your writing goals!

Michael Horvath said...

Rather than set a deadline, which would be too large for me to deal with, I prefer to set small objectives for myself to keep me going. For example, to write for two hours every Saturday morning.

Tobi Summers said...

I've discovered the only way I make any progress is if I set hard deadlines for myself with limited flexibility. Even better if I can be responsible to someone else. I set a daily goal for myself of 1000 words/day. I also exchange two chapters of my current WIP with a friend every two weeks, so if nothing else, I have to have something by every other Sunday. Using those motivators, I finished a first draft in January, and am about a quarter of the way done with another.

Anonymous said...

Nick, you said, "But I can't help feeling, as I'm not a published author with a contract and no one is standing waiting, tapping their foot, for me to deliver this book, I should allow myself more freedom and flexibility and let things proceed at their own pace."

But I think it's good you are setting deadlines for yourself now, while you are unpublished, so that when you are published, you will have the discipline to finish your projects on time.

When I wrote for educational publishers, I never had a problem with deadlines because I had disciplined myself even as a self-pubbed author.

So, even if you have to move the deadline, it's good to have one. :)

Unknown said...

I HAVE to set deadlines. My blog was started as a self-imposed deadline. Originally, I was giving myself until the end of the year, but somehow I decided I wanted to have it ready by my 40th birthday.

If you want swap and get some fresh eyes, I am interested!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I have ten posts ready, sixteen to go!
When you are published, there will be deadlines. So maybe it's a good thing you're training yourself now.

Morgan said...

Love. Them.

I work so much better under pressure and to force myself to get the words out... otherwise it won't get done. It's all about setting those goals and making yourself accountable to everyone around you ;)

D.E. Malone said...

I set a deadline for myself while I wrote the first draft of my first novel. It worked well for me, with a goal of 1,000 words/day. I finished in a month and a half. If I didn't hit my daily goal, I added it to the next day's total. Sometimes I went over 1,000 words, though, so I didn't feel as much pressure the next day. I figured this was a doable strategy for the first draft when I wasn't paying close attention to detail, dialogue, etc. as much as I was just getting the story out.
Critique partners are invaluable. Once you find a good fit, they can do wonders for your writing!

Nick Wilford said...

S.P. - Yeah, I can see how a flexible deadline would be a sensible approach. Always need to allow for unforeseen circumstances!

Ruth - Well done on your success with your last book. I do need to have those daily wordcount goals - as my deadline is based on how much I can do per day and it helps me to keep moving forward. Thanks for your nice words!

Michael - I think a combo of the two works best for me.

Tobi - I can see how your exchange program would be a useful motivator. It seems to be working well for you!

Linda - You're right, it definitely is a good idea to get into the habit as early as you can!

T.Z. - I do admire the statement of your blog. It's a very public declaration of your intentions.

Yes, I would like to swap, thanks for the offer. I'll be in touch when I'm nearer towards the end!

Alex - Looking forward to seeing what's in store with your posts! Yes, it probably is good practice to work to deadlines even when they are only self-imposed.

Morgan - I do think making yourself accountable helps. Especially with a blog, if I make a statement in public, I want to live up to it!

Dawn - A month and a half is very impressive for a first draft! I hear what you're saying about not worrying about details too much - I'm guilty of agonising over phrasing etc during a first draft, and trying to let go of that.

Nancy Thompson said...

Hey Nick!! First, thanks for the shout out! I really appreciate that. It is an exciting time for me.

As for critique partners, get yourself as many as possible. I think I had about 10 or so. I love critiquing and would offer myself, but with this contract now, I don't think I'll have much time. if my schedule opens up though, I will let you know.

Critiquing can be wonderful, but it's not easy finding the right fit for you or your book. It takes patience. Just look around for writers who write in the same genre first and chat via email once or twice then exchange 1-3 chapters at a time. And pick someone who knows Nathan Bransford's sandwich rule: sandwich every criticism between 2 praise-worthy comments.

I wish you luck in making your deadline. I've never set one for myself before, though that will change next month for revisions. Just do whatever works for yourself. But remember this is not a race for sprinting. It's more like a marathon.

And one more thing...I'm doing the A to Z too. and I'm struggling to get my posts written. I'm leaving for Arizona in a few days and I'd like to get at least 14 posts uploaded. Sad to say, I've only got 8. Hope you do better than I have.

Krista McLaughlin said...

I've found that without deadlines I don't really get writing or other things done.

Good luck with the A-Z challenge, I've got 6 of 26 posts done. :)

Kelley Lynn said...

I like deadlines. Just set one with a CP. End of March finish the manuscript. That's gonna be super tough.

Cynthia said...

A self-imposed "deadline" helps me manage my time better and it also gives me the kick I need to keep working on my MS.

I'll also be participating in A to Z and I look forward to reading your posts!

Anonymous said...

Love the deadline quote... I'm on one now and it's killing me... Best of luck with yours

Nick Wilford said...

Nancy - Thanks for your encouraging comment. I understand you will be busy now, but I appreciate the offer - don't forget us little people! In such a case I hope you have a follow-up I can have a look at - I wouldn't like to take without giving back.

Thanks for pointing out about CPs who write in the relevant genre. I've edited my post to mention it.

Good luck with your A-Z posts, I'm sure you'll get there! Enjoy your trip!

Krista - Yes, they can also be helpful for other things. I set deadlines of what I need to get cleaned in an hour. Housework is not my favourite job!

Kelley - That's a tight deadline. Best of luck!

Cynthia - Yes, we need to be our own boss and be accountable to ourselves first, I think!

T.F. - I was hoping someone would pick up on the quote. It's one of my faves. Good luck with the deadline!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

I set deadlines for myself, too, but flexible ones. I give myself the deadline because that keeps me pushing on. I let it relax toward the end if it's called for, because the muse doesn't always have the same deadline for the work that I would like to have. Deadlines don't depress me, because of that. But you may be experiencing "parting blues." sometimes, when a book is ending, it's rather hard to let go of it. The best cure for "parting blues" is to start another book. :-)

Anonymous said...

I learned a long time ago that I am someone who must have a deadline. Surprisingly, self-imposed deadlines are very effective! If I don't set a time limit, I find ways to procrastinate - my house gets meticulously cleaned, the car gets washed, the yard weeded, etc. ;-)

This year I took accountability to the extreme by keeping track of progress on my blog. Knowing I have to write a post at the end of the month documenting my progress or lack thereof, keeps me motivated.

Mark said...

Better to try and fail than not try at all. I've been on a 40 day 1,000-2,000 words a day binge and it's been tough to keep up the pace. But you got to try:)

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

I love my targets, although I prefer to work with a weekly word goal rather than a daily one because some days I can write 2000 or more words whereas other days I can barely scratch out 200.

Gina Gao said...

Deadlines....I guess when your still in school your used to them. Deadlines keep me on track with what I'm doing, otherwise I'd be procrastinating like none other.

Sarah Tokeley said...

I try hard to set myself deadlines, but it's like I know they're not 'real', and they don't help much. I'm a last minute person, although I spend a lot of time thinking about something. At uni, the few essays that were ready early got me lower marks than they ones I did at the last minute. I have no idea what that means, but it consoles me :-)

kjmckendry said...

I set tentative deadlines because I never know when the kids' stuff will keep me extra busy. Congrats on getting to 30,000! :)

Peggy Eddleman said...

I think deadlines are what make us work as hard as we need to, so it doesn't turn into a much longer process than it should. BUT, I think they also need to be flexible, or things end up being sacrificed that really aren't worth it.

Angela Cothran said...

I try to set deadlines for myself, because WHEN I become a published author I will have to deal with deadlines. I want to start practicing now. My problem is I set unrealistic goal and then I beat myself up for missing them.

Nick Wilford said...

Elizabeth - Yes, a deadline helps you focus, but you also need to let the work go at its own pace sometimes.

C.B. - I agree that a blog helps keep you focussed and on track, as you're making all your progress public.

Mark - Sounds like you've made some good progress. It can be easy to get burnt out. Good for you!

Lynda - That's a good idea, especially as it allows for other things getting in the way sometimes. I'm trying to do 5000 words a week, and stuff's been going on this week, but on the one clear day I did 1800.

Gina - My problem at school was that if a lot of things were due on the same day, I couldn't organise myself. Forget how much work it was sometimes!

Sarah - Well, they are real deadlines. Bosses set deadlines. We are our own boss. I was last minute with essays too, but I enjoy writing books much more than I enjoyed writing essays!

Kathy - Thanks. At least your kids are writers too, so hopefully they understand!

Peggy - I agree. There's no point rushing to meet a deadline if quality gets lost along the way. Because it will all have to get done again!

Angela - Yeah, we need to get in the habit before publication. Goals are tricky. We want to try to push ourselves but not to the point where it becomes unmanageable.

Unknown said...

I have mixed feelings about deadlines at this point in my life. Kind of like you, I feel that since I'm not yet published and have no one standing over me, I should relish this time to take things slowly. But at the same time, I currently have a deadline to finish editing my WIP by the time our next little one arrives. It's not going so well. Maybe I need someone standing over me?

Greg H said...

Nice post. Funny you should mention critique partners just before commenting on my post about writing with friends.

Thanks for leaving a comment on my shiny new blog. I'll try to make following it worthwhile.

Nick Wilford said...

Caitlin - Yeah, I think it can't hurt to practice having deadlines. It probably makes sense to base them around family stuff or other things in our lives. Congrats on your imminent arrival!

Greg - Ha, good point. Nice meeting you, I'll look forward to reading more.

Claudia Del Balso said...

Hi Nick,
I'm new to your neck of the woods ;)
Your post about deadlines resonates with me: I love them. Deadlines push me to be more diligent when I'm editing. Let me explain a bit further, this only applies to editing. When I'm writing, I like to take my time. I don't like to be rushed. Regarding critique partners, I believe they're great help, especially when you have the chance to meet and brainstorm together. I have two friends who are writers and critique partners. We feed from each other's energy and learn more about technique in the process of doing so.
Good luck finishing up your MS!

Nick Wilford said...

Claudia - Nice to meet you! I like your idea about deadlines only applying to editing. I suppose there's a danger of rushing through a first draft and not letting it take its own pace, but I fear I would never get finished if I followed this rule!

Your critique group sounds great. I don't know of any writers remotely near me. It would be nice to discuss things face to face sometime!

Mina Burrows said...

Excellent post.

Don't beat yourself up! Do your best to stay within your deadline and if you need motivation, blog away and we'll comment and give you some. :)

Nick Wilford said...

Mina - Thanks for your kind words. I promise to keep the moaning to a minimum, though! :)

J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, Nick, coming through on the challenge.

I think targets are good practice for when you do have to meet them. I know that if I don't set targets I don't get much done.

For the A-Z, I need to schedule some posts too. You could pre-schedule yours and autopost them on the days they should be up.

Unknown said...

If I hadn't have given myself deadline(s) for my first book, I'd have never finished it. It wouldn't be on sub. It wouldn't be done (or almost done--blast revisions). Yet, in ways they can be depressing, especially if I don't make the deadline of goal. But. There is still time in the day and another one to follow. So don't despair. Just keep on typing. :D

Nick Wilford said...

J.L. - Nice to meet you! Looking forward to the challenge.

Yep, targets are good practice. I think I've done OK with mine since writing this post. Don't want to let myself down!

Julia - It's important not to get too downhearted if you don't meet the deadline. Like you say, tomorrow's another day. Good luck with your queries and revisions!