As an independent author, I set my own deadlines for rough drafts and the final draft publishing date. However, just because I do this myself doesn’t mean I don’t hold myself to the standard of finishing on time. You might say: “You’re not like a real novelist who has a deadline from a publisher set in stone. You can change your deadline at will and still be ok with it.” The answer to that is definitely “no.” I take pride in being able to meet a deadline. Even though I set the deadline myself, I see it as a personal goal and if I can be realistic with myself and meet the deadline on time or sometimes early, I feel a sense of accomplishment that is unmatched.
Of course, you may be reading this and you already have scored a contract with a publisher and your deadline is looming. My first question is: “Why are you online reading this when you should be writing?!”. It is my hope that the strategies below will help all writers meet their deadlines. I have set my own deadline and then have announced it to the world. This keeps me honest, and there is a great deal of build-up to my latest work.
Here are 5 ways I keep the deadline and still maintain integrity with my readers:
1. Daily Word Counts – A novel is typically 50,000 words. I usually try to figure out how many days it will take me to write that much given that I write 1,000 words per day. Of course, I subtract days when my job will make me particularly busy. As a teacher, I get summer vacation, which is perfect for a writer like me. I give myself about 6 months for research and outlining, then plan out how many days I would need to write the novel if I keep to my word count per day and then a few weeks for my proof-readers and another two weeks for putting on the finishing touches. I have learned tricks over the years (which I will post tomorrow) of cutting down my editing process so that it is not as time consuming.
2. Discipline – Procrastination is your worst enemy. Do not put off now what you could do NOW. Often I will be looking at my word count over and over until I get that coveted 1,000 words. Some days are simply hard. The words won’t come out, the ideas dry up, and you are left with a blank screen. When I get to this place, I free write until I get the word count even if it doesn’t fit with the novel. I can always come back to it, and usually when I type out garbage I think about it all day until something gives and I have something to write the next day. The point is, don’t sell yourself short by not reaching your daily word count goal. Push on until you have something even if you have to sit there for longer than you had planned.
3. No Internet – Unless you are doing research for your novel, turn the internet off. One of the biggest distractions that can cause you to miss a deadline is all the social media, blog stats checking and e-mail answering that people do while they are supposed to be writing their novel. Internet use and phone use will keep you from reaching your daily goals.
4. Environment – I find that my best writing is done in a place that is devoid of noise. This is the reason that I often write after all of my family have gone to bed. I have this luxury in the summer because I don’t have to get up at a certain time every day. Discover your ideal writing environment and try to write in this environment every day. My wife’s parents live nearby. All of their children are out of the house and they have several spare bedrooms. My father-in-law is nearing retirement, but works every day. One of those spare bedrooms is my writing sanctuary. I am close enough so that my wife and kids can find me if they need me without my cell phone ringing and I can have the peace and quiet I need to get finished with my novel.
5. Reward Yourself – When you reach that daily goal, do something for yourself that is self-pampering. I usually watch a film with my son or daughters, go swimming, ride my bike or play a traditional game of mahjong with my girls (it’s kind of like rummy and dominoes and my oldest daughter is ruthless when playing it). Be sure to reward yourself for finishing daily deadlines with small pleasures and then give yourself something extravagant when finishing a main deadline (rough draft, final draft). I usually go out to eat or go see a movie I’ve been wanting to see (that I have been putting off because I wanted to finish the book).
Feel free to post any other tips you writers have for meeting deadlines, or just your frustrations with not meeting them. Remember the words of Bill O’Hanlon: “The only thing that will get your book written is bum glue and fingers moving.”