Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Writing Wednesdays - Deadlines

Next week I'm going to have details for a free to download flash fiction anthology that Torquere Press will be bringing out - it contains 500-1000 word short stories on the theme of "Don't feed the alligators", and my piece is included in it.  That's coming out on the fifth of August, so when it gets to the sixth I'll let you know all about it.

Shameless self promotion out of the way, and on to the topic of today's blog post - how to deal with deadlines.

Deadlines are pretty terrifying, right?  I mean, there's that great quote from Douglas Adams:
"I love deadlines.  I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."  Which always makes me smile, but unfortunately if you're submitting for an anthology, there is a deadline you have to meet.  If you submit your work after that date, they simply won't consider it.

That is annoying, but it's an incentive to get it done.  There are three reactions to deadlines: 1. Calmly getting it done by the deadline, 2. Panicking and getting it done really early, and 3. Panicking and doing it at the last minute in a rush.  (There is also category 4, ignoring deadlines and not getting things done, but it's just a version of three where the panic carries on for too long)  If you fall into category one, you can probably stop reading this right now - I'm jealous,and I probably can't teach you anything.  Personally, I'm a category two attempting miserably to be a category one.  But my three best friends are a category one, a category two and a category three, so I know a lot about how this works.

If you're a category two, just try not to put quite so much pressure on yourself.  Strangely, for a category two, you can use the same trick I'm about to tell you for category threes: set more deadlines.

That might sound counterproductive.  If you are bad at deadlines, surely the last thing that you need is more deadlines.  But that isn't quite how it's going to work.  You divide the work into chunks, and then you can go from there.  Each chunk has its own deadline, and so you are making progress and getting towards the end goal, without time for the total panic to set in.

Say I decide I want to write an anthology entry that is due in in eight weeks exactly, with a word count goal of 10-20,000 words.  For simplicities sake, we'll say that this is the only writing project I have going on.

I break it up into separate tasks: having an idea, making a rough plan, a more detailed plan, a first draft, a second draft, edits, creating the information that needs to be submitted with it, formatting it correctly, and sending it in.
Eight weeks is fifty six days.
So my deadlines are:
Day three - by now I want to have done a brainstorm, and have a sentence long idea
Day six - make a rough plan
Day ten - have a detailed plan
Day fifteen - have at least 5000 words of the rough draft
Day twenty - have at least 10000 words of the rough draft
Day thirty - have finished the first draft
Day thirty five - finish the second draft
Day forty - have decided on the edits
Day forty five - completed edits
Day forty eight - create the sheet to be submitted with it, formatting
Day forty nine - one final read over to make sure I'm happy with it
Day fifty - send it in, almost a week ahead of the overall deadline
(These are based on the timings I find work for me.  Feel free to adjust as works for you)

If I slip and miss one of the deadlines, there is time to catch up with it later.

If you're writing a novel with no such deadline, you'll have to set your own deadlines throughout.  It's pretty difficult to do that, so what might help is to tell people around you about it - let your friends know that you are going to write something.  If possible, ask a friend if they could read it over - and give them a date that they'll get to read it over. Then try not to let them down - they're your friend, so they won't mind if you are late, but it's something to aim at.  Or give yourself treats if you meet it in time.  You can do this!

I hope this helps you get what you need to have done, done by the deadline.  And thank you to the wonderful LJ Hamlin, twitter: @LjHamlin  for suggesting this blog post theme!

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