Deadlines can be an amazing motivator. Having given myself a week to rewrite each of the seven sections in my draft novel, That which is left is lost, I have surprised myself with how much I am getting done. I completed Cecelia’s story yesterday, on schedule, despite it being 5,000 words longer than I had originally anticipated. This means I wrote 15,000 words during my four writing days of the last week. An average of over 3,500 words for each day. Not bad considering I’m also keeping up with the OU Fiction Course I’m doing and generally getting other tasks (like walking the dog, washing and watching the telly) done too.
The understanding that I need to get a certain chunk of writing done before a particular date is really helping me to prioritise my time and focus on what most needs to be done. I know that Cecelia’s story is over my target word count, but I can go back and cut it down later. What matters is that I’ve rewritten the section as I intended it and now I need to move onto the next one. This is a rewrite, not a final edit; refinements come afterwards.
I think it helps to acknowledge that I have given myself a realistic time frame to work within. I’ve also included contingency days to help keep me on track and, most of all, I’ve planned a whole selection of goodies to reward me for getting the work done. This week it was going out on Saturday night to celebrate my best friend’s birthday – knowing that I had reached a milestone point in the section I was working on. It felt all the more fun when I knew I’d earned that bottle of wine and huge piece of chocolate birthday cake. It also meant that I didn’t feel guilty for taking the time off.
So now it’s back to it. Starting afresh with the next section in the chain. As I neglected to remember that we had a Bank Holiday today, I’ve got an extra few writing hours to play with this week, which is actually great news as I’m attending a Huddersfield Literature Festival committee meeting tomorrow evening, which will take me away from my final writing session of the day anyway.
It’s all falling into place and I’m really pleased with the direction things are taking. It’s been a long time getting to this point, but I’m glad I experimented with other stories and novels to help develop my writing skills. I have more confidence in the words I am now rewriting and believe in myself enough to know when to let the process take over – like with Cecelia’s story; I couldn’t leave any of those scenes out, but I know now when I come back to it I’ll be able to work with what I’ve got instead of having to begin again.
I never thought that deadlines really worked for me – not the self imposed ones anyway. Typically I always knew in the back of my mind that it didn’t really matter, that the only disappointed person would be me. But having determined this deadline by identify an external event – my friend’s wedding – it feels concrete and real. Not to mention I have told any one who will listen that my draft will be complete by this date, so now I have accountability. I think I’ve finally discovered how to get deadlines to work for me, and that’s all that really matters; learning how things work for you.
How do you feel about deadlines? Do you ever set your own and keep to them? What tricks do you use to make yourself accountable for your self-imposed time limits?
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