Magic Writing Motivator: The Deadline

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 lostI 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.

DeadlineThe 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.

past deadlinesI 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?
Let me know in comments, or Tweet Me.



5 responses to “Magic Writing Motivator: The Deadline

  1. Pingback: Writing Revelation: What do your characters want? | Cat Lumb: The Struggle to be a Writer

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  3. Pingback: Publisher’s Log: Motivation | Anne of Blue Bus Books

  4. Nanowrimo is where I’ve done my most prolific writing precisely because there’s a deadline. Self-imposed deadlines are more difficult to stick with – they don’t feel as serious as Nanowrimo even though really Nanowrimo’s not much different in the real world; it just feels more official. You’ve done well combining specific goals with deadlines – I’m a bit lacking in both at the moment.

  5. Deadlines are bad! For me, at least. I find it good to set myself unrealistic deadlines. That way I can still be happy with the progress I make, even if I don’t meet the deadline. I’m working on editing book two of From the Sky, and I have my age old method of getting through twenty pages per day. That’s how I get my groove on. Twenty pages per day, and go through yesterday’s twenty pages before I do today’s. Which means I’m really doing forty pages per day. I have to fool myself into actually getting double the amount of intended work done. But it’s okay, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. This week’s light is a 4 day break up in Cumbria with my friends, their son and their dog!

    Stick at it…head for the light! And well done. The motivation is dripping from your post, and it’s great to hear! 🙂

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