Swoon Author Danika Stone: Making Deadlines Work
Whenever I publish a book, I get asked the
same question: Where do you find the
time? I’m a teacher, a mother of three, a wife, a volunteer… and a writer,
How’s that possible? I use deadlines to my advantage.
Deadlines have the reputation of being the task-masters of production. We imagine them as the school teacher snatching away your almost-finished test, the boss demanding your report before you leave for the weekend, the all-nighter before a big project is due. Many writers complain that deadlines kill creativity or break their ability to stay in flow. I say that’s only one possibility.
If you can make friends with your deadlines, they can give you the traction to complete Herculean tasks. Why? Deadlines keep you accountable. They provide a roadmap of progress. And they push you past “want to” into “have to.”
With NaNoWriMo in full swing, you might be asking yourself why it’s so hard to write a full novel in a month when on individual days you can bang out three thousand words without breaking a sweat. It has to do with steps. One giant write-it-all-weekend extravaganza isn’t going to work for anybody (except, perhaps, Stephen King.) But for most mortals, you’ve got to break down the process.
The NaNo website has a great feature that allows you to track your word count. Use it! To write 50K in 30 days, you need to produce 1,667 words a day. If you’re a dedicated writer, that’s a challenging but manageable amount of work. Writing a book in a month involves using the deadline minimum to your advantage.
For me, that involves three basic steps:
1. Have a minimum word count and refuse to drop below that. I don’t care if you sit in your chair and type “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” over and over again, you keep at it until you’ve reached that word count.
2. Plan out "perks" for anything above that minimum. If your minimum count is 1,667, have a stash of chocolate bars in the cupboard that can be "won" by making it to 2,000. If your characters are refusing to talk to you, break down their scene to 100 words at a time using a handful of candy as an immediate reward. Trust me: self-bribery works.
3. Lastly, whatever you do, DON’T STOP until you’ve reached your final scene. In the same way as in a horror movie, your forward momentum is the only thing that stands between you and the manuscript-killer of APATHY. New projects are shiny, but they tarnish if you don’t keep writing. Do not take a day off to "regroup." Don’t you dare put aside your writing folder until you get through the "busy" part of the year. Just. Keep. Writing.
There are always reasons not to finish your book, but in the end, there’s only one way to get to the final page… and that’s to actually WRITE IT. As stressful as deadlines might seem at first glance, they can help keep you focused, writing, and moving forward. So give deadlines a chance. You might be surprised by what you discover!