Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Deadlines: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

by Jill Williamson

I turned in the first draft of Outcasts (The Safe Lands, book 2) on Sunday night at about ten-thirty p.m. It's been a rough six weeks. And I'm so happy that I made my deadline.

You might have noticed that I'm currently writing The Mission League series and The Safe Lands trilogy. That's because I signed two contracts at the same time. I didn't set out to do this. My agent and I were waiting and waiting and waiting to hear back from one publisher, and I needed work. So we decided to sign a contract, and then a few weeks later, the offer we'd been waiting for came, and I signed it too. I can do this, I told myself. I can.

And I am doing it. But it's been intense. And it's not over. Here's how it has worked so far: I had about two months to write book 1 in series A, then I turned it in and took another two months to write book 1 in series B. Then I was ready to do edits on book 1 of series A while I was still finishing up book 1 of series B. And as soon as I got it all done, I needed to write book 2 for series A. And the process is now about to start over. The Mission League is a four book series, The Safe Lands is a trilogy. So, until I get them all written and turned in, I'm going to be going at this non-stop pace. It's going to take me through the end of 2013.

Whoo!

I don't mean to sound ungrateful. I'm so thankful to have the opportunity to write these two series. But it's been a challenge. And I'm learning a lot about myself. First, I've learned that I desperately miss writing historical fantasy (must return to it soon). And second, I've learned that I'm capable of meeting these deadlines, even though they're rough, but that in the future, I don't want to write this fast. It's challenging, and I don't have enough time to write my books the way I want to write them. I've had to settle with them being good enough. And that's frustrating to the perfectionist in me. So in the future, I'd like to focus on one YA series at a time. That's good to know. I'm learning from my journey and that will help me in the future.


I've also learned a lot about deadlines. And I'd like to share some of it with you.


The Good
-Deadlines help you prioritize. The book is the first thing I work on each day.
-Deadlines help you schedule your writing life, which helps you set goals and keep them. That can actually take off the pressure when you have multiple projects to write since you know which one you have to work on when. (Ex: In Jan-Feb, I'll write this book. In March-April, I'll write this other one.)
-Deadlines force you to write. If you don't, you'll miss your deadline, which to me is failure. And I don't like to fail.
-Deadlines keep you organized. It was impossible for me to write the way I used to write and get all these books done in time. I was forced to learn some new ways to plot. I just didn't have time for trial and error in the story, so I had to learn to storyboard so that I could troubleshoot ahead of time. That's been a good lesson for me as a storyteller.
-Deadlines help you become a productive writer. You get things done. And you'll learn to write faster.
-Deadlines show that the end is in sight. It's on the calendar. So you can see the day is coming when all the stress will be over. You can plan a nothing day and know that a very short vacation is coming.

The Bad
-Deadlines stress you out. They loom out in the future like the maw of a basilisk. And if you don't get the job done, you'll get eaten. (Not really, but that's what it feels like sometimes.)
-Deadlines can force you to rush the story, which can lead to mistakes.
-Tight deadlines means that there isn't much time to revise.
-Deadlines might mean that there isn't any time to send the manuscript to your critique partners.
-Deadlines give you a little time for breaks.

The Ugly
-Deadlines can turn you into a beast. If you let the stress get to you, your friends and family will steer clear of the crazy writer.
-Deadlines can lead to burnout and wanting to quit or take a looonnng sabbatical.
-And if you're not careful, you might miss your deadline and have to ask for more time. This may make you look bad to your publisher. It's something you don't want to get in the habit of doing, that's for sure.

So, as you come to the place in your writing career where you get to sign contracts, be mindful of those deadlines on them. Really think through whether or not you can handle them. You might not know. Trial and error is part of life. But you'll figure it out. We writers are tough cookies.

Do you set deadlines for yourself? What's your strategy for meeting them?

44 comments:

  1. Nope, no deadlines for me yet, although I'm thinking about setting a kind of ending date for the first draft I'm working on.

    Boy, that sounds hectic. Good things to learn from deadlines! Thanks for giving us the deal :)

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    1. You're welcome, Amanda. You should set a deadline for yourself and see how it works.

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  2. I generally set deadlines for myself chapter by chapter. If I know that I have a busy week, packed with schoolwork, I give myself two weeks to get a chapter done. If I don't have a lot of activities going on, I try to get a chapter written in one week. I'm not published (and I have no intention of going that direction; writing is my hobby and I prefer to keep it that way) but I'm part of an online posting site, where I do have readers following my story who expect me to update weekly or every other week. So I really do try to make my deadlines.

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  3. "...you'll miss you're deadline, which to me is failure. And I don't like to fail."

    For some reason you reminded me of Monica Gellar from Friends there ;) great post, thanks! I can definitely see my family "staying away from the crazy writer" hahaha :)

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    1. LOL! I'm Monica! That's funny. Yeah, when it comes to deadlines, things get a little intense.

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  4. I probably need to give myself a deadline to finish my WIP. I'm crawling along right now.

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  5. I can't write without a deadline so...

    And it's got to be a pretty rigorous one too. I normally work best if I'm talking a matter of weeks to get a draft done. So i set myself deadlines. Right now I've got until the end of February to finish my current WIP. Just the first draft. It's coming.

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    1. That's great, Anne. You're going to be a pro at deadlines.

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  6. Sometimes I put unreasonable deadlines on myself, I'm working on improving that. I have this idealized idea that. I'll have a system similr to yours write a MS in 8 weeks, write a other while first is resting, editing first MS, edit second MS and so on. However, I'd hope its all in the same series. I can't imagine working not so series that's get confusing. Maybe my system isn't realistic, do you have any thoughts of makin it more realistic

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    1. If it works for you, it's not unrealistic, Tonya. If you aren't meeting any of your deadlines, though, you might want to lighten them up a little. Try different things until you find one that works.

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  7. I don't set myself deadlines, but when I was writing my first draft I set myself daily wordcount goals instead, which really helped. I think I need to set myself a deadline for my first lot of revisions, but since this is my first time editing a completed draft I'm still figuring out what works best for me and what pace I work at. Things are going kind of slowly, so I think a deadline would help me stay on track.

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    1. Word count goals are great, Kate. When I have a deadline, I divide the days until then with my word count goal, then I have a word count goal per day. That's really helpful to me.

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  8. Lately, it's been seeming like when I set a deadline, something comes up that keeps me from writing. But if I don't take a goal seriously, I don't make it. I really need to get myself out of the write-when-I-feel-like-it habit.

    ~Robyn Hoode

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    1. When you don't have a deadline, it's hard to get out of that habit. It's nice to write when you feel like it. What might help you take the goal seriously?

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  9. I'm giving myself a deadline of December 31 at 12 AM for the first draft of my book ;) Sounds lax and it is, but when you're writing by hand everything is much more difficult and time-consuming.

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    1. I can't imagine writing everything by hand. I edit while I go, and that would be a nightmare! You must be so dedicated!

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    2. I think that's a good deadline. You don't need to write fast. You just need to learn what works for you.

      Do you like writing by hand, Hannah? I edit as I go as well, so I'd get frustrated writing by hand. I'd be drowning in a humongous pile of wadded paper balls. LOL

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  10. I didn't have any intention of finishing the first novel I wrote, I just wanted to see where the story went. It took me a year and a half of writing whenever I felt like it to finish. The first deadline I ever set was for the edits of that story (I gave myself eight months. To be fair, I was changing the verb tense of the entire novel. That was a drag.) It still seems crazy to me that novels can be written in mere months :) Now that I'm fifty pages into my current one, finishing before the end of the school year actually seems plausible. Maybe that can be my deadline! Thanks for the great post!

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    1. You're welcome! And I hope you make your new deadline! :-)

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  11. I don't know that I could deal with the stress of writing under two deadlines at once. You must really love writing! Not to be negative, but I see all over authors' and agents' blogs that teens shouldn't publish. Since we have school, we wouldn't have time for the deadlines. Since we're less experienced, our writing will grow in front of people instead of before we go public with our work, and we'll regret that. Since we are young, we don't have the life experience to market and deal with important people and/or criticism in edits. We have less of a chance of getting picked up because in the ultimate catch-22, agents like authors with experience. I was just wondering if you think the deadlines would be too difficult for a teen writer, and if you agree with the rest?

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    1. Maybe for some teens. But overall, no way. Teens can do anything they set their minds to. If you sell a book, you just need to be smart about those dates on the contract. Consider school and summer vacation. Will you be able to make that deadline? You don't have to get stuck with deadlines like mine. I signed two contracts at once, so I got myself into this. But if you only have one book at a time, there's no reason you can't do it and be in school. It's tough, but not impossible.

      But if you'd rather wait until you graduate, that's fine too. More life experience never hurts anyone.

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  12. I hate deadlines. Hate them with the fiery burning passion of a thousand suns. I know that if I go into traditional publishing, I'll have to get used to them, but that's a pretty big if, as my future's pretty foggy right now. I've contemplated setting myself deadlines, but it probably wouldn't be healthy for me. I struggle a lot with panic attacks, and deadlines in any other situations always make me freak out. *shrugs* I can see the benefit, though.

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    1. I can totally relate to that. If you decide to to this writing thing for the long haul, and your agent knows about your stresses ahead of time, your agent can help you deal with that my making sure you have plenty of time with your deadlines. Be sure and let your agent know after you sign with him.

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  13. I had to ask my sister of what clothing matched on this particular character in my novel.

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  14. Deadlines. :P I set myself one for the end of March, and it's starting to drive me crazy. Before 100 for 100 started, I took several days a week off of writing. Now that my deadline is looming before me, I'm kicking into 2,000 words a day. But after I write those 2,000 words, I'm mentally exhausted. Just 28,000 more words and it's over...*sigh*

    Piper♥

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  15. WOW! Did you honestly write a full book in 2 months?!?!? Uggg! I would die!
    However, I do set goals for myself every month! There basically "finish writing ______ amount of chapters by the end of this month". Sort of stuff like that!
    I find it really pushes me and most times I go past my goal!!
    Thanks Jill!!!

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    1. Yes. I did. Ug is right.

      That's great that you set monthly goals, Fire. Good job!

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  16. I wrote my first novel during NaNoWriMo this past November. It was crazy and fun to write 50,098 in 30 days, and I am soooo glad I did it. If it were not for NaNo and its crazy deadline I would never have gotten into writing.
    I'm now on my second novel, and I decided not to give myself a deadline. It has worked out all right, but one thing surprised me; this first draft is just as rough as my NaNo first draft. Slow does not equal quality. But going tooo fast can mess up a story. I suppose my main point is that deadlines are wonderful, wonderful things, so long as they are not too short:)

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    1. NaNo is a great way to learn to write faster.

      My first drafts are always ugly. I just expect it now and know I'll fix it later.
      :-)

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  17. One more thing, i know i have very little experience when it comes to writing, but so far i feel that a severe dealine like the one NaNo offers is great for your first first draft. It makes you actually sit down and write it, and then you realize, 'Hey i really can write a whole novel!'

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    1. Agreed, Raquel! NaNo was the first time I wrote that fast. It's a great program.

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  18. I use deadlines all the time for my writing. Ever since I discovered exactly how much I can write in a month (thanks to NaNo), I've given myself deadlines to make sure that I work. Usually I use some event in my life to mark my deadline. So at the moment I have a deadline to get my novel's draft finished within the next week and a half because then I go back to uni. My next deadline is to get the next novel planned before the beginning of April, because Camp NaNo begins then. And so on. Deadlines really, really work for me

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    1. That's great, Imogen! NaNo is really great too.

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  19. I'm generally good with goals, writing or otherwise; I like getting things done on time, or ahead of time whenever possible. I set a daily writing goal that I accomplish (generally). I think that once I get to this step of publishing, if I get there, I'll do well.
    Also, congratulations on writing two series at a time. That sounds crazy. It'll be great once you're done writing and editing them, though.

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    1. Good job, Katia! I bet you will do well.
      And thanks. It will be great when I'm done and get to step back and decide what to write next. :-)

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  20. The 100 for 100 challenge is sort of like a deadline for me. I know I have to write a certain amount everyday...and preferably before 10pm. I also invent deadlines for myself (get book A edited by end of month) to keep myself working on them, or else my projects just get dusty in their organised piles. I have to be careful, though, because I stress out very easy. So I practise now. ;)

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    1. Yay! The 100 for 100 is a great way to start deadline training. Good job practicing, Cait! :-)

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  21. Aw, Jill. :) Congrats on making that deadline and here's to lots of cups of coffee. You can do it! :)

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