Wishful Deadline Thinking

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

If you’re currently facing a deadline, are you kicking yourself for wishful thinking? You know. . . the editor asked if you could possibly get the book out in six months instead of eight months and in the Sally-Field-like euphoria of the moment (“They like me, they really, really like me!”) you say, “Sure.” Now you realize you are in the first third of the book. You hate your characters. The book is stupid. The setting seems inane. You spend more time playing Angry Birds than working on the manuscript. And the deadline looms in just ten weeks. Gulp!

Why does this happen so often?

  • When we are trying to set a realistic deadline for an upcoming book we are often in the final stages of our current book. That’s when the writing begins to flow. We know our characters. All the plot threads are coming together and the words are flying off our fingers. When I was actively writing I’d  get so excited about the possibilities during this golden time. I used to say I could average 5000 words a day with gusts up to 7500. I’d start plotting and planning how quickly I could write a book given those numbers. Duh! Writing speed needs to be averaged over the whole book– the excruciatingly slow first part of the book, the draggy middle and the sizzling final portion.
  • Figure on ramp time. Every time you leave a project you need to plan on extra time to get ramped up to speed again. We have mini ramp time with every new day. More ramp time on Mondays. Serious ramp time after an extended time away from the project.
  • We tend to be optimists– best case scenario planners. Unfortunately things happen. A child gets sick. An aging parent needs care. A spouse loses his job and is at home all day. We injure a tendon in our typing hand. We lose a loved one and find we can barely write our names let alone write a compelling novel. If we’ve allowed no time in the schedule for unforeseen events, we are tempting fate.
  • We need to make money and writing faster may seem like the best way to accomplish more funds in a shorter span of time.
  • Sometimes we are just too new at this and don’t yet understand our own creative rhythms. When an editor asks, “Can you do this in six months?” we figure he wouldn’t be asking if it weren’t possible.
  • Some of us are people pleasers. Remember the song from Oklahoma? “I’m jest a girl who cain’t say no. . .?”
  • We feel pressure because we know our readers are asking us to write faster. As a reader, I’ve been guilty of this. I’ve begged many of my favorite authors to write faster. I hate having to wait an entire year for their next book.
  • We don’t factor in time for the book to rest before we begin rewriting and smoothing the book out. Any writer who thinks he can turn in a first draft will not be seeing future contracts. Editors are demanding cleaner and better manuscripts all the time. Allow for enough time to do sufficient rewrites.
  • We also don’t figure in enough time for our first readers to read the manuscript and get it back to us. Factor this in as well.

What can I do to avoid this?

  • Keep accurate daily records of your writing progress. After a few books you’ll have a good idea of your own pattern of writing.
  • Keep a list of unplanned things that cropped up during each book. Doctor visits, vacations, that broken ankle– all of it. You’ll never be able to factor all this in to your future planning but it will remind you that life is messy and you can plan on some surprise time stealers during the writing of that next book.
  • Don’t give an answer to an editor’s request for deadline possibilities off the top of your head. Think about it. Talk to your agent. Be realistic.
  • Factor in the rewriting and first reader processes.

I’m not yet contracted. Is there anything I can do to prepare for the question of how much time it takes me to write a book?

  • So many not-yet-published writers say, “I wish I had a deadline. I’d write much better to a deadline.” How do you know? You need to give yourself a deadline and then keep track of your progress just as a contracted writer would. This information will be invaluable when you are contracted.
  • If you have critique partners, ask them to act like editors and hold you to your deadlines. No excuses.
  • If you find you cannot write under those conditions you’ll know writing for publication is not for you. You’ll save yourself years of angst.

Got any tips for us on how to set a realistic deadline? For those of you who are bi-vocational, how does setting deadlines work in your industry? If you haven’t yet been published how might the copious amounts of time you have to write a book be an unrealistic scenario? Have you ever fallen in love with an author’s debut novel only to feel that the subsequent ones feel rushed or are disappointing? Let’s talk.

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96 Comments

  • Since I’ve been writing for our newspaper, I know exactly what a deadline means, and I’ve also learned when to say ‘no’. Sometimes saying no to something is harder than saying yes. Or is that just me?
    Keeping a list of the planned and unplanned is a great way to gauge one’s actual real-time, real world writing output. It’s like driving in traffic versus driving in the middle of the night. Or in snow. (that’s frozen, crystallized rain for all you warm types;)).
    Ask a Canadian or a city dweller how far something is and they’ll usually answer in minutes as opposed to measured distance. It’s not how many words one writes, it’s how long it takes to write them well.

  • How rude of me…Good morning, Wendy!

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      Good morning. Though I think your morning comes earlier than my west coast morning.

      • Yup. 4 hours earlier. My BFF lives in Belmont, California and calls me every Black Friday at 9am my time from a poorly lit mall parking lot.

        But it’s more fun when I call HER on a totally random day at 9am my time. You know, just to say hello :)

  • Love this, Wendy, especially the writing gusts. :)

    Last year I started tracking the words I wrote each month. This year I want to track it by week since I think a weekly quota works best for me.

    But I’m jogging–no sprinting here–to the end of my book. So the next handful of months after that will be spent editing. What’s the best way, everyone, to track how quickly you edit? Same thing? Just record number of edited pages/words a week?

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      I think jogging– pacing yourself– is the key to a even book. Lately I’ve read a number of published books that seem to have suffered a sprint to the end.

      • Interesting thought. I’d really like to sprint, but sometimes being forced to take a day or half a day and let the next scenes gel has been helpful.

        So I won’t be sad about jogging anymore. :)

  • Wendy, how very appropriate for me at this particular time. When an author is fortunate enough to have a multi-book contract, he/she may be simultaneously marketing book #1, editing book #2, and trying to write book #3. Although it’s a nice problem to have, it’s still a problem.

    And I agree that I see first books that totally outshine subsequent ones from the same author. Not hard to figure out, since many authors take a couple of years or more to write and polish the first book, then are under deadline for the rest.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      Richard, do you set aside a day or days for marketing and/or editing? Or are you able to create and do the left brain stuff on the same day?

  • Jeanne T says:

    What a great post, Wendy. I work well to deadlines, but with the writing journey, I’m still figuring out how to create realistic deadlines. After planning my first book out, I pumped out 94,000 words in 5 1/2 weeks, and met my personal deadline for finishing that. I learned, with kids home for summer, it’s much harder to complete revisions. And, I didn’t plan out my schedule very well for their school year. So, I’m still working on said revisions. Sigh. But, I’m learning, and I’m beginning to see what I need to do and plan for if/when I get a contract.

    I loved your suggestions for setting realistic deadlines. That was so helpful. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      A first draft of near 100,000 words in five weeks sounds like a gargantuan task. (And like you must have been cloistered during the writing.) Did you do much of the plotting and character studies in advance?

      • Jeanne T says:

        Yes, I did all my character work and my plotting in advance. I am an organizer by nature, and I kind outlined the scenes for myself before I ever started writing. Between that and having a family who cheered me on, I was able to do it. I also discovered I can type really fast when the story is flowing. Now, if only I could figure out how to make revisions more efficient. :)

    • Holy cow, Jeanne! How on earth did you manage that?

      • Jeanne T says:

        Thanks. The fast draft part came easily, it’s figuring out the best way to work through revisions that is slowing me down. That, and needing more time in my day to devote to it. :)

    • Bravo for being able to dedicate yourself to your deadline, Jeanne. Amazing work. Praying your learning curve will get easier.

  • Sarah Thomas says:

    In my late 20s I began to let weight creep on. You know, just a few pounds a year until I was 15 pounds over what I should be. Not a big deal, right? Except I knew the creep would continue. So I started weighing myself EVERY day and keeping a food journal. Up a pound? Skip the cookie after lunch, girl! And yes, I will write down that swig of root beer I sneak at Bible study.

    I learned that I have to monitor myself. I cannot be trusted to “do better tomorrow.” I need to hold myself accountable for how I’m doing right now. And I’m learning it’s the same with writing. I recently started keeping a daily log of pages and words written. And if there are no pages or words I write down why.

    My goal was 1,000 words a day. Reasonable for a bi-vocational girl with no kids. My daily average is closer to 650. Oh, I HATE to admit that. But I can’t improve if I don’t know my current status.

    My deadline is to finish novel three by Valentine’s day. Jennifer? Jeanne? Gabrielle? Hold me accountable my friends!

  • “…possibilities during this golden time” sums it up nicely, Wendy. You feel like you can conquer Everest…without oxygen. :) You’re right. It’s just not a realistic way of thinking.

    I finished my first novel last year (historical fiction, deeply researched, 117,000 words) in four months while under a tough work schedule with a lot of overtime hours. It was tough and I did keep a journal of word count, so I can look back on it.

    There is no way I can hold myself to that writing schedule. There wasn’t enough balance. I spent the next eight months with first readers and many, many rounds of edits.

    I just started the second novel and I’m going to compare how my pacing is for this one to gauge what a reasonable deadline for myself would be.

    Thanks for the advice, Wendy! I need to sort these things out before I’m published. I do not want to hand out lackluster manuscripts. I’ve had several disappointments when I’ve loved an author’s first or second books and the third or so were not good.

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      I know! And that first novel is fueled by the hunger to write for publication, get a contract, etc.

      Once you get a contract some of that hunger dissipates and needs to be replaced by a new motivation.

  • I have definitely felt disappointed by subsequent novels in a series. At a point, the writing feels tired — the author has run out of ideas, or is too rushed to be fresh. A true bummer.

    I am a mess when it comes to keeping track of word count and all that. I just write in odd moments, whenever I can, and keep multiple projects moving forward. I think a fair measure of chaos keeps me creative. The stress of it all certainly keeps me from being bored.

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      It’s interesting to see how different writers work. I wish I could write in bits and pieces amid chaos, on multiple projects– because that’s how life is. It would make for a more prolific writer.

  • Amanda Dykes says:

    Oh, I love the tracking. When I sat down to write my first novel, about 2 months in the rush of steam that comes at the beginning stages was fading. It was time to implement systems and not depend on rushes of inspiration. I knew if I didn’t press on and finish this novel then, I might never do it. So, in came the deadlines. I set them, and then a few months later learned that my projected finish-novel-date (February last year) perfectly coincided with Mt. Hermon (March/April), with a little window of time to edit in between. Once I knew I’d be going to the conference, that was added accountability for me to meet those self-imposed deadlines.

    So, yet another benefit of writer’s conferences: motivation to finish!

  • Michelle Ule Michelle Ule says:

    I pretty much cancel out everything until I get the rough draft done–though I’ve been writing novellas, so 20K words is not the same as a novel. I’ve got a Feb 15 deadline, and I started writing the day I got news of the contract last October. I wanted to be done before December 1 and life fell down with a wallop.

    I finished December 8, the day before the kids came home from college, and sent it out to a couple readers, who got it back to me after the new year. (Thank you, gracious readers!). I’m now rewriting and finishing it and should be done this next week.

    Having a month off, however, between finishing the first draft and now polishing was VERY good. I see things I couldn’t in the “heat” of writing. I’ve thought about the story more (taking notes in snatches of time) and can deepen it. I wish I was done, but I’m pleased I’ve still got time to make it the best I can.

    I always aim to finish a month early. I calculate what that means and put my head down to write. Building that extra month into my schedule give me time to screw up, rewrite, travel, play with the adorable grandkids without fail, and gives me, personally, security.

    Knowing I’ve signed a contract to do something, hangs over my head. I, personally, need to get it done so I can move on. Of course, my kids are gone and I have more flexibility now than I did when they were all home. That’s one more reason I’m thankful publishing didn’t come into my life until I was older.

    Thanks, Wendy!

  • Minkee Robinson says:

    Thank you Wendy, for not just laying out the problems (I identify with far too many of them) but giving some practical advice. I do work better with deadlines but the concept of actually tracking my daily writing process and progress will ultimately prove more useful than my distorted memories of successfully submitting something just under the wire.
    ~Minkee Robinson

  • Lisa says:

    Thanks Wendy, I’m knee deep in a snow day today. One lamp has already been broken :) Being realistic is so wise. I try to factor in time to fall back on if reality sets in. Sometimes that is early morning up or late night! Today writing will be after my kids are asleep in their beds.

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      And that time with your children– broken lamp or not– can never be recovered. You are wise to juggle writing carefully with time for your little ones. We need to keep in mind that when we are writing, our back is to our family.

      • Thank you for the reminder that when I’m writing, my back is to my family.

        Even though my 8 year old is my biggest fan, my interactions with her are more important than the tumble of words across the page.

  • I was thinking of this very problem last night, while considering that I told myself I’d call it a day at 6PM with all my work done, but didn’t actually hang it up complete until 1:30AM. A mini-missed deadline, but missed all the same.
    Endless writing time seems like a luxury, but like you suggested, I told my husband to give me a deadline and hold my feet to the fire on it, because I’m starting to think a novel is like muffin mix. You can stir it too much. Besides, what’s more “inspiring” than consequences? :)

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      But ask the writers who have endless writing time. . . they’d rather do anything except write. Even mopping floors looks like more fun on some days.

      I love your muffin mix analogy– you are so right!

  • Attending Mount Hermon this year is a great built in deadline.

    Wendy, after you hang out with the mass of NF writers in the mornings, I hope to sit across from you at a circular table and share a bit about my Christian Gothic Romance. :-)

  • Tracy Higley says:

    For the past three books, I’ve started using a little desktop widget called “Paymo” to track my time spent plotting, researching, first drafting and editing. It’s like a stopwatch you click on and off, and it aggregates all the time you’ve spent on a particular task and gives you easy-to-read reports.
    It’s been a great help in two ways – 1) helping me plan ahead because I now have some data that tells me how long each phase of a novel typically takes me, so I know to stay on track, and 2) on those days when I’m freaking out and positive I’ll “never, ever finish on time,” I can get a pretty good gauge of how many hours I truly have left and often it’s reassuring and helps me calm down and focus.
    Here’s a link if anyone’s interested. I use the free version.
    http://www.paymo.biz/

  • One of the things about blogging regularly is that it’s kept me to a strict schedule. I know I need to write for that on a regular basis and even though there is no one pulling checks if I don’t, I keep my own deadlines. Now I know I can write to them.

  • I love this post. It really puts things into perspective. As for my favorite authors–I wish they could write at the speed of light because I want more! As for setting time goals for myself I have learned that if I say I can do so-and-so in a specific amount of time, I then immediately triple it. That makes it more attainable. Thanks, Wendy.

  • Great post, Wendy! I used to think, I could write three books a year, easily, if I had to! But I didn’t think about the fact that I would probably also have to EDIT three books in that year too! Rachel is good at making me be realistic. :-)

  • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

    And we’re all so excited right now because you have a brand new one out. http://www.melaniedickerson.com/books.html I loved The Merchant’s Daughter.

    (All that to say, forget the words of your wise agent, Melanie, we really think you could write three books a year, right fellow fans?)

  • Ginny Yttrup says:

    Wendy, thank you for this excellent post! It’s so helpful! I’m working to finish my 4th book and I’m just beginning to learn so much of what you shared! It does take time to figure out our rhythm and your point about the difference in word count at the beginning of a book versus the end of the book is something I haven’t considered. So true!

    Thank you!

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      Isn’t it interesting that you are finishing your 4th book and still trying to figure out this strange rhythm. Of course once we finally figure out what works, something will probably change, right?

  • I love reading the Books & Such blogs because it makes me feel completely normal! I did exactly what you wrote above, Wendy, I was flying high on the end of a book and planning ahead to my next book. I gave myself a “deadline” to finish my second book and now I’m flailing about, wondering why I’m not writing as fast or as frequently – knowing I’ll never make it to my deadline. And I identify with all the reasons you’ve given. Thank you for helping me to see the problem! I’ll need to sit down and re-evaluate my plan and deadline.

  • I’ve always set deadlines for myself with plenty of cushion. My life is too hectic not to work that way. When I started my writing career, I focused on time management and organization for writers, so I’ve learned a lot along the way.

    The two most important things I’ve learned about myself are: I’m a slow writer and my best work is done when I don’t have access to the Internet. :) While I keep hoping I will pick up the pace, my stories need to stew a bit. I must get to know my characters inside and out–even though they often surprise me while I’m writing–and I must perform enough research to make myself comfortable starting.

    If I have access to the Internet, it’s too tempting to check email or message boards. So, I might write long-hand for a bit or take off and go somewhere that doesn’t have wireless, which is getting harder to do these days.

    Thanks for the great post. I love hearing how others work.

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      Two good observations, Cheryl. First that you accept that you are a slow writer who needs to do careful research and in-depth character sketches. Too many of us compare ourselves to others and always feel we are somehow lacking. I like that you understand what it takes for you to write a rich story.

      And knowing that the Internet gets in the way of writing is the first step toward the discipline needed to “just say no.”

  • I set some optimistic writing goals for this year and broke them down by months. January’s list included: Rewrite chapter one of my WIP, write and submit an article,update my website landing page, post to my blog weekly, have a professional head shot taken, update my Linked In profile and become more active there, create a one-sheet for my book, and work on the hook portion of my book proposal.

    It all seemed so achievable until I realized the holiday really wasn’t over until January 7, my lack of awareness of planned church activities for the new year, and that I would catch a cold (thankfully, not the flu!). Looking ahead, I see family coming to visit in March, more family coming in April and a trip to visit other family in May. I definitely need to add more margin in these monthly goals. A learning experience.

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      Yep. Life gets in the way. When we are planning we forget to factor those things in. The scariest part? Some of the biggest time stealers are not even on your radar yet.

  • Wendy,

    Creative rhythms, creative patterns. I love that concept. I finally acknowledged that I’m NOT productive in bits and spurts, that I MUST set aside big chunks of time for my writing. I’ve learned, too, in the last few years, that unrealistic goals can mean a variety of things, even when I meet them. Just because I write 50,000 words in a month, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re 50,000 GOOD words. I LOVE working under a deadline – it helps to build the conflict in my characters, I believe, when I’m under pressure, too! – but I want to make sure the results I end up with are quality.

    This year, as you know, I’m publishing a serial novel on my website. I’m doing it for various reasons. One: I want to blog with a clearer purpose and having a story to blog around offers me a plethora of options. Two: It gives my readers something intentional to look forward to each month while also giving them a sample of my writing style for free.
    Three: Deadlines. If I know my next episode is due on the 10th of each month, then I need to have it back from my betas by the 1st so that I can edit it in plenty of time.

    There are more reasons, but the DEADLINE is a HUGE factor for me. I need it, and since I’m still unpublished, I’m self-inflicting it!

    Thanks for your words, Wendy.

    Blessings,
    Becky

  • Love your idea of tracking, Wendy. With my second novel, I followed the advice of many published novelists and kept a word log. With an Excel spreadsheet, I entered each day how many words I had written. It was wonderful to see them add up, and I got an idea for the pace. What I need to do next time is track how long it takes me to brainstorm and organize to the point of writing the first sentence. Thanks for all your suggestions!

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      I like your method– a spreadsheet. I wonder, when you try to track the creative process, if the analysis will bleed off any of the creativity. It would be interesting to see the outcome.

  • Great advice, Wendy. Thank you. :)

    My first novel was an “unlimited time” scenario and it hasn’t taken me years to write…and rewrite and rewrite and it’s still not ready. Nearly, but…not. I used my day job as a primary excuse for how long it was taking me to finish, but lack of discipline was the real reason.

    Then I started writing my fantasy novel as a way to take a breather from my “real” novel. I sat down and outlined this second novel before I started writing. I spent some time working out who the characters were and learning about how the magical world they lived in worked. There were a few other decisions I made before I started writing (e.g. interweaving Celtic symbolism and folklore throughout the novel) and I started my research. All of this was done within a little over a month, then I started writing. Then I joined a critique group. Going to the group gives me a deadline. I know that I not only have to have the next installment written each week, but that it needs to be revised. Then after the critique, I revise again. Hopefully, this will decrease the amount of work I will have to do when I get to the official revision stage. This is helping me write regularly and to stay on a schedule. So this book is moving along at a much faster rate than the first novel. I believe that the critique group deadline is the primarily reason for this. I have also set a deadline for finishing the book and sending out queries and having that concrete deadline helps as well to keep me from slacking off. And being too optimistic the with the first deadline I set has helped me be a bit more realistic.

    For me, deadlines are necessary in order to accomplish my goal.

    Blessings! :)

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      Critique groups are great pressure to stay on deadline.

      One of the things I found very difficult was to develop a new book while the contracted book wasn’t totally written. I would always get so excited about the new idea it was hard to go back to the “old” idea.

  • I almost always underestimate how long it will take me to finish a book. I tend to forget that it’s not humanly possible (for me, anyway) to write for four hours every evening, 7 days a week…after working a full-time job during the day. Yeah. And I tend to forget to make time for migraines, since I get those frequently. It can be so frustrating that it takes so long, but I would rather my work be solid than rushed. I definitely won’t get an agent or a contract with shoddy work. So realism is something I’m working on. Glad to know I’m not alone!!

  • Jan Thompson says:

    “Every time you leave a project you need to plan on extra time to get ramped up to speed again.”

    Thank you. I see the need for “ramp time” often when I switch hats from one role to another.

    An author (can’t remember who — sorry) once said that coming back to writing the next chapter, it’s sometimes a good idea to re-type the last chapter written to get the momentum going and to remember what you wrote last.

    I haven’t tried that, but I have re-read the last chapter I wrote to remind myself about the tone and tempo. This helps me when I’m juggling multiple genres.

    On that note, I can see why keeping to one genre could reduce “ramp time.”

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      Good insight. Keeping to one genre reduces ramp time. Historical fiction writers have also discovered that staying with one era helps in that research is used for more than one book.

      • Jan Thompson says:

        Good to know what works for authors. I’m always looking to learn more about the craft of writing.

        I do the same for my colonial research — it saves me time if I keep the research to the same area and era. It also saves money if my research trip doubles up as a field trip for history class in school… Then I have an excuse to plan a family vacation LOL.

  • Kiersti says:

    This is all so helpful–thank you, Wendy! I’m realizing I need to be better at keeping track and on top of my writing pace, even now. And I didn’t realize it was normal for the first part of a book to be awfully slow to write–that’s encouraging! I thought maybe something was the matter with me. :)

  • Nanowrimo is a good way for uncontracted writers to see what they can do under that group deadline. It helps to make scene cards on 3 x 5s ahead of time so you have an idea of your direction. It also helps you keep going in the middle, where you might feel less than enthusiastic about your idea. Then in January they have a rewrite month, with more guidance there. It’s helpful for finding out what you can really do when your back is against the wall.

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      It’s also helpful to let the family see what writing might look like for their family member. Pizza, anyone?

  • Peter DeHaan says:

    My formula is to start with the amount of time I think I’ll need, double it, and then add one month. So far, I’m on track.

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      Of course, if it were me, I’d find that that the work stretched out to fill the entire available time plus three days– no matter how much ease I gave myself. :-( (Good thing I’m a full time agent, not a writer.)

    • Jan Thompson says:

      Your formula is similar to mine in that I also double up my estimated time, and that has worked out nicely in almost all areas of my life, school and writing, but you added one extra month. Why?

      I hadn’t thought of adding a month. Hmmm… Is that for your beta/first readers’ feedback?

  • Nancy Moser says:

    When I get a deadline I print out a calendar and highlight all the possible writing weekdays, taking into account vacations and birthdays and doctor’s appointments, etc. I leave two weeks before the deadline date to do a final read-through. I count up the writing days, divide my contracted word count by that number, and create a daily word quota. Then I write on the calendar how many words I write every day. If, at the end of the week I’ve reached my quota, I give myself a bonus–candy is a favorite prize, or an e-book. After 25 novels this is the only way I’ve found to keep on top of a deadline.

    • Wendy Lawton Wendy Lawton says:

      Great advice from an experienced novelist.

      I was so excited to hear about the series that just sold, Nancy. More great stuff in the pipeline! You gotta keep writing fast enough to keep readers happy, y’know.

  • Jenny Leo says:

    In the beginning I’d get tripped up that “creative work” is not the same as “office work.” Based on my schedule when I worked in an office, I’d plan on an eight-hour day of writing, not realizing that I only have three or four hours of writing in me, tops. Now I split my days between creative work and “other stuff” (research, social media, reading about craft, organizing, filing, playing Angry Birds . . .)

  • Sharyn Kopf says:

    For years I took my own sweet time as I nibbled away at my novels. I had three going at once, on and off, & eventually even finished one – you know, the book that will probably never see the light of day.

    Then, last summer, God led me to turn a nonfiction book into novel #4. On a whim, I entered it in a writing contest and, in July, was named a finalist. Great news that brought with it a deadline: I had until Dec 31 to turn three chapters and a dream into a completed manuscript. Which meant I needed to finish the second draft by the end of November so I’d have a month for my editor and readers to look at it.

    Fortunately, my background in newspaper and radio – which require tight deadlines – helped me get it done. Turns out, I definitely work better under a deadline! Still waiting to hear about the contest but, in the meantime, I’ve started working on the sequel. Though with the next book, I hope to have a little more time to edit.

    Thank you for letting me share, Wendy!

  • Anne Love says:

    I’m coming in late here, but this is a great post Wendy. I love it when you post things I was thinking before I realize I was wondering about that. :)

    The bivocational question–deadlines in my industry?

    When I was a nurse working in ICU, we all knew it was best to “chart as you go” because you never knew when crisis would arise and suck up the entire shift leaving you mountains of charting to complete at the end of an exhausting day. Working as a nurse practitioner in the office, there aren’t as many crisis as in ICU, but the interruptions are crazy and the “chart as you go” is still the best policy but not always a realistic possibility.

    The hospital charting & documentation I used to do had to be completed before you could leave to go home–now there’s a great motivator! But now I can chart my busy office day from home on my laptop, which can be both good and bad. It allowed me to leave work at 6:25, run to a church committee meeting, then chart from home last night. But it took me until 11:30pm to finish up and then write a blogpost.

    The take home for me? People ask me how I find time to work full time, be a mom, and still write—I write as I go. Little by little adds up.

  • Wow, Wendy 5,000 to gusts of 7,500 words a day ~ I’m impressed!

    I journal through the novel writing process. It helps as a way to sort out every aspect of the journey. There is a record of my activity I can review. It is a black and white way to see the who, what, where, when, why, and how, I have or haven’t gotten to where I want to be.

    I set daily goals, not lofty ones, but goals I know I can exceed so instead of ending up feeling defeated should I not meet a goal. I currently have a 100% success rate. I know it is only 23 days into the new year, but it is a positive beginning.

    An author friend gave me a, “Will write for chocolate” door hanger. I use it. (There is danger of our black lab stealing the chocolates left for me, so I must be quick about retrieving them. :))

    Life changes crop up. My oldest granddaughter is living with me for the next two months before she leaves for the US Coast Guard. I have hired her as a computer expert. A huge help for me and an income for her until she leaves. We also now work out at the gym together every other day, swimming laps. This is all an adjustment in my regular routine but it’s working out for the better!

    My goal: to have my second novel finished by Mt. Hermon.

  • Dawn Wilson says:

    This made me smile. My “rhythm” for writing must center around my job. And it’s hard to get “ramp time” when writing gets cramped by “get real” time. But you shared much for me to chew on. Thanks. [By the way, I saw your post when Twitter forwarded it to me... a good introduction to your creative writing!]

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