As the Wickeds head out to a weekend retreat together, we thought we’d share how we deal with deadlines that might loom on the distant horizon. We all have multi-book contracts, and they usually come with built-in due dates. Wickeds, do you set daily word count goals? Take a week off the day job to pound out the story? Ignore the deadline and then work furiously for the last month? Or?
Edith: Back in my high school days, I preferred to procrastinate as long as possible and then do an intensive production of a report or paper. It worked pretty well for me – I got good grades, even though I was effectively turning a long-term goal into a short-term one. But I can’t do that with three contracts. I simply have to work ahead as fast as I can.
The book I’m writing now? Isn’t due until January. But I also have books due in March and May, 2016, which is a first for me. Gulp. No more procrastination for this girl! It’s working for me so far. But when I get the “Yikes, I have no idea where this book is going,” kind of feeling, I confess to some panic. A long solo walk nearly always lets the plot emerge, though. So far, so good.
Jessie: Over time I’ve learned to trust my process. I let an idea rattle and percolate by asking myself questions in a notebook and then answering them until I get an unrelenting itch to start the actual writing. I make quick sketches of as many scenes in the book as I can manage ahead of time and then I dive in and write an average of 1200-1500 words a day, usually five days a week until I have created a first draft. Some days it’s harder to get to the word count and some days it is easier but I find if I just keep picking away, a word at a time, I end up with something worth revising. Once I get that first draft done I feel an enormous light-heartedness wash over me and I no longer need to set goals the same way. Revising is my reward for getting through the thicket that is first draft and once I’ve entered that phase I mostly have fun until the deadline rolls around.
Sherry: My contract was to submit a book every nine months. So ideally I should sent one book in and start immediately on the next. But I find my brain needs a break so I usually wait a month before plunging in again. I’ve found during that month ideas are swirling around and come out when I start writing. In a perfect world I write 1000 words a day for the first draft. And since I’m a procrastinator the last month is usually filled with long days of polishing and rewriting.
Liz: Sherry, I have the same experience with that break getting my creative juices flowing! Love that. I do try to trust the process, but with a day job and two series I have to be a bit more militant about what I’m doing and when. I try to do 1000 words every day on weekdays, then crank more out on the weekends.
Barb: After six books, I guess my best advice to finishing any long term project is to set short term goals. I use a daily word count goal through the first draft, then I go by number of pages or scenes per day for the revisions. There are numerous other tasks, mostly problem-solving and figuring stuff out–like who knows what, when and scene order–and I’ve learned to allow time for those. I am trusting my process more these days. The first draft of my novels will always be too short, but I know now not to panic. The words will come.
Readers: How do you deal with deadlines that loom out a few weeks or months, or even a year? Strategies to share?