Writer’s Tool Box: Deadlines

This afternoon I spent some time exchanging emails with yet another editor. From her examples I gather, she is exactly the kind of editor I need, but, at least right now, I’m not certain our schedules are going to synchronize.

I have a high degree of confidence that I will have the manuscript for Up Slope in second draft by early March.  After that, its simply a matter of ping pong with an editor to put the final polish on my next published book. My target for publication is the middle of April.

The reason I’m writing about deadlines today is because I’ve got many. These are self imposed and I use them every day to manage the writing process. They are one of the more important tools I keep in my writing tool box.

Drive to Completion

One of the most important features of this tool is that it helps push a writing project toward completion. Without deadlines and project milestones my super slacker powers take over and things just sort of fall by the way side. A complete story idea, stored in memory for only a short while, may never make it onto the page. When I schedule out a project, setting dates and critical milestones along the way, I have to use some guess work, but the intent is to ensure I have the reins all the way until publication.

All along the way I can evaluate if I’m on track to complete the project on time or if I need to get the Led out and knock out the words at hyper speed. Deadlines force me to evaluate how I’m doing and ensure that I get to the end of the project.

Accountability

There is myth out there, repeated endlessly by the nefarious they, which tags Independent authors lower in the literary hierarchy because they don’t know how to deliver a project. Because we don’t have the same kind of external management that a traditionally published author must deal with, we’re somehow less capable of delivering on time.

Yeah, sure, I don’t have a contract or an editor telling me when something is due. My deadlines are my own, but because I know they give my writing projects a level of accountability I stick to them.

The accountability is between me, as the author, and my audience. Sure, it is completely self imposed, but it is no less important because it is internal to the project. Deadlines in writing always come back to the reader. Publishing when you’ve said you will means that people can look forward to your next story. This can actually help build anticipation and may even invigorate future sales.

Conclusion

I’ve tried in the past to pants my way to a complete story and the problem is that I never get there. An it is not just laziness. I get distracted and confused easily if there is not a target for me to aim at.

Rigorous and complete management of a writing project is probably one of the best ways to remove confusion and provide focus. Even from within the creative process. I have sat in front of my laptop and found myself contemplating the many ways a story might go only to realize that I’m wasting critical golden time. The deadline and my dedication to it makes it possible for me to pick a story path and stick to it.

Advertisements

Writer’s Tool Box: Twitter

I’ve been pitching a panel to a number of Science Fiction/Fantasy conventions which will discuss the “tool boxes” of a variety of writers. I think about these sorts of things a lot, probably too much. This admission is probably just a mea culpa of my character. I love tools! I love to tweak tools, I love to make tools, I love to adapt tools to a task.

Part of my approach to writing professionally has been to test tools, with the intent of optimizing my turn around time for any particular project. Figuring out what works best, what will be sustainable, has been a wonderful part of the experience of learning to write. I’ve posted about these sorts of things in the past, but this is the first in a a blog series I’ve titled “Writer’s Tool Box”.

Using the blog as a repository I intend to further refine my tool box while sharing my observations with you. Suggestions are welcome, this is an open discussion. Comment rules still apply (trolls will be soundly thwacked), but I’m really interested in hearing what you do.

Twitter

The first installment is an open discussion of a social media utility that a lot of authors make regular use. Twitter has been around for a while, and it an excellent means of communicating with readers, of finding new readers even, and, perhaps most interestingly, for keeping up with writing goals. I use Twitter and the #1k1hr hashtag to stay on target with my writing goals and remain accountable to my readers.

#1k1hr

Accountability, especially when you’re an Indie who sets and manages his own writing goals, can quickly become a moving target. Unlike traditional published authors my deadlines are completely up to no one but me. So, I can sit down to my computer and imagine that I’m not in the mood to write. That I can make up the words later. That I can simply push the my arbitrarily determined, self-assigned deadlines out just a little to compensate for a word slump.

But down that road lies doom. I came to this realization during 2013 NaNoWriMo when, after an impressive burst of wordsmithing (7k words in a weekend) I entered the next week drained and unsure where my story was headed. Quickly, my lead evaporated before my very eyes. It was sad, I cried a little. I was endanger of losing because I blew my word load.

By the time I tracked down a tissue and blew my nose, however, I knew where the solution might lie. The answer is pacing and regularity. I did not do all that pre-work, writing outlines and character sketches, creating a project burn down schedule and a back story for my story, so that I could go nuts, lose my pace and bonk hard less than a fifth of the way into the race.

This realization was accompanied by a suggestion that I try using NaNoWriMo word sprints to stay on task. I did and I cleared November 28th a confirmed winner.

So what do I do the other eleven months of the year? I’ve got a very hectic schedule and lots of demands on my time. Sound familiar? But I can usually cram in an hour here or there during the course of most days. And my writing tempo allows me to knock out about 1,000 words in the space of an hour if, and only if, I know where my story is going.

When I have a fresh pot of tea and a little time I will sit down and write. Aral, my youngest son and primary responsibility, knows that when I’m “getting my words” he has to self-entertain for a while and he even looks forward to this time these days. In order to ensure that I stay on task through the whole hour I usually tweet something about the #1k1hr I’m soon to attempt.

And then follow this up when I hit my target.

These daily exercises make me accountable, in bite sized pieces, which remain easily achievable. My readers know that I’m writing and sometimes they encourage me which is very helpful. I wake up each morning thinking about what I need to write next, both to stay on target with my ultimate release date as well as each section of the story.