Writing deadlines can be demanding, stressful and fear-inducing, but there is little doubt that they can also be key motivators, resulting in finished first drafts and other writing projects. But what happens when there are no deadlines to be met? How does the new and emerging writer maintain the writing momentum without a frantic agent tugging at their shirtsleeves?
When studying Professional Writing I was, like my fellow students, very aware of the different deadlines I had for various assignments. We were busy, but we were productive. We submitted our pieces for peer critique, and then we critiqued our peers. There was little time for anything else, especially for those students managing a job and family alongside their studies. The interesting thing is that upon submission of the final project, many of the students on the course stopped writing.
When we met at the graduation, nine months after we received our final grades, a lot of my peers confessed to having written very little or nothing since finishing the degree. The pressure to write and submit a piece of writing was gone, and for many, so was the motivation to write.
When asked if I had written anything since we submitted our projects in December, 2015, I tried to gloss over the two short books I had written, and the third I had just begun. I almost felt guilty that I had ramped up my creativity, but I was ‘on a mission’, and I had a secret weapon. In fact, I had two.
First, my motivation – that was easy enough to explain: I didn’t want to be a high school teacher for the rest of my life. I can’t paint, sing, balance a budget, or perform open-heart surgery. But I can write, or at least die trying. That was my motivation right there. I thrive on creativity, and I wanted to live off it too. The vote is out as to whether I will ever live solely off my writing, but I intend to do my best to find out.
My secret weapons were another motivating factor. I have two.
Most writers have heard of Nanowrimo – the national novel writing month in November each year, where participants write their hearts out to nail 50,000 words by the end of the month. I tried this a few times, using it as a means of finishing projects. I never reached the 50,000 mark, but I did inject serious wordage into my projects. However, through Nanowrimo, I discovered Camp Nanowrimo.
A similar concept, writers can attend Camp Nanowrimo in April and July each year. The main difference to Nanowrimo is that writers attending camp get to choose their own targets. I have had far more success at Camp than during Nanowrimo. I have regularly achieved writing goals of 20, 30 and 40,000 words. The “stats” page showing one’s writing progress is a fantastic feel-good motivator, as is seeing the word totals of one’s fellow campers’ increase on a daily basis. There are plenty of other motivators and pep-talks available for writers attending camp; I thoroughly recommend that you check it out for yourselves.
I have another secret weapon that is always a little controversial amongst authors as it involves Amazon. I have to admit, as an emerging writer, Amazon works for me. I receive great service and help, and, while not selling very much – must look at my chosen genre – I feel in control. One of the things I can control is a self-made deadline, with consequences.
2) Amazon Pre-Order
As an Amazon author it is possible to release an eBook for pre-order, up to three months prior to publication. While I confess that I have yet to have many sales during pre-order – all single figures – that’s not why I do it. I choose to make my books available for pre-order to generate a deadline by which everything – from the first draft, editing, redrafting, cover commissions, etc. – is done, finished, and ready for publication. The trick is to make a well-established project available for pre-order, or a shorter side-story that can be “done” within that time.
If I fail to release my book on the agreed publication date, Amazon will punish me by sending a mail to the customer(s) that pre-ordered my book, letting them know I failed to meet the deadline. On top of that, they ban me from making any books available for pre-order for a year.
It’s a dangerous game, but it is also a serious motivator.
I do look forward to the day when I have an agent or a publisher on my heels, demanding the first draft, or the rewrite, because I believe that will mean that I have made it, that I am a traditionally published author.
However, so long as I am honing my craft, writing my back catalogue as it were, then I am seriously enjoying the writing game, and creating my own deadlines.
I equate deadlines with productivity. Similarly, if I have been productive, then I have also been creative. I like being creative, it gives me a buzz, and drives me to produce more. The more work I have produced, the more I have written, and the more I write, the better I become at writing.
It makes sense – for me at least.
So, until I have that neurotic agent or that persnickety publisher, I’ll be creating my own private hell with one deadline after the other. It seems I can’t write without them.
What about you? Do you need deadlines to keep your writing projects on track, or do you use other motivating exercises? Share them with us at The Author Lab. We’re always interested in learning how other writers write.