Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Beauty of a Deadline

There is something I don't like much about myself, but it is no less true for its annoying nature. I'm more effective when I HAVE TO BE. I think it's human nature, to buck up and come through when we're under the gun, and sadly, I'm not abnormal on this one.

As a college student, I didn't let myself get too behind, I didn't procrastinate, because frankly, I don't read fast enough to do it all last minute. At the time I erred under the misconception that meant I wasn't like all those procrastinators... in reality, I just had a decent read on all that HAD to be done and how much time I needed to do it.

But by my work years, I quickly learned that PACE will adjust to meet demand. It was true in advertising, in waitressing, and it is true in research... if there is a deadline, I can impress people with the speed at which I analyze and write. Absent a deadline, the same project can lead me on so many tangents that it seems NOTHING gets done. [this is one of the reasons I believe so firmly in writing fast, actually]

So somewhere along the line, I started giving myself faux deadlines. And you know what? Even though I KNOW these are only self-instilled, they still work. (or at least work a lot better than NOT having them).

I've tried since the very first time it looked like I really might finish a long writing project to instill these for myself in this domain, too... early on it was two chapters a month, then one a week... then I had my first WriMo experience... and I started looking at the writing world for these 'DEADLINE opportunities'.

There is one COMING you know...


The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest

It happens yearly (this will be the fourth year), and it is a writing contest for any unpublished work (though I think they keep tweaking how they count self-published)... and a writer who had a work... say... WRITTEN... and needed some incentive to CLEAN THE DARNED THING UP... don't you SEE what a perfect opportunity this is?

And so I am madly editing something I haven't touched since I finished writing it (June 28, 2010 if the date on the file is right)... and what I've written is about 90% good stuff... but the ORDER is sort of a mess and there is a LOT missing (at least that is my assessment from the halfway point because you see, not only do I need to EDIT it... I am having to TYPE about a third of it... so it's still a little slow... BUT I WILL GET THERE!!!)... but I have my work cut out for me.

But see, the UPSIDE of this I HAVE TO! If I DON'T I will be HUMILIATED! No truly diagnosed FOMS carrier is allowed to skip such an event so it HAS TO BE READY!


So in the spirit of being the bad influence I aim to be... I want each of you to look at your 'to be edited' pile. Is there something winking at you? A nice DOCUMENT saying 'look at sexy me!' Come on, you know there is... you've GOT TO PLAY!!!

If anyone DECIDES TO and is on Facebook, there is a smallish group (mostly veterans thus far) you can join for discussions, pitch polish, get questions answered... support... It's a nice bunch thus far and I don't have any reason to think that will change.

And if you want to sign up for ABNA itself, just go HERE.


Other Deadlines?

Well... this is one of the reasons I love WriMos... and now I have REAL deadlines...

As for that real deadline... My next is September 30... but I have given myself the FOLLOWING leading up to it:

March 31: 1st draft done
April and May will be devoted to first basic, then my own first rewrite.
June will be peer review
July will be the FEEDBACK rewrite
August will be agent month
September will be revise and polish

See that... half a dozen steps... if any gets behind I know I need to speed another... It is not a bad strategy, I think...

25 comments:

Jessica Bell said...

Good luck keeping to your deadlines! My self-instilled dealines DO NOT WORK. they need to be someone else's otherwise they just don't seem important. I was planning to submit my 2nd novel to Amazon Breakthrough, but now I have to get my first novel in top top shape for Lucky Press and don't have the time! Oh well, you win some you lose some! ;o) Hope you had an awesome New Year! :o)

Tea said...

Great article, if I had any words lying around, I would take your advice. As a matter of fact, I'm going to look for junk writing. Then, I could fix it up.

Cruella Collett said...

I agree with Jessica - my own deadlines are bogus. Since I always seem to meet external deadlines, however, I probably should make you my writing boss...

Good luck with meeting your deadlines and with ABNA. You're awesome, you know that? Truly inspirational :)

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I like the way you've broken your own deadlines down to make the editor's. I need to do the same thing! My next one is June...time to get crackin'.

Hart Johnson said...

Jessica and Cruella-you just aren't bossy enough with yourselves! teehee

And Jessica-yeah... that REAL deadline would be what would keep me out, too--I have a couple ABNA friends who got contracts this year in the same boat, sadly... (well happily for them and their contracts but I'll miss them)

Tea-WELCOME! Thank you for stopping in and good luck finding a work!

Cruella--Consider me HIRED!!!

Elizabeth--I have to do the mini-deadlines--my quality pace at this point needs it (each round is a big improvement) so I couldn't fly in late...

Old Kitty said...

Awww it's a great strategy!!! Go for it!! And good luck withe ABNA too!! I always look at competitions and try to enter or at least try to meet the deadline even if I don't enter - just finishing on time is a great achievement for a lazy panster like me!!!! So yay for deadlines - you're so right - it gets the adrenalin going and if anything else - you get to be really disciplined with your writing. For me that's another achievement!!

Take care
x

Barbara said...

I THINK I'm joining you on this deadline, but I need about another week of work to decide how close I am/can be. But thanks for the incentive!!
B
The Middle Ages

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

i'm jealous of you. Most of my self imposed deadlines fall away because i always remember in the back of my head that they're not "real" deadlines

Dawn said...

Wow! I am so impressed. As a former journalist, I totally understand the need for deadlines, and often, I was writing articles under the wire. But since leaving that profession, and choosing a career with looser deadlines, I've lost the structure. self-imposed deadlines don't work, but I can bust out an impressive amount of pages when I need to. I just have to figure out how to create pseudo deadline fear!

Cold As Heaven said...

I'm a typical deadline worker too. I get up to speed first when I feel the real pressure. Right now I'm preparing a course I'm gonna teach this semester, starting next week. I should have started preparing looooong time ago, but I started today. Probably it means I will have less time for blogging and writing in the next months >:)

Cold As Heaven

ciaraknight said...

I HAVE to have a deadline. Work sooo much better knowing I have to keep the pace. If not, my mind will go off in other directions. Good luck with your ABNA. I entered a couple years ago and made it to the second round. It was brutal. :)

Colene Murphy said...

Good luck!! It's awesome that you are so diligent!

I wish I could enforce my own deadlines. I'm good if someone else has set one but my own, I know I'm full of it I guess.

Meredith said...

I definitely need self-imposed deadlines! Otherwise, next to nothing will get done. Good luck with your revisions and goals!

Holly Ruggiero said...

That's a great idea. I've given myself deadlines but I think I need to up the ante. Good luck to you!

Amanda said...

I'm all about deadlines, too...so much that I eschew New Year's "resolutions" and call them deadlines. Good luck on yours...I have a few coming up myself.

All best~

M.J. Nicholls said...

To quote Douglas Adams: "I love deadlines. I love the whizzing sound they make as they go by."

Hart Johnson said...

Jenny-other competitions are a GREAT way! There are contests all over the place in all different genres. Definitely a great way to go about it.

Barbara-I hope you end up joining! It's great fun!

Sarah-that's why I've picked up the external ones, though I really do OKAY (that isn't great, but okay) with the self-imposed.

Dawn-I hope you figure out the internal one, of find substitute external ones!

CaH-I hope you get all your course stuff set! I'm sure you will!

Ciara-it IS brutal... but I like the companionship in the trenches... Thank you!

Colene-I'll give you deadlines if you want! (I can do bossy!)

Meredith-EXACTLY!!!

Holly-so are you joining!? *crosses fingers*

Amanda-teehee--NICE! I need resolutions for the sustained stuff, but your route is GREAT for the writing stuff!

Hart Johnson said...

You snuck in there, Mark! HA! Yeah, I have seen that one and like it a lot... it is like watching my weight... just keeps getting easier to see...

Lisa said...

I hate to admit it, but I'm one of those people, too. If I know there's a deadline looming, I'm super productive. Otherwise, I'm scattered.

I hope you knock the judges dead with your Amazon submission.

Simon C. Larter said...

Blerg. Deadlines. I can't deny they're effective at motivating me, but...we hates them, precious! *grumble*

Okay...MAYbe I can try a few self-imposed ones in the new year. Good luck on yours, good lady!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think you enjoy pressure!

Helena said...

Other people/things setting a deadline for me always works better than my own. Trouble is, I'm NEVER satisfied with my work. I keep changing words, descriptions, anything.

Jan Morrison said...

I do the same thing - otherwise how would I get anything done. I make them up and then I tell them to people. "I have to get my revision done by Friday." No one asks me why. I'd answer 'because that's the deadline.' and I'd tilt my head a bit at them, as if to say 'stooopid' and they'd go away. But I won't have to because they never ask. Perhaps they don't care. Perhaps they know the whole thing is made-up and they feel really really sorry for me. Ah well.

kimberlyloomis said...

Good luck, Hart! Your schedule is dizzying, inspiring, and insane. Just my opinion, though. ;-) Mostly insane because my sleep deprived brain can't really comprehend doing all that right now. Love reading about your commitments to your craft and career pursuits.

Geof said...

To comment on your first topic, faux deadlines are good. I use them for co-workers who drag their feet and rush two hours before the "real" deadlines are. So my appreciation for them is genuinely there.