If you’re a writer, you know all about deadlines, pantsing and getting your story in under the wire. Here’s Handsome Hansel of Dance of Romance with his just (and I mean JUST) under the wire post on Writing When You’re Under the Gun. (bang)
It’s not easy being a writer. You have to make stuff up, make people up, and sit on your rump for just-enough-tipsy hours on end attempting to translate the scenes in your head to words on paper.
Some of us do it for pleasure. Some of us do it for pay. Some, even for egotistical reasons. While writing is writing, no matter the reason we do it, the process can be frustrating with its futility or it can be self-satisfying in its splendor. It’s not easy being a writer, yet we continue to subject ourselves to the process.
Almost inevitably there is a deadline to our writing. It could be because you are writing for a magazine and have a certain date to have your article submitted. It could be because there are too-numerous-to-mention writing contests with early-submission cutoffs and contest deadlines. If you have a book deal, you understand what it’s like having a publisher, editor, or agent breathing down your smart-phone neck, texting, emailing, and calling to ask when you’ll have the next X chapters in their hands. Let’s face it, it’s bad enough sometimes to try to get our character’s voices out of our heads, even worse to deal with those around us demanding we “hurry it up”.
So how do we wrestle with the demands our life-long passion bestows upon us? Tell the rest of the world to bugger off. There, I’m done.
Okay! Okay! Geesh! Stop with the slapping already! (Carrie says I have to write more. See what I’m talking about?!)
Where was I? Oh yeah, so how do we tame our writing so that it behaves and does what it’s told within the time-frame it’s given? Planning. Personally this was something I really, really, really (did I say ‘really’?) struggled with when I made the leap to writing full-time.
I’ve admitted to anyone who will listen that I’m a Pantser. I don’t plan and I’ve almost never plotted. I simply get a writing bug up my mental a$$ and my reason for writing is to see where I take myself. For me, I enjoy the journey; the unknown. I want to be as surprised by a twist at the end of one of my books as are my readers. There is a certain romanticism in my Pantser approach to writing.
That all changed when I was given my first deadline. (Full disclosure, I purposefully waited until I had less than 12 hours to turn this in before writing it. Just to see if I could. Sorry Carrie!) When I was given my first deadline, I didn’t really think anything of it. I typed the deadline into my calendar, watched as it synced up with my iPhone and iPad, and moved on to other things simply because all my electronic devices just confirmed I still had a month before my article was due.
I had always set my reminders for a week before my writing deadlines. There was no rhyme or reason for this; simply arbitrary. So when my reminder for my first deadline popped up, something inside me actually (perhaps arrogantly) believed I still had time. After-all, how hard is it to tap out 1,200 words? Well let me tell you…VERY hard when panic sets in. For reasons I’m not entirely clear of to this day, I procrastinated until the day before my article was due.
As writers, we second, third, and fourth guess ourselves over everything from plot, to dialogue, to punctuation. These insecurities and uncertainties are amplified to a decibel that shatters the thickest glass and makes the meanest dogs turn tail and run. For seasoned writers, this may seem a bit of an over-exaggeration but for those 24 hours before my deadline it wasn’t for me. I squeaked the article out, everyone claimed to be happy with it, and I swore I would NEVER do that again.
I’m still a pantser, but now I’m a pantser with a plan. I’ve discovered a few things that I have found help me and, whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, I hope they help you.
1. Write the first draft (chapter if it’s a book) within the first 24 hours.
Your motivation is high at this time and it’s usually when your attitude toward the project is at it’s freshest.
2. Revisit what you wrote within 48 hours.
While we’ve been lectured to “let it simmer”, I’ve found it to be very beneficial to do a solid read-through a day or two after, concentrating only on cleaning certain things up: grammar, punctuation, tense, etc.
3. Wait no longer than 10 days before your deadline before you knock out a second/third revision.
While there are certain exceptions here (you wouldn’t wait until 10 days before your book was due to hammer out a second draft) it’s important you commit to a date well before your deadline to begin the polishing process. Have people you trust read it and give you their thoughts. If you belong to a critique group, submit it to them well in advance and ask that their feedback get back to you in enough time to consider their suggestions well before your deadline.
4. Within 72 hours of when your writing is due, scour each and every line in an effort to make it the best it can be.
At this point, you can relax and read your work as your readers will. You can concentrate on whether it is fluid enough to make your point or if it needs further clarification. If you’re writing a book… does the plot flow? Are there inconsistencies between characters over the course of chapters?
Ask yourself, Did I enjoy what I wrote? Will my readers enjoy it? While we are our own worst critics, (well there was that one publisher that beat me hands down in the doubting-my-abilities department) it’s important to TRY and take a step back and read our writing as a first-timer.
5. And this one is fairly obvious… Keep a great calendar of when all of your writing is due.
What may not seem so obvious is to keep a calendar where each of the above dates are also due. In this day and age there is no excuse for not keeping a detailed calendar of deadlines. (Give us a moment while Carrie and I share a rather hysterical chuckle together.) Things move so fast in life sometimes that having your phone buzz in your pocket reminding you to revisit the article you prepped for publication a few weeks ago, takes all the excuses out of being an unprepared writer.
On a final note…stress does not a great writer make. In order to write at the height of our ability, we need to relax; let it flow. We are given deadlines because that’s how the other side of our writing world works. That doesn’t mean we can’t beat them at their own game.
Oh look! An e-mail from Carrie!
Subject: Where in the h*ll is…?!?!?!
Better hit ‘Send’ on this.
RU Writer’s…do you work best under pressure? Or do you finish up well ahead of your deadline?
Join us on Wednesday for Breaking the Seal with Amanda Usen
Bio: Like most of us, I’ve been around the block a time or two (or three) in the relationship world. I like to think of myself as having a pretty thick skin, however, that skin doesn’t surround the heart.
I’ve been in love; I’ve been in lust. I’ve been hurt and got up to do it all again, each time having learned more of myself as well as “wants” and “don’t wants” for my next relationship. Amazingly enough, I never gave up on that one true love wrapped in Romance. You can visit me here, at http://thedanceofromanceonline.com
- The Pressure of Writing with Handsome Hansel
- Passion Needs Compassion – Handsome Hansel Tells Us Why!
- Janet Evanovich Speaks
- The Prolific Pen
- Deadline Diva: the Pain and the Pleasure by Tessa Shapcott