Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Deadlines and Schedules

Last week, I posted my novel-writing game plan and said that it was missing an important element, one that I'm reluctant to face.

A timeline.

I know schedules are integral to thoughtful planning; otherwise, things are likely to be delayed indefinitely (which is what's been happening with my writing so far). I understand the value of due dates because I am a very deadline-motivated person — just look at how I write English papers: I procrastinate like crazy until the last possible moment, then write the entire thing in one night. Yeah, I don't think that's going to work out so well when it comes to writing a novel.

So maybe I just need to set my own schedule... but that comes with its own set of problems, too.

It's not that I'm schedule-adverse. I like them. I really do. I love the idea of being organized and staying on track and knowing what's coming up so I can mentally prepare myself. But I also like flexibility and spontaneity and having options. Sometimes this results in writing out a meticulous schedule only to blow it off on a whim, leaving me to wonder, later, how I managed to get so distracted.

I realize this does not bode well for my project.

I'm terrible at slow and steady, yet I know it's something I'll have to learn if I plan to write a novel. (I hate marathons too, but that might have more to do with the fact that I detest running.) Besides, the important thing is to keep going even if I fail, right?

I actually have no idea how long any of this is supposed to take — outlining, drafting, revising. I know it's different for everyone, perhaps even different for every project, so for this first one I'm giving myself a lot of leeway: a year and two weeks. That means I'd like to complete at least my first draft by July 1, 2012. That should be plenty of time to write 80k words or so, no?

I'm hoping to have a concrete outline by October/November, just in time to give NaNoWriMo another shot (last year I only managed a few thousand words, so my hopes aren't high). Then, depending on my progress, I'll set a (low and doable) weekly word count goal and go from there.

Fingers crossed that I'll finish on time, if not early! I must say I feel a bit at a loss when it comes to this aspect of planning, so if you have any thoughts or tips, I would love to hear them!

What do you think? Do you give yourself a deadline for your projects? Or is there one decided for you? Do you have word count goals or scheduled time to write, and how did you decide how much they should be? And how do you push yourself to meet your goals?


  1. I always give myself deadlines. I think you're right in saying that if you don't have a deadline the project can be delayed indefinitely.
    I usually set aside two hours each night to write and my goal is to write approx. 2,000 words at each sitting.
    As for motivation, I think the project should motivate the writer. It should be exciting and the writer should be looking forward to working on it each night. Although there will always be days and even weeks when life gets in the way.

  2. I definitely think NaNo helped me to pound out the words on schedule (in 6 years I only failed once, and that was because I REALLY didn't want to be doing NaNo that year, but I was ML and had no choice). The whole writing a first draft part is my favorite, so I can usually get that done in a timely manner, deadline or no. But editing? Gods. I have to get my critters to threaten me with beatings and all manner of horrible things to get stuff edited on time. I'm the queen of excuses when it comes to editing (and chores, and to me editing is a chore).

    I have found that posting my goals online works pretty well, because then you've got the whole internet to laugh at you if you fail. Fear works :)

  3. Thanks for sharing your time/word count goals! And for your great tips. I
    think I'm excited about the ideas in my head but will probably need to be
    more disciplined about execution. I'm in awe of people who can set daily
    goals and meet them. :)

  4. Haha it's so interesting how different people gravitate toward different
    aspects of writing. :) Congrats on all your NaNo successes! I'm not sure if
    I dislike drafting in general or just don't like not knowing what comes
    next. So maybe having a detailed outline will help.

    I really am hoping that posting my goals online will motivate me more, but
    I'm afraid people on the internet are too kind and encouraging! :P If you
    want to help me succeed, please promise to bash and mock me when I fail my
    goals. ;)

  5. I'm very goal-oriented as well so I thrive off of deadlines.  Like you, my deadlines always revolve around NaNoWriMo because participation is not an option for me.  ;)  So I figure out how much I can feasibly complete by October (so I have enough time to plan) and shoot for that.  My suggestion is to break it up into small chunks so you feel a sense of accomplishment many times throughout the process instead of just once when you finish.

  6. I can't really say that I always arrange my deadlines around NaNo since I've
    only done it once and failed miserably ;P but I'm going to try it this time
    and see how it goes. I'm glad that you think it's a good plan! Thanks for
    the tip about breaking it into smaller steps. I am a total believer in
    creating a sense of accomplishment for yourself. :)

  7. Girl, even if you only get a few thousand words in NaNoWriMo, at leat you started! :D I don't think you should compare yourself to others, seriously. Deadlines work for some people and don't for others. Don't worry about it. :)

  8. I think the problem is that I'm not sure if it works for me or not! So I
    guess I'm giving it a shot to find out. Or, well, seeing if I get better
    results with an outline, haha.

    Thanks for the encouragement. :)

  9. I usually don't give myself a deadline unless I'm really having a hard time writing. Which I am. Right now. :) My deadlines usually give me the push I need to get it finished. And so far, it works! :) Good luck!!

  10. Deb the Closet MonsterJune 16, 2011 at 5:00 AM

    I used to give myself project deadlines, and I still do for non-project (WIP) writing. Where WsIP are concerned, I like to set monthly goals as opposed to daily/weekly ones; if I get too caught up on what I'm supposed to be accomplishing any given day, I get a lot more stressed out . . . and a lot less apt to produce anything! I've been shooting for 10,000 words a month the last few months, but this month has been so stressful on other fronts I've stepped back and called it a hiatus month. I'm still not sure whether I'll go back to my WIP, or return to revising TMD's sequel (seeing as I'm starting to get questions when it'll be released). 

    One of the good things about plans is that they're not set in stone. The more information you have, the better you're able to tweak them to suit reality. All told, I think it's easier making minor revisions to a game plan than recreating it every day/week/month!

  11. Thanks! And good luck with your own writing as well. :)

  12. Ooh, good point. My productivity gets totally shot when I get stressed and
    feel like I'm failing everything, so that's a great reminder. Hope things
    get back on track for you after this month! I'm sure whatever you decide to
    write will be amazing. Which reminds me, I still need to check out The
    Monster's Daughter. :)

  13. If you need any help when November rolls around, feel free to hunt me down.  ;)