Yes, the last laugh is on you. Two weeks since my last column (thanks to Mark Brown for stepping into the fold last week) and I’m now back in the Oul Sod, with no pool to dip my feet in (the puddle in the car park doesn’t count) and feeling suitably sorry for myself. And not only am I faced with skies that aren’t blue, tomatoes that aren’t sun-ripened and dinner that isn’t barbecued, there’s the worse part of coming back from holidays – Real Life. The washing-up, queuing in the bank and, of course, deadlines.
For many writers – myself included– a deadline, especially an imminent one, can be a daunting prospect (I find myself lying in the corner in the foetal position all too often). But anyone writing professionally on an on-going basis, like a journalist, is used to having a deadline and, in fact, embraces it.
The novelist, on the other hand, especially a first-time novelist, might find a having a deadline a strange and alien experience. In the greater scheme of things, it’s a good thing – it means that someone on the professional side of novel-writing – an editor, publisher or agent – wants to see your writing. But in the short term, the day-to-day, writing to deadline is a whole new mind-set, one not-so-easy to slip into. Being used to writing at leisure, in our spare time, or to some arbitrary self-set-and- easily-adaptable schedule is quite different from having someone breathing down our necks, even if that breathing is of the friendly, encouraging and supportive variety.
Right here on writing.ie, author Zoe Miller illustrates with frightening clarity how having a deadline, namely a year to write a book, can be a terrifyingly small amount of time. She counts down where we might be in the writing process month-by-month, how far behind we’ll then find ourselves and the drastic measures we will need to take (hashtag-four-hours-sleep) to get that finished manuscript on the editor’s desk.
On his Great Writing Blog, Randall Cronk talks about how he deals with deadlines. He reminds us that writing is, in fact, non-linear and that output doesn’t necessarily translate to word-count, suggesting that the most important aspect of writing is having something interesting to say. He also proposes that by simply saying ‘Yes’ to a deadline, by confidently committing to it, is the first step to achieving it.
An effective way of managing our writing time and therefore meeting those deadlines is to establish a clear schedule for our writing. Novelist Ollin Morales gives us his no-frills method for establishing a writing schedule and he breaks it down into four basic elements. He suggests that, importantly, our writing has to happen organically – for example, we shouldn’t schedule to write in the pre-dawn hours if our brains are incapable of functioning at that time-of-day.
Over on MenWithPens.com, Kari Wolfe explains that having a writing schedule allows us to give writing the importance it deserves, the same importance in our lives as all the other things that are going on. She tells how, for years she avoided having a schedule, claiming it would limit her, somehow stifle her creativity. But she then found, by not having it, she achieved a fraction in her writing that she wanted to, mostly by being unstructured in her time and in her mind.
Many successful and famous writers over the years have been very open when it comes to sharing their writing process. On brainpickings.org, writers like Ray Bradbury, Susan Sontag and Jack Kerouac explain, some in great detail, how they gave us some of the best and most inspirational writing of the last century.
“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – Douglas Adams
A Year? That’s Nothing.
Zoe Miller on how those twelve months we’ve got to write our next novel will be gone in a flash.
“Then there are three months to go. You meet your editor for lunch and try to hide your panic.”
Deadlines – How to Meet Them.
Randall Cronk on how he deals with looming deadlines.
“Writing quality is subjective, but if you hand something in on time; that is something everyone understands.”
A Writing Schedule – The Essentials
Ollin Morales’ four elements of the effective schedule.
“Now that you have stated all of your concerns, you may forget them and begin developing your writing schedule.”
Kari Wolfe’s practical reasons for having a writing schedule and what might happen if you don’t.
“Every excuse imaginable went through my head. I set a schedule anyways.”
The Best And Brightest…And Their Schedules.
Even successful writers need a schedule to create their masterpieces.
“I had a ritual once of lighting a candle and writing by its light and blowing it out when I was done for the night.”
(c) Paul FitzSimons