Hey all! I know I haven't updated this in a million years, but I've really been thinking about starting it up again lately. Since I just got home and I'm going out for supper with my grandparents in less than an hour, I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to throw a post your way.
For a while now, I've thought about kind of changing this blog so that, instead of it being just me talking about my own material, it can be more helpful to other writers that may be struggling with the same issues as I do. So, while I'm still going to be posting updates on my progress with my series (more often, I promise!), I'm also going to make themed posts (like this one) about issues that a lot of writers may deal with and my tips on how to properly deal with them.
This post: Self-set deadlines.
If you're like me, YOU PROCRASTINATE. While writing is probably the thing I can honestly say I procrastinate the least on, it's still important to me to get stuff finished within a period of time I consider reasonable. I set myself deadlines for the completion of different writing projects for three big reasons:
- I want my stuff to get done, and if I have a date to have it finished by, I can kind of strive toward that. Having a deadline really motivates me to work on it.
- If I ever become a published author, I will almost certainly have to deal with deadlines. Might as well get used to them now.
- If there's a date that has a particular significance to the project in question, I will try to finish it on that date. This was the case for the first drafts of both novels in my series, completed on May 31, 2010 (Life in Black and White) and February 12, 2011 (It's All Inside My Head).
So far, I've had no problem whatsoever abiding by my deadlines. And then I started macrorevision.
For those of you who aren't extremely familiar with writing terminology, macrorevision is the first part of revision. It consists of re-reading the entire first draft of a book and pinpointing plotholes, inconsistencies in plot or character, and what you want to remain in the manuscript/what you need to take out. It's basically the process of changing your novel so that everything you want to be in there is in there, everything you don't need is taken out, and most importantly, everything is cohesive. This is an extremely long process - even longer, it seems, than I (and my June 30 second draft deadline) could foresee.
It's June 23, and at this point, I'm almost 100% certain that I won't be making the June 30 deadline for my second draft of Life in Black and White, which is unfortunate, because I have a reading team assembled to start reading it on July 2. Luckily for everyone, I do believe Part I will be ready as planned on the 30th, so at least my readers will have SOMETHING to read while I do my best on Part II.
It's discouraging, I won't lie. I usually know what's realistic and not realistic for me. I remember when I started working on It's All Inside My Head - about this time last year - and I was telling everyone, "I'm going to finish this in February." People were generally supportive, but I don't think anyone really believed I could write that book in eight months (especially considering it took me almost two years to write Life in Black and White). My mom in particular blatantly told me several times that she didn't think I was going to make it. But I did.
So what happened this time? Would I have worked harder if June 30 meant something to me?
I was at work the other day when the answer came to me, and it was so obvious.
I'm used to writing novels, but I'm NOT used to editing them.
It's true, this is my first time editing a long work of fiction. And let's be honest here for a second: the first draft of Life in Black and White (which I started writing when I was 17, mind) is a REAL piece of work... For me to have expected to jump head-first into the unknown and expect to come out four months later with a fixed-up draft was foolishly ambitious. My advice to other writers going through this is simple: Sometimes, we all have to accept defeat. We're not always going to win. There's no shame in not being able to make an unrealistic deadline. Life happens, you know?
Also, if you don't meet a deadline you were so sure about, it's okay to be a little depressed about it. I'm not going to tell you to "smile and keep your head up", because I've been there and it's no fun. But please, don't do what I did and let it keep you from your project for a week. Do what you have to do, listen to inspirational music, go for a walk, take a break for a couple days to think - but get right back at it! It's okay to fall down, but you have to get back up and keep going. :)
Keep in mind as well that self-set deadlines are great for some people, but they certainly aren't for everyone. Some writers find it too stressful, and that's no good. A writer on one of the websites I visit frequently said something very wise the other day: "What inspires writing is good. What inhibits it is not." If you find that a deadline inhibits creativity or makes you rush through a project in any way, it's NOT worth it! Deadlines can be motivational, but if they make you rush your art, drop them. I don't care if it takes me four more months to edit Part II, for instance, I'm not rushing through it. Forget the deadline.
First and foremost, every writer is different! If deadlines help you, great! If they don't, also great. You do what you have to do to keep that story moving. :)
Short update on my progress: Macrorevision of Life in Black and White - I have 6/10 chapters edited for the second draft of Part I; it should be done on June 30.
Part II - First readthrough completed and I know essentially what I want to keep, change and get rid of, but no big changes have been made yet.
Part III: Second draft edit almost complete.
It's All Inside My Head is on shelf until I'm done the second draft of its prequel. I've poked at it a couple of times though and I occasionally have some empty-nest syndrome if you will about it, which is usually when I'll go and reread some parts. :)