Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Deadline Dementia for The Unpublished Author

You thought Deadline Dementia was just for published novelists didn't you?

When your "published in novel-length fiction" writing buddies groaned and muttered incoherently about editors, revisions, lack of sleep and so forth, you were quietly thinking ....

Yeah, well, I'd kill for your deadline.

I'm here to tell you that Deadline Dementia can and should be yours.

Of course, Deadline Dementia assumes you have writing goals.

If you need help with effective goal setting find a methodology that speaks to you.

Check out :

ZenHabits on Really, Simple Goal Setting

"I believe in keeping your goals simple, and if you do that, goal-setting and goal-management doesn’t require software. In fact, you can do it with a single index card."

Steven Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

"Do not allow yourself to be intimidated by the process itself…it is gradual. Ask yourself the simple question—what is most important to you in life? Making a list of values that you want to live by is, in and of itself, a small “win.” ...acknowledging these small victories gives you confidence that you are on the right path and allows you to take a deeper look at what your goals and purposes are. As you move forward, you are encouraged to go, even more specifically, into action planning and setting deadline dates by which you want to accomplish those things."

Brian Tracy, Author of Eat That Frog

"21 great ways to stop procrastinating and get more done in less time. According to the old saying, if you eat a live frog first thing each morning you'll have the satisfaction of knowing it's probably the worst thing you'll do all day. Using "eat that frog" as a metaphor for tackling the day's most challenging and most prone to procrastination task, Eat That Frog shows readers how to zero in on these critical tasks and organize their time. This means not only getting more things done, but getting the right things done."

Once you have your goals set deadlines.

Time passes whether you finish a book or not.

"Consider this: If you write one page a day, you will produce a substantial novel in a year's time. The writer who turns out one book a year, year in and year out, is generally acknowledged to be quite prolific. And don't you figure you could produce one measly little page, even on a bad day? Even on a rotten day?"--Lawrence Block

Granted, today authors are expected to produce far more than one book a year. But if you aren't producing even one a year how are you going to write two...or three?

How fast can you write anyhow?

Entertain these real life (happened to me) scenarios:

  • you get a request for a full from a contest on a manuscript that consists of three chapters
  • your submitted full manuscript comes back with suggested revisions
  • you get a phone call from an editor who wants the rest of your manuscript (its done but its rough)
How do you determine how much time you need to get the manuscript ready to mail if you have never set your own Deadline Dementia?

If you don't set deadlines and track your writing pace how will you answer when your editor asks how long you need to turn your proposal in?

I'm a working writer. Not published in novel length fiction, but none-the-less I depend on my writing income to pay bills. So in addition to trying to break into the romance novel industry I sell my writing in other formats.

Often it is difficult to focus my time and energy on what can seem like an elusive dream (selling a book) when I can bring in a financial reward from short stories and blog posts.

What keeps me focused? Here 's are some ideas and thoughts that have inspired or encouraged me to create my own Deadline Dementia.

1. I love contests, because of the deadlines. For example: every year I must complete a new manuscript by the RWA Golden Heart deadline. I don't have to submit it but I have to have a first draft completed or nearly so.

2. Susan Mallery really inspires me. I highly recommend her workshop on writing productivity. It is based on figuring out many pages you write a day, and increasing by half a page every few weeks.

3. Years ago I heard Cindi Myers speak on how she plans her writing year based on how much income she needs. Cindy is another working writer who at that time was writing in many different formats. I recall her setting a writing goal for the new year (the dollar amount was what I currently make in my day job). She meets her goals by then strategizing what she needs to sell to bring home the bacon. Check out her web page where she has several excellent articles on setting writing goals.

4. I like to remember Nora Roberts thoughts on the writing muse:

“If you need to believe in the muse, let’s say, fine and dandy. Whatever works for you. But don’t tell me you can’t work today because the muse has left you. Go track down that fickle slut, drag her back, chain her to your keyboard, and GET TO WORK.”


"I don't believe in waiting for inspiration. It's my job to sit down and figure out what to write. I think if you wait for 'the muse' you may wait a very long time."

5. My Seeker friends can tell you about what I lovingly refer to as "jammy days". These are my own personal Deadline Dementia days. I like to plan several back-to-back, depending on my job schedule. The following are forbidden: showering, cooking, cleaning, leaving the house, watching TV, or talking on the phone.

I run all errands ahead of time and stock the cupboards with necessary provisions. This is not unlike a book-in-a-week scenario or the basics of NaNoWriMo.

So my fellow writers, it's official. Deadline Dementia is for everyone.

If you haven't, I challenge you to create your own Deadline Dementia and if you have share your insights here in Seekerville.


  1. I like the Nora Roberts comment!

    With a full-time job and two kids at home, I couldn't write without goals and a schedule.

  2. Hey Tina, awesome blog, as usual!! And like Walt, I LOVE the Nora quote on the writing muse too:

    "Go track down that fickle slut, drag her back, chain her to your keyboard, and GET TO WORK.”

    I do have a tendency to wait on that "slut," and I'm realizing (with book deadlines looming for the first time in my life), that I do need to learn to crack the whip and let that pushy broad know who's boss. And may the best broad win! :)

  3. LOL. I sadly work better under pressure.

  4. Great blog, Tina. Never really thought about deadlines being for the Unpubbed.....interesting.

    Scary, but interesting.

  5. But what if you're afraid to rush it, feeling like it won't be as good if I push to finish it? There are so many multi-pubbed authors out there whose books seem to fall flat. Either that, or they all sound the same--the heroes are all the same, the plots are similar, the dialogue sounds the same, etc. And isn't that because they're rushing to make their deadlines?

    Okay, sorry. Just playing devil's advocate here! Probably because I'm lazy and don't like the idea of deadlines!

  6. I like deadlines because I'm a procrastinator with writing. Even in school I loved to wait until the last minute to write an essay or report. For some reason the rush got me going. LOL
    Great, great post.
    I'm not published but you're right, there are deadlines, even if they're self-imposed.
    For example, I finished my first historical manuscript in six months because I saw that Love Inspired Historical was fixin' to launch and I wanted to try to sell to them.
    Of course, I didn't. LOL That manuscript needed a lot of work. But LIH's launch date inspired me to write.
    So I love deadlines and the high of dementia they bring.
    The Nora Robert's quote is awesome. No wonder she's great!

  7. Wonderful post!

    I am a big believer in deadlines, personal and professional. I love lists, and checking things off my list. I've even been known to write "Make list" on my daily list of things, just so I can check it off. (There's probably a medical diagnosis for this list-mania.)

    If you aim at nothing, you hit it every time. Even if you don't achieve all the goals you wrote on your list, you still will get some of them finished, and will know what to start on in the morning.

  8. Great post! I'm not published or anything, but I just recently started to set goals for myself in my writing. I'm working on a novel right now, and I usually try to write a certain amount of words every month. So far it's worked, and I've written more then I aimed for!
    Yay! =) I usually get more done with a to-do list.

  9. Tina, great post! I'm a list maker and love goals, but I need to learn to meet them faster.

    Writing is work. Period. Work isn't a dirty word. It brings satisfaction and some wonderful books. But I'm with Melanie. Not all writers can take on contracts every couple months and do their books justice. Each of us must find a balance between not enough and too much.

    If only the muse were the answer, but I don't believe in the muse. If my first draft comes from the muse, who needs her? LOL. And if something great comes off my fingertips, I'm not sharing the credit. ;-)


  10. Tina, great post--wonderful food for thought! Speaking of food, what kind of coffee goes best with frog? We need Ruthy here, because she'd know how to make it palatable. :)

    I also like your jammy day ritual. Sounds fun.


  11. Yes, well, Mel on the other side of the coin. If it takes you two years to write one book, then you're not going to be a producer and being out there is what marketing is all about. So somehow you have to learn to balance writing a great book with writing in a timely manner...IMHO

  12. Good for you, Melanie. The devil needs an advocate :)

    I actually think what Nora is saying is SHE doesn't believe in the muse either.

    I don't much, although sometimes I do what I think of as 'get into the zone' and really can almost let a story (or more likely a scene) flow out so fast it's almost beyond me where it came from.

    I have written one book that I just saw the whole thing, in this perfect arc, from the moment I opened the file. It was an amazing experience. I still love that book. It has never seen the light of day of course. LOL

    but maybe someday. Not a particularly earth shattering different voice or style but it was very alive while I was writing it. Ho hum....it sits on my computer awaiting someone who CARES. :)

  13. Ah Mary, oh to be a fly on the wall of your office.

  14. Sorry if I sounded negative. Goals are good. Making yourself write when you don't feel like it is good. It's all good. I'm just not very good at meeting my own deadlines, not lately, anyway. Although I have set them several times.

  15. You didn't sound negative Ms. Mel.

    Trust me this is a very challenging area for me.

    But since I cannot put down the pen I will continue to chase the elusive dream.

    I figure when I do sell all those under the bed manuscripts will come out from under the bed.

  16. I've been trying to set deadlines for the historical fiction novel I'm working on. However, I find myself getting behind because I have to stop so often to do more research. How do you balance doing research and writing? Any tips?

  17. Great reminder Tina, I used to be great at goals-rather fanatical actually, but I've been getting sloppy on that score. I like to blame it on old age, isn't that a great excuse for about anything? LOL Anyway thanks for the reminder.

    Someone mentioned needing a snack. That's always an excuse to get up from the computer. But I will sacrifice and go get us some yummy Triple Corn tortilla chips flavored with sea salt and chipotle. How about some fire-roasted chili salsa to spice things up? Okay, okay, some crunchy sugar peas, carrot sticks and miniature peppers for the health nuts.

  18. Your blog inspired me, Tina! I also (sadly) work better under pressure, although I hate pressure and avoid it at all costs. So I tend to be unproductive unless I push myself--which I'm going to do as of right now. Bye. I'm gonna write.

  19. Great post, Tina! and so true. My husband used to tell me to write myself deadlines on the calendar just like I would write contest deadlines. So those contests surely did help me.

    Erica, I'm sitting here cracking up at your list disorder. :)

    Arianna, good for you on your goals!

    Anne, I'm also laughing at your comment. I bet Ruthy can come up with something good that goes with frog. :)

    I love the idea of the frog book. I need that one! I'm a procrastinator (although not nearly as much with my writing as I am with the laundry or house work).


  20. Rah rah for you Cara.

    I know that every once in a while we need a little kick in the pants.

  21. Great post!

    I hate deadlines! But if I have one, I usually make it...

    Maybe that should tell me something.

  22. I love the Nora comments - LOL!

    I too have a full-time job but thankfully the kids are grown and gone. That said, I still have to focus and plan and work.

    Great post.

  23. I am giddy with excitement. I just found out they are moving to a new server at work. I have to work ten hours on Mon-Thurs and I have to be off on Friday.

    That means two jammy days coming up!!!! Yippeeeeee!!!

  24. Hey, Tina! Loved your post. Congrats on living by your writing. That's huge! My family would starve if we had to rely on my writing income! :)

    Loved your quotes. Go, Nora!!!

    I work much better under deadline, except I hate those last few late nights when I'm trying to get everything right. But producing is important. Usually we become stronger writers the more we write. That's a plus.

  25. Deadline dementia...I wonder if insurance covers that? LOL!

    Great post.
    Love the pics too.

  26. Jammy days! I love it!

    Setting long term goals makes me stop cold. But if I keep it to short ones, a few a month, I don't get stalled out.

    My husband says the same thing, Missy. Plan things out on the calendar so they stay in my face. LOL! Doesn't he know I can turn a page or toss something over it? Out of sight, out of mind??

    But you speak the truth, Tina. What are we going to do when our goal of publishing is achieved and we don't know how to write to a deadline?

    Good stuff, girl!

  27. Ha ha I don't live on my writing. But I depend on my writing to pay a portion of the bills.


  28. I am SOOOOOOOOOOOOO late to this party, but that's okay because it takes a bit of doing to come up with something that goes good with frog.

    Eating live frog is gross but I LOVE the analogy. Suck it up (not the frog, you goofs!), tackle the worst jobs and save the gravy ones for later as your reward.

    I use a mini-reward system to stay focused. Hey, whatever works, right?

    If I meet my short-term goals, I get something wonderful. Like a bath. A Snickers bar. A walk with the dogs. (I'm also a believer in the Simple Gifts club).

    If I meet a major goal, I reward myself with something meatier. Like a frappuccino or a shopping night with no work attached.

    Rewards don't have to cost a cent, but they keep me moving forward. When you surround yourself with a business that stalls regularly, self-motivation is huge. Like Tina, I work a day job and a part-time night job to 'feed' my habit. Ya' gotta do what ya' gotta do.

    Now, to go with frog, I went for Cajun sweet coffee, laced with whipped cream and amaretto, with a platter full of sugar-dusted beignets. My Louisiana research is paying off! Only in bayou-land can you find something that goes well with frog.


    I did cook the little beasts first, and then grilled the legs with fresh shrimp, Cajun-style. A little down home 'que for y'all.


  29. You folks and eating frogs. LOL.

    An analogy guys...don't really eat them.

  30. I'm even later to this party than Ruth! Which is good, because I get to try the bbq frog. Something I'd never have done as a kid. My French roots must be surfacing - LOL

    Tina, great post. I work best under the gun, too. Did all my HS reports the night B4 they were due. Recently, I've been picking and choosing contests and using them as deadlines.

    I wasn't going to enter GH this year. Now the deadline is looming and I'm feeling the tug! But I really have a lot of rewriting to finish if I'm going to enter, and the deadline is helping.

    Oh, and congrats on the upcoming jammy days!


  31. Great post...

    It's not the muse I have trouble with. It's "getting in the zone"

    Somebody keeps hijacking my zone time.


  32. But back to deadlines. I set deadlines for myself all the time.

    As soon as I finish the next round of final edits on my wip, I'm going to get back to brainstorming the next book.

    Since my day job leaves me a little more time to write in Spring and Summer, I'm thinking of need to writing not one, but two, rough drafts in the Spring, then editing them when I'm busier and my brain feels fried!

  33. Tina, I work better under pressure too.

    I'm not much of a poet, but I had to print some programs for a friend's wedding once ... on the DAY of the wedding.

    I didn't have anything to put on the back, so I wrote a poem and plopped it on there.

    I uploaded the poem to my (sadly neglected blog) Calico Trails

    Please let that link work! If it doesn't, you can go to http://calicotrails.blogspot.com/

  34. Loved your post! I now have an official name ("jammy day") for the days before deadlines. I think Deadline Dementia is a more certifiable disease than Writer's Block!
    Kristi Holl
    Writer's First Aid blog

  35. Thanks for stopping by gals.

    We should do a virtual jammy day!!!

  36. And Walt..thanks for stopping by too!!