The Deadline Experiment: the end

About six weeks ago, I decided to give myself a self imposed deadline to finish the current draft of Never.

I finished the draft, at just a smidge over 100k, last week.  I wrote at least five days a week (with a few days where I wrote six days) and averaged 2k a day.  There were a couple of 3k days in there as well, and a handful of 1.5k days (mostly following 3k days).

You will notice that I’m blogging about this about a week after I finished the draft.  I proved that I can work to a deadline, but I also proved that in doing so, I burn myself out.  It’s not bad burnout – I’ve been noodling about with a short story over the last few days, but it’s burnout nonetheless.

You will also likely have noticed a serious lack of blogging here, though I have been doing some blogging privately elsewhere.  I have been reading some, but I’ve fallen behind on slush reading and review reading.

It’s nice to know that I can work relatively fast.  I suspect I could push my word counts much higher if I wanted to, and arranged someone to watch the kidlet all day, instead of the few hours I currently have an arrangement for.

I’m not certain if I’d actually want to keep up such a pace on a day to day basis.  And it kind of feels ridiculous to be stating that 2k feels like a lot.  Once upon a time, that would have been nothing.  But once upon a time, I didn’t also have a kid in my life 😉

I’m going to drop back to what feels like a relatively useful pace for me, which is 1k a day while working on a first draft.  That way, I can hopefully tackle my pile of reviews, as well as catch up on slush and Aurealis reading.  And actually get some fun reading in there as well.

For now, Never is off with a few beta readers, and will be resting for a while – I’m not sure how long, it will depend on how long my betas take, really.  And how long it takes me to feel that I can actually step away enough from the manuscript to be critical.  I’m working on a few short stories in the meantime, and will also be outlining The White Raven anew.

The Deadline Experiment: A Progress Report

I’m in the midst of what I am now calling the Deadline Experiment – wherein I gave myself a deadline to get this draft of Never finished.

I set myself a goal of 10k words a week, which gave me six weeks from the beginning of the experiment to reach the anticipated end of this draft.  Right now, I am a few weeks out from my deadline, and I thought I would take a few minutes to blog about how it’s been going.

First of all, I’m not certain if I’m going to make the deadline, because I don’t really know how long this draft is going to be.  I have just hit 90k on the manuscript, and I’d ideally like it to be no longer than 110k.  We’ll see what happens.  The problem here is that I’m rewriting the entire last third of the book, and it is difficult to know how long it’s actually going to be.

However!  I have been meeting my goal of 10k words per week.  And I know that there are several experiments making their way around the net where people write 10k a day successfully.  This is a starting point for me, coming back from several years of little and slow writing, and I hope to be able to train myself to write more in the future.

The things that have been helping me write 10k a week:

Outlining

Yes, it was a dirty word for me for a long time.  I always loved the feeling of just exploring a story, digging down below the page to see what I find there.  And maybe, one day I’ll be able to return to that, when I’ve levelled up as a writer more and have internalised a lot of the outlining and story structure stuff.  For now, though, the outline is key.  I know where I’m going every day when I sit down.

Turning off the internet

I’ve been kind of failing at this a little.  I downloaded Freedom, which worked a treat, but I’ve also realised that I love talking to one of my writer friends while we’re both working.   And I love using Spotify.   I will probably spend some time investigating ways to turn off just the damn browser while I’m working.  Or, yanno, just turn off the damn browser.

Not neglecting my health

Most of you should know by now that I live with a couple of chronic illnesses, which means that I don’t get the luxury of abusing my health too much.  But I think this is just as important for anyone who doesn’t suffer from any illnesses.  I eat well, I make sure I get my sleep, I get fresh air every day and I exercise six days a week.  These things cannot and will not change.  There’s no point pushing myself to a point where I collapse for a month or two after finishing a draft.

I still have fun

I’m still reading (though at a slightly slower pace), I’ve been playing Guild Wars 2 some evenings, I’ve been watching TV.  This is good, because I know if I ever have to face a really tight deadline, these things can be temporarily pushed aside for more time.

Some things do get neglected

But not my kid 🙂  And I have to add here that the only reason I get writing done at all is because I have help looking after him for a handful of hours each days.  That, and he still naps for 1-2 hours during the day.

I consider myself as working two jobs: as a writer and as the person who runs the household while my husband works full time.  This means (to me) that the house needs to be at least passably clean, we have enough food and necessities in the house, errands are run, the kidlet is looked after and we have dinner on the table every night.  These things are not neglected.

You will notice the passably clean part up there.  I don’t keep up with the garden the way I should (though nor is it totally overgrown with weeds), and there does tend to be some clutter around, especially in my working spaces.  I’m dealing with this by making a list of the things I want/need to do after I finish this draft, and I’ll deal with them in a big spring clean afterwards.

You will also notice a lack of blogging in general.  At this point, there’s not much to say apart from “Oh, hey, I made word count today.”, and so I don’t bother overmuch.  I’m sure I’ll get back into the swing of it all once the draft is done.

Refilling the well

This is key for me.  I need to find the things that refill my creative well and keep on doing them while I’m writing.  One of the major things, for me, is reading well-crafted fiction, as well as reading non-fiction that inspires me.  I also take some time every day to read some humour websites, just to give my brain a break.

Planning time off

I actually know what I’m going to be working on after this – tacking the outline of The White Raven, which I intend on taking apart piece by piece and seeing if I can make it into something better.  I did have a couple of short story anthologies I wanted to submit to, but I think I’m going to miss those deadlines.  However, I do have a story half-written for one of them, so I might also work on that for a while.

I do plan on taking at least a week or two away from writing after finishing this draft, just to give my brain a rest.  At that time, I hope to enlist a few beta readers to have a look at the whole manuscript before I look at it again (which won’t be for a month or two, maybe longer), and I will be tackling things like that spring cleaning.

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So, overall, this is going well.  I really want to get myself used to writing to deadlines, because in the real world, you kind of can’t avoid them.  And I’d like to experiment with writing faster next time, especially when writing a first draft, and in being more productive in general.  It’ll happen.