Writing Wednesday: Setting Goals and Deadlines

I’ve found that having a deadline keeps me writing. For some authors, a deadline is a surefire way to make sure no writing happens, ever. Something about that date looming in the future will reveal exactly which sort of author you are.

Working on deadlines, or needing them like I do, isn’t good or bad. It’s just how I work best. But what’s the difference? Each method gets the story written, right?


The way my brain works, though, if I say “I need to write x words today,” I’ll stare at the page and lose myself in the number. It’s ridiculous, because I can drop 5k words without trying, until I tell myself I need to write that many. It was a problem with writing for classes in college, and it’s still a stumbling block for me.

For another author I know, setting that goal is how he assures productivity. He decides he will write however many words, sits down, and writes the words. Tell him he has to do it by end of the business day on Friday and he locks up like a max security prison. None of the words have a chance to escape.

Well, how do you know which works, especially if you’re just starting to write?

The only way is to experiment with each. Set yourself a deadline. “Chapter 5 will be completed by the end of the day next Saturday.” And see what happens. Does that deadline leave you crippled, or does it add to the fire?

The same with goals. Sit down and decide “I will write for two hours,” (also called a sprint). Or, “I will write this many words today.”

There are, of course, many ways each can be used. I have successfully used some goals. “I will edit until 9:00 P.M. today” or “I will write for the next two hours before I go visit my kids.” In that sense, goals make use of whatever time I have available and I think my brain sees them as deadlines. (Because brains make sense, as we all know.)

For consistent progress, I need deadlines. It’s why I decided I’ll write the rest of my series over the next two years. That gives me six months to write each book. I can, if I put my mind to it, write a draft in about 10 weeks. I can do revisions in the following 4, and run it through beta while I work on the next book. Each step of the larger process has deadlines built into it.

It makes me chuckle because knowing my brain works this way also reinforces my choice to go into project management.

Again, neither method is better than the other. What’s most important is finding the way to inspire yourself, to keep the passion for your story alive, and to get yourself to The End.

I hope that my fellow authors, and those aspiring to become authors, will find out what method works to keep them moving on their stories. No one else can tell them the way you do, and we need good stories in the world!

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