How a deadline can help you finish your novel… #amwriting #NaNoWriMo

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Welcome to my weekly ‘Diary of a hopeful author.’ This week it’s all about deadlines and how, if you’re writing a novel, they can help you get the job done.

When I was young I loved studying. Loved it. I was one of those spectacled, nerdy kids who lapped up the books and got down to some serious studying every evening and thought it fun. FUN.

That’s right. You heard correctly. Then exams came round. Exams. I’m afraid to say they never really fazed me. Heck, I sound like a right arrogant muppet, so let me explain. Exams got me nervous, of course. Exams made me question whether I knew anything. (30 years on, nothing’s changed there…) But, BUT, exams came with a deadline. A deadline! They gave you a date! You had to be there. On time! Oh it sang to my young time-concious heart like Romeo to Juliette, or Homer to Marg.

Because, you see, I love a deadline. What can you do with a deadline? You either meet it or you don’t. You sink or you swim. And that’s why I like ‘em. Deadlines are the take no prisoner guardians of time. They stand by the gates of hours and minutes, tapping their watch, shotgun in hand. You’ve got a deadline? You meet it, punk! (that sounded better in my head)

And so to my week. I have set myself a deadline. I refer here this time to the writing of my book, novel number three in the Project trilogy.

Now look, I don’t know about you but I can be a cracking procrastinator. Olympic medal winning. Skirting boards need cleaning? Pass me the cloth. Cupboards need re-organising? When do I start? Kids’ rooms need cleaning? Get me…Actually, no. It’s not come to that. Add this top draw procrastination into a book write and well, you’ve got nothing, really. No progress or, at the very least, slow progress. And so I have now turned back to my old friend the deadline. If I am going to complete the 1st (only the first!) draft of this novel, then I need to get down and dirty with time.

And so, in 2015, I have turned to National Novel Writing Month to help me. Set up some years ago, Nanowrimo, as its abbreviated to, is an online  community where, basically, people write their novels and post online their progress. And that includes me.

It’s a site used by everyone, see, and here’s for why: we all need a deadline to get our novels done. And boy does it work. Since I signed up on Monday, I’m back to averaging 2,500-3,000 words a day. Thank the Lord. I (foolishly) thought that once I was published, the words would fly out, but no – turns out, just like before, without the carrot of a deadline, I still need a push up the hill to get kick started. And so, saying it on this blog, on Nanowrimo you see, that I have committed to a deadline, to a word count, means I have to do it. I have to keep writing no matter how many distractions I find on Netflix and Twitter and Facebook, no matter how many demons I (still) have telling me I can’t do it (yes, that little devil never truly goes away, even after getting published.)

Bottom line is if you’ve not got a deadline, then go get one. Sign up to Nanowrimo and get cracking – it really does work. And then write. Write anything down, it doesn’t have to be perfect – that’s what editing is for, and you can’t edit a blank page. And oh boy, the feeling of achievement you’ll get, each day, when you’ve hit your word count!

So, let’s do this deadline thing together, people, because, when our backs are up against the wall, it’s the only way to get things done. Nerdy glasses optional.

Happy writing 🙂

**This blog piece incorporates a popular post I wrote on deadlines all the way back in 2012. I’ve updated now it to include Nanowrimo (and, um, Netflix…) I wanted to use it because, essentially, what it shows is that  wherever we are in time, a deadline will always be relevant, no matter what the year, no matter where we are with our writing careers… Hop on to Nanowrimo here**

Thanks for reading 🙂 Join in the writing conversation  below…

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