Deadlines, Not Goals

Stacey Kite

Stacey Kite

Today, for the first time, I’m doing a follow-up post to give an update on my latest get through the *#*!%** first draft strategy. The reason I’ve never done a follow-up post before is that none of the other gazillion methods I’ve tried have really worked, and I don’t like reporting negative results any more than does your average pharmaceutical company. But in my last post, My Key to Progress—Mocking, I wrote about my latest strategy which, at nearly three months in, is (pause for dramatic effect as triumphant music swells) still working!

Every weekend, I email my brother—who has graciously agreed to act as my writing boss—the next 2000+ words of the manuscript. If he doesn’t get that email by Monday morning, he has free license to mock me without mercy. Despite having my old computer go transistors up and a plethora of other things, I haven’t missed a deadline yet, and my average words per week is approaching 2500.  (Each week the goal resets, so even if I send 2700 words one week, I still have to produce at least 2000 the next week.)

I’m at 29,147 net words, and starting chapter nine. Though some of that material is destined to get the axe—I tend to start scenes too early—I’m not worrying about it.

Once I send that email, that scene/chapter is done, and I move on to the next page instead of endlessly second guessing the ground already covered. Starting a new scene is always a struggle.  My brain keeps trying to re-hash the last scene, to perfect it. But now, when I come up with a better way to show something in a previous chapter, instead of circling back and re-working the old material, I add the insight as a comment in the margin then get back to beating my head against the brick wall that is the new scene. I still stutter and flail—which is painful—and most weeks, things don’t start really flowing until it’s crunch time.

Painful as it is to think, all this means that I need the stress of deadlines, not goals. I really should know that.  With painting, my most productive periods are the three months before a show, and the last two weeks are always insane. I’ve heard it said many times that treating writing like a job helps you focus and get the words down. That sounds great, but it usually means that you have to be your own boss, and it turns out that, though I’m a great worker bee, as a boss, I’m borderline incompetent.

But that’s OK—there’s a work around. I just had to get a boss.

Now I’ve got to go. Friday is just a few days away, and chapter nine is so not writing itself.

3 responses to “Deadlines, Not Goals

  1. This is what I have learned being the boss; your first draft is much better than I was lead to believe and vastly superior to what you think it is SO DON’T MESS WITH IT. I also want you to understand that your procrastination is definitely genetic, I produced my best work, days or hours before the deadline. “Give me months and I will give you nothing, give me hours and I will give you everything!”

    Yes! That is an original quote. All of you can say you were the first to read it. If some famous dead person said something similar, it is merely coincidence.

  2. Thanks! And no–I’m not messing with it because then I’d miss my deadline and get in trouble. I like the idea that the procrastination problem is genetic–lets me off the hook a little 🙂

  3. Love this idea and that it’s still working for you, Stacey. I need to find someone to be my boss.

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