I’ve really been struggling with finishing the chapter of my current story and finding all kinds of bullshit excuses to work on other things, or alloting time to myself to work on it where I know I will be too tired to actually get much real writing done (or worse, jerking off and leaving myself unable to write good kinky stuff).
But lo and behold; I assured a commenter in the previous chapter that I’d have the next one out by Christmas and like magic the story is coming along. It’s now finally getting there. I’m hoping that it will indeed be done by Christmas but even if not, just having that deadline which was based on nothing more than a comment in the story thread, I’ve gotten more done in a few days as the deadline approaches than I had in the prior whole month.
And this shouldn’t be any shock to me at all, because I know full well how necessary deadline pressure is for any work product (even an unpaid, highly casual product like my writing).
So to my fellow writers, do you set deadlines for yourself to help manage procrastination? I realize that commissioned writers don’t need to do this, but for the rest of, is this a thing you do? And do you find that it works?
I have a block of time carved out in the morning which is my “writing time” — it’s two hours long. After that, I go to the gym. For me, having dedicated time to write is enough.
Back when I was writing theatre, deadlines, constant and horrible. I hated it! Staying up all night long because a song was “due” in the morning? The pressure?
Now, did that pressure produce diamonds? No, but I did get shit done. (Sometimes that was the quality…)
I intended to have PHOLUS 2 out by the holidays (based on how long it took me to produce the first book), but this story is twice as long, so it’ll come out when I’m done.
I’ve had some success writing to deadlines but it often stresses me the hell out while it’s happening. It’s rewarding time for me and I enjoy it though - especially when you hit that groove just right and can churn out 5,000 words and could have gone fkr more if circumstances permitted. My therapist says I need to start carving some “me time” into my schedule and defending it and I suspect that “me time” will mostly be writing time - or the occasional nap.
I try to deliver a minimum number of stories every month. Yes, I make some money off my writing, but that doesn’t make it easier than the years I did it for free.
I don’t use deadlines, but I do use a process. Here’s my current process:
I keep a document of ideas. Makes it easier to pitch an idea in there when I have it without worrying I’ll lose it if I don’t write it immediately.
When I’m ready to start the next story, I write a quick plot summary off the top of my head. Sometimes it’s a paragraph, sometimes it ends up being a couple thousand words.
I break it down and expand it in a spreadsheet to help with the story structure. I have a row for each of the plot beats in Vogler’s version of the Hero’s Journey, and columns for ‘summary’, ‘target word count’ and ‘actual word count’. At this stage I just fill in summaries for each beat. If there are multiple beats under a hero’s journey beat (for example, multiple tests and helpers are common) I add a new row for each of them.
I go down the spreadsheet and add in target word counts, based on my feel for the minimum it’ll take me to tell each beat. This is guesswork, but it gives me a feel for the shape of the story. If I need to spend waaaay too much time in exposition, time to either rework it or abandon it.
I open up a text editor and start writing, one section at a time. I take the summary from the spreadsheet, paste it in, so a little math to figure out what the word count will be if I hit my target, and type that into the doc too. Then I write until I’m done the section, delete that summary from the doc, and decide if I’m feeling the next section or if it’s a great time to go vacuum the cat. I fill in actual word counts as I go and colour each row of the spreadsheet green as I finish.
Once the whole story is done, I proofread, editing as I go to tighten it.
That breaks it down for me into manageable pieces that I can take on one at a time. I usually find it takes a day or two for me to plot a story. Once that’s done, I might get 4-5k words done a day if it’s flowing.
When it’s not flowing, I ask why. Am I forcing the character down a path they wouldn’t choose? Does the plot feel like it’s just too many people monologuing? I prefer to solve the issue, rather than trying to force through a block. I don’t treat the plot spreadsheet as sacred — if I’m inspired in another direction, I might finish that inspiration and then pause to rework the rest of the plot.
Thank you for sharing this, it’s fascinating to see what a truly professional approach looks like.
It’s a structured approach, no idea if it’s professional
Edit: Absman has done far more paid creative work than me - if anyone’s a pro, it’s him.
My written work on deadline was almost all for theatre, which I feel is a different thing.
The only deadline pressure I’ve felt writing prose (erotic at that) was from fans who want the next chapter RIGHT NOW!!!
But I will say that while writing PHOLUS 2, I had several ideas for other stories. Rather than break my pace, I kept a document similar to Derek’s, containing plot summaries and images.
I simply don’t accept Commissions that have deadlines.
I would be hopeless at delivering.