Whiteboard lists

Just How Dead?

So, if I miss a deadline, is my project dead? Or me? Or…

(Mirror-posted over at Amazing Stories Magazine)

Whiteboard lists
The author in front of her list of projects in process… never done!

Reading, writing, researching… I am hard at work on the novel in progress, and looking at my deadline for completion coming up far too quickly. Writing is a tertiary career, at the moment, behind my business, and school. Not to mention a little family time now and again. Personal time? Well, that is when I get sick, right?

Chasing a deadline like this, as an independent publisher, might seem at first glance to be foolish, or unnecessary. I could push it out further, easily. I don’t have a team of people breathing down my neck to get the manuscript turned in on time, with monetary penalties should I miss that deadline. But the reality, if I look at my own life and the demands on my time, and even more, on my mental capacity, mean that if I want this book to come out in a timely fashion, I must finish it by the end of the month.

Once school starts back up at the end of January, I won’t be able to take a couple of hours a day and devote them to writing. I have a heavy class load, as always, and there’s work. I have learned that my creative brain shuts down under the strain, so I can’t even count on writing when I do find time to sit at the keyboard. Oddly, I usually have no trouble producing non-fiction, like blog posts and papers.

Pixie Noir is selling very well, which brings a whole new demand into my life. I have fans now, readers who are wanting the next book in the series. I can’t and won’t let my readers dictate to me, but I know that unless a sequel appears in a timely fashion, those sales numbers will slow, dip, and fall away entirely. Which is why I set my goal of writing a novel over Winter Break in the first place. I have 14 days, and 30,000 words to go. I can do this.

I’m writing some days not at all, and other days almost 5,000 words a day, but most days I’m hitting my word-count goal of 2300 words a day. The holidays slowed me down a little, but not too badly as I wound up not travelling this year. I’d discovered before, when writing to a deadline, that mentally it works for me. I set my daily goals, have my loose outline, and go to it. This book hasn’t been as easy as the first one was.

I find that I write action much more easily than I do introversion, and Trickster Noir is very much a bridge book, with adjustments to new lives and soul-searching. So it’s slow going for me, the author. I find myself wanting to pull Raymond Chandler’s advice for boring scenes, and have a man with a gun walk through the door. But some of the inner work is necessary, for my characters to grow, and that’s important to me, as an author, to create a world, and the lives in it, as real and fully-developed as possible. Even if it means missing my own deadline and pushing the release date back.

I can, after all, I’m my own boss. Which is the horrible and grand thing about how I have chosen to walk the road to publication. I can push myself much harder than someone else could. Fortunately, I have a partner who is good about reminding me to stop, eat, take a break…

What do you, as a writer, do with your goals? Do you set deadlines, or just let the story come out at it’s own pace?