Deadlines, Schmedlines…

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

Douglas Adams

There was a time when I considered deadlines to be a bit of a hindrance. Having to produce a piece of work by a certain time can be a great way of motivating yourself to actually get on with the damn thing, but equally, it can simply add to the pressure, making the task in hand even more daunting.

Some deadlines, admittedly, are necessary: short story completions, job applications, project proposals and the like won’t work without a cut-off date. Somebody, somewhere has to make a decision about these things to keep everyone else on track. Making your own deadlines, however, is another box of frogs altogether.Box of Frogs

I reckoned that if I worked on the novel every night and every weekend in between, I might actually be able to finish it in true 10,000-words-a-day Enid-Blyton style.When I finally settled down to finish the novel I’d started some years previously (The Devil’s Porridge Gang’), I gave myself a bit of a deadline. I say ‘bit’ of a deadline, as it wasn’t really a deadline at all. It consisted of a period of three weeks when one of those proverbial window of opportunity moments came my way – my childcare responsibilities were to be put on hold while my offspring was away in foreign lands with his mother.

Of course, it didn’t work quite like that. I’d already written 15,000 words (over the previous few years) and during those three glorious child-free weeks, I wrote another 30,000. It took me a few additional weeks to finish the thing and yet more weeks to knock it into shape, but that pretend sort of a deadline did the trick.

Since then I’ve avoided deadlines as much as possible, but when I started putting my ebooks on Smashwords etc it seemed to make sense to advertise forthcoming books as well (ie ones that weren’t finished yet) in order to drum up interest. This, in turn, created a need for deadlines. Hmm.

Many years ago, I was a regular theatregoer in Hull (East Yorkshire) where the (then) resident artistic director John Godber premiered all his plays. Godber’s writing schedule demanded that the theatre set a production date for his new play. They would then work out a time-scale for when it would be written – usually a mere three or four weeks before the first night. So I wondered if this sort of thing might work for me, too.

Anyway, I’m well on the to reaching the desired word count with Mortlake‘, so if the strategy works, maybe I’ll continue to impose time limits on my writing. If it doesn’t…well, Mr Fawkes may have his imitators…My deadline for the current novel is November 5th – a date I hope will not be too literal in its significance, since I have no desire to be burned at the stake for not hitting my target.

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