Deadlines. The proverbial ticking bomb. The time-warp capable of devouring an entire six months in the blink of an eye.
Be careful what you wish for. During the years I spent wishing and hoping and working hard to join the golden ranks of the published, I never once stopped to consider the full ramifications of writing under contract. It isn’t all smiling faces and shiny covers. Oh, no no. So let’s consider some of the other badges of honor.
How about those dark saddle bags hanging under your eyes, the ones that frighten small children away and require all that extra makeup. Or the piles of dirty laundry moldering beside the hamper (because it’s full) that just aren’t going to get washed any time soon, but if you really need underwear, honey, you know as well as I do where the washing machine is. Then there are the guilt-generating looks from my hungry family as they wonder if I’ll ever cook another meal. Oh, and let’s not forget the rumors flying around the neighborhood that maybe I died or ran off somewhere… Yes, all of these things require some clever damage control, but first that book’s gotta get finished.
As I mentioned the other day, my greatest motivator when it comes to making my deadline is FEAR. Fear of breaking my contract. Fear of disappointing my editor. Fear of disappointing myself. None of which happens to be an option, not in my world. And no, asking for an extension is the very last thing I’d ever want to do — seems way too diva-ish to me.
So how do I get it done?
MOST IMPORTANT: Just say no! No going out to lunch, no volunteering, no gabbing on the phone — put your foot down and protect your writing time during those all important peak productive hours. Which leads to…
Identify your peak productive hours. Some people are morning people (yeah, well, not me) while others do their best thinking in the afternoon. Whatever time works for you, make sure that’s when your butt is in that chair and your hands firmly on the keyboard.
Portable writing tools. I love my laptop, but I love my Alpha Smart more. In fact, for the first time I’m writing nearly my entire first draft on it. With a readout too small to allow any kind of real editing, I can produce pages in a fraction of the time it takes me on the computer. The results need tons of editing later, but I’ve got something to work with rather than a blank monitor (and a looming deadline) staring me in the face.
Tune out the world. I have special headphones designed for this purpose. I don’t even have to have music playing — these puppies have a noise reduction function that muffles everything. Ah, silence! Actually, though, I do sometimes write to music, channeling the emotions I’m hearing into my characters.
Develop some good stress reducing strategies. Exercise works great for me, not only as a release but to get my brain moving — hey, it’s a muscle too. I also use quiet music and an aromatherapy eye mask I keep in the freezer for little “mini-vacations” during the day.
Reward yourself for every goal you meet. There is ALWAYS some form of chocolate in my house. Or for a special treat I’ll run out for a latte.
Let it go. Know when your manuscript is finished. In the quest for perfection there is always that temptation to keep tweaking. That’s a pitfall a lot of us fall into. If you find yourself changing contractions into full words and then back again, it’s time to let it go and hit that send button.
Start immediately on your next deadline, or you’ll find yourself sweating bullets all over again a few months hence.
Any other good tips out there for defusing that ticking bomb?