How Deadlines Can Help Your Writing

As a mom with a full-time job, I’ve always had to squeeze time out of my busy schedule for writing. I’ve been writing steadily for more than 15 years, but for the first few years it was hit and miss, a little writing here, a little writing there. No pressure or time constraints and no real goals, other than to finish the manuscript I was working on … at some point.

Lexi is excited to give away 3 free copies of her book to a random commenter. Comment within one week;
winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Paula, Sophia, and Jennifer N. won.)

      


Guest column by Lexi George, appellate lawyer by
day and a romance writer by night. Her debut,
Demon Hunting in Dixie, a paranormal romance
about a feisty small-town florist who meets an
ancient, inter-dimensional demon hunter in pursuit
of a rogue demon, comes out from Brava Books on
April 26, 2011. Visit Lexi’s website here.

 

In my 40s, with the ugly Five-O looming on the horizon like Godzilla with a bad case of hammer toe, I got serious about writing. If I was going to do this, I’d better get cracking, I told myself. I was going to finish the darn book and get published before my 50th birthday. Good grief, 50! Where did all the time go? If I didn’t do this thing by then, it was all over but the crying. Of course, I knew my odds of getting published were slim—my husband is a numbers guy—but I didn’t dwell on them. I had a goal.

With Doomsday looming ahead, most days I managed to carve out some writing time. I had a self-imposed deadline to meet, with dead being the operative word. 50, sheesh. D-Day crept closer and closer and Godzilla eschewed orthotics.

As writing became a more regular habit, I began to get anxious if I didn’t get my daily dose of prose. There were still plenty of times when life intruded upon my creative efforts, so I cut myself a little slack. I set a goal of writing a chapter a week, which for me averages anywhere from 2,500 to 3,700 words. That way, if I missed a day because of work or the kids, I could make it up the next day without feeling guilty or anxious.

Did I mention that guilt is a motivating factor for me? Guilt is my friend and my enemy. It keeps me on the straight and narrow, but it also makes me crazy as a junebug.

I finished the manuscript I was working on before Doomsday, but I didn’t get published. I have the pile of rejection letters to prove it. A quite impressive pile of rejection letters, I must say. Enough to wallpaper several bathrooms. 50 came and went and I kept writing. I decided to try my hand at something elsea romance about Addy, a small town Southern florist and a hunky immortal demon slayer named Brand. Lo and behold, thanks to luck, prayer and a lot of help from friends, Demon Hunting in Dixie sold to Kensington in a three-book deal! Holy smokes! Great jumping Jehoshaphat, I’m a published writer. Whoo hoo!

Then I got a reality check. I was given my first deadline, a deadline set by the publisher and not my inner nag. I had to complete a 30,000-word novella in three months. Having learned a little about time management and goal setting over the years, I gave myself a goal of 10,000 words a month, highly doable, given the fact I haven’t quit my day job or turned in my mom card. I am happy to say I met my first deadline. The novella, The Bride Wore Demon Dust, comes out this August as part of a Halloween anthology from Kensington titled So I Married A Demon Slayer. The icing on my cake of happiness is the fact that I’m in the anthology with paranormal romance writers extraordinaire Angie Fox and Kathy Love. Somebody pinch me!

Then my second reality check came: the deadline for book two of the demon hunter series. I’m hard at work on it, but I will admit it has been challenging. I am a slow writer (I revise as I go) and I haven’t given up my day job or put up my teenager for adoption. But I will get there! So, my advice is to set goals, whether they be daily, weekly, or month. Whatever it takes to get your butt in the chair.

When you set out to eat an elephant, take small bites. That’s my philosophy and it works for me. Oh, and by the way, I’m 54. Life didn’t end at 50 and neither did my passion for writing. Or my ability to dream and reach for that big, brass ring.

Hmm, wonder what I should shoot for next?

Lexi is excited to give away 3 free copies of her book to a random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Paula, Sophia, Jennifer N. won.)

Writing romance? Check out the
excellent resource, On Writing Romance

by Leigh Michaels.


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20 thoughts on “How Deadlines Can Help Your Writing

  1. leeannniazi

    I truly applaud you for your dedication and perseverance. I am 38 and a mother of two young girls (4 & 7) and am finding it extremely difficult to detach myself from all the “stay at home mom” things I think I should be doing. I’m almost finished my first middle-grade novel but am finding it such a slow process because I just don’t make the time. Any advice on breaking free of this would be invaluable. Thanks so much and congratulations on the most rewarding gift of being published.

  2. bapost

    Congratulations on meeting your goal and your dream of becoming published! I’m hoping for the same thing before I’m 50 (2 1/2 years! Yikes!). It’s very encouraging! And your book sounds wonderful! I hope you have a long, prosperous career!

  3. Lexi George

    A HUGE congrats on getting an agent, Jennifer! I’m sure the book deal is right around the corner. I have met some of the nicest folks at Murder in the Magic City in Birmingham. Mystery writers are a good bunch. I, too, dream of retiring to write full time. But, being a late bloomer (in more ways than one) with one kid in college and the other in high school, I don’t see that happening any time soon, unless the books really take off! (Fingers, toes, and eyes crossed on that one)

  4. Jennifer Nastu

    Love the inspirational post. Goals are what keep us engaged and excited about life — and reaching them keeps us coming back for more! I just got an agent for my mystery and my dream is a three-book deal like you. Great job! When do you think you’ll be able to quit your job and write full-time? That’s my ultimate goal…

  5. Lexi George

    Thanks, Sheila. I think it’s a snappy title and Kensington did a GREAT job with the cover! Love the paranormal purple and the gal in the red dress. My mother (who is 87) was very disturbed that her head is cut off. I told her (and I think I’m right!) that’s so the reader can imagine SHE is the heroine. The guy, you will notice, is fully formed. Best of luck with your writing and keep at it. It’s a long, tough haul, but worth it!

  6. Lexi George

    Sophia, I am a late bloomer all around. I had my first child at 33 and my second at 39. As for the age thing, you can sit around and let your butt sag into your shoes from gravity or you can get out there and live the dream! I think passion is what keeps us young, whatever that passion may be!

  7. Sheila Brodhead

    Love the title of your book!
    Thanks for the inspiration. I’m 55 (how did that happen is right!) and been writing seriously for 6 years. Still unpublished but having a great time with words. Best wishes for more success, however you choose to define it.

  8. Davy DeGreeff

    I gotta say, putting your teenager up for adoption would be a terrible way to open up free time — I would instead highly recommend making them take a 60 hour a week part-time job. Then you can also charge rent to subsidize your writing expenses.

  9. Paula Roe

    Hi Lexi! I’m sitting here reading your column and nodding along 🙂 I’m so with you on the deadline thing and guilt. I have a love/hate relationship with deadlines – I hate the pressure of a looming one, but boy do I love the fact that they make me write :g:

    Congratulations on your book and I’ll be looking forward to buying it!

    Paula x

  10. Lexi George

    Hi, Julie. Contests are a good motivational tool. I was a contest slut, there for a while. And they can be a good source of feedback. Good luck with your writing. Sounds like you’re well-acquainted with deadlines in your day job!

  11. Meg London

    Loved your post! My goal was also to be published by 50! I’m a couple of years off–my first book comes out next year and right now I’m 58. But I couldn’t be more thrilled, and I’m looking forward to eventually retiring from my day job (marketing/communications writer) to write fulltime. It will be ever so sweet for having taken a little longer.

  12. Julie Nilson

    I agree, Lexi! I’m a corporate writer for my day job, and looming deadlines are always the best motivator for me. This has made me realize recently that similar deadlines would help with my fiction writing. I’m always able to get stories written when it’s my turn to submit something to my critique group, but I need to set some interim deadlines as well. So I’m going to choose a few contests with deadlines this summer and start submitting! Thanks for the reminder.

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