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. Guest column by Lexi George, appellate lawyer by day and a romance writer by night. Her debut, Demon Hunting in Dixie.
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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.)

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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 else—a 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.)

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