Deadlines and Novel Writing

Atlanta, Ga: Undated photo of 'Gone With The Wind' author Margaret Mitchell (AJC Staff Photo/Kenneth Rogers)

Many writers say that if you are writing novels, you are foolish if you do not set deadlines for yourself. When writing novels, I personally find that deadlines are nervous making. They tend to put me on edge. And I definitely do not like to live on edge. Even so, there have been times when I have done my best work at midnight, or two in the morning, on projects that were due early that next day. This is a phenomenon that many writers are familiar with. However, the good writer knows that no matter how creative he can be at two in the morning when the deadline is hanging like a guillotine blade over his head, he still would do well to give his work a thorough edit, perhaps even several thorough edits, before he sends it in.
I prefer to set myself a goal: I will edit so many pages and/or write so many words, every single day. The job is not done till I have met that goal, and if the work takes much longer than I feel it should, perhaps it is time to take a break. It is a matter of treating my writing as a business, rather than simply a game. Although, games can be fun and can help hold your interest while you work, I prefer to take the time to make sure my work is the best I can make it be.

As a novelist, every word must be the best word I can find to get the meaning across. Rough drafts need to be built up and trimmed down, in order to tell the story. Sitting down to read the last several pages that I wrote the day before helps to maintain the continuity of the story. And while I am reading them, it is easy to go through those pages with a pen, making any appropriate changes, as well as taking notes on things I need to double check, or even do some research for the manuscript. In the series I am writing now, my characters travel through time, and I need to make certain that my historical descriptions are accurate.

Good writers set to work with either a story in mind, or some characters that they want to develop, and the direction they take with their story depends on how they feel about their story that day. Each time I sit down with my manuscript, I have new insights that I want to include in the manuscript.

Every writer has a point of view that is not quite like anyone else’. This point of view evolves over time, through life experience and much reading, and plenty of writing — every day. For the novel writer, goals are far more important than deadlines. Keep your stories moving, and write. Set your goals, and write.


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