Two years ago, I tried a digital minimalism experiment to simplify my life. I'm surprised at how much worked, and I'm not surprised what habits continue to grip me.
You’re crushing your goals, on track to meeting your deadline when disaster strikes. A week later all you can think is well, that didn’t go as planned.
I lived this last week. On Sunday, I woke up with a killer migraine, and I didn’t feel better until Friday. A five-day migraine might be a record for me (and not one I particularly wanted!). Anyway, I had to throw my goals for the week out the window. I do not like missing my goals. I really don’t like missing them AND being sick.
It wasn’t catastrophic for me. I try very hard to work ahead, and I always build a cushion into my deadlines. Migraines can hit me out of the blue so, in order to meet my deadlines, I have to be smart. I cannot wait to the last minute to finish a book, especially since that last minute might be spent on the couch with a cold cloth over my eyes.
Meeting deadlines is easier if we plan for the unexpected.
What do I mean by unexpected?
A vacation is expected. A surprise visit from your parents isn’t. You can and should plan for a scheduled vacation. A surprise visit? You can’t really plan for that.
A surgery is expected. A week of bronchitis isn’t.
There are many surprises that will derail your writing. That’s why I build in extra time to compensate for any illness, surprise visit, whatever. If the unexpected hits, I’m already stressed out. I don’t need to be worried about my deadline, too!
Setting Deadlines/Meeting Deadlines
Many writers don’t have a realistic idea of how long it takes them to write and revise a book. I get it. It’s difficult to know unless you track it. Our life circumstances change on a continual basis, and we aren’t always great about adjusting our writing schedule with it.
If you don’t currently keep a log of your writing progress, consider starting one. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just write the date, the amount of time you wrote/revised, and the words or pages (or both) you wrote or revised. I keep these logs separate. One for writing, one for revising. Keep the log on one sheet of paper, on a note in your phone or in a file on your computer for later reference.
When you track your writing progress, you can easily add up the amount of days and hours it took you to finish. This can help you determine a realistic deadline for a contracted book. While I always encourage writers to push themselves to work consistently and challenge themselves, I don’t want them coming up with an unrealistic timeline to finish the book and then scramble in misery when it’s clear they have no chance of meeting their deadline.
If you’re faced with setting a deadline and have never tracked your writing before, don’t panic. Take some time to think back and estimate how many months it took you to write your last book from the initial idea to the final polish. Add a couple of weeks to this estimate. As you get into a groove of writing to deadline, you’ll have a much better sense of how long it really takes you to write a book.
This works well for indie authors, too. Maybe you’ve been winging it with your publication schedule, but this year you’re determined to publish the first two books in a new series. Set a deadline for each. Build extra time in and stick to it! Every phase of publishing (getting cover art, booking a copyeditor, sending out ARCs, setting up promotion) is easier when you have a firm release date ahead of time.
Do you write to a deadline? Does it stress you out? Would you benefit from building a cushion into it?
Enjoy your week!