When I first started associating with published authors back in the 1990's, I quickly recognized one problem which seemed to pop up very often in the crowd: Deadlines. At any convention, someone would be spending all their free time in their room trying to get their work done on time for the publisher. People with projects due were under the kind of stress that seemed to me to make it more difficult to write.
Newly signed authors had it the worst. They'd often spent years working on the first book that sold, but now the publisher wanted another one in a year or so. The publishers had a good reason for this: Once book 1 went on the shelves, they would want book 2 to get there as soon as possible to keep the name in front of the public.
I decided I was not going to put myself through that kind of stress, so I began working on my plan. Coming up with a good 'deadline' for me took a bit of tweaking. I finally found something I could work with, though. I would finish the material (whatever draft that happened to be) within the year I started it.
I also added that I would finish everything I started.
The first was to keep me working to a reasonable deadline for me. I start novels on specific days: Jan 1, March 8 (birthday) and for NaNo, though the last came later. I will often write other novels, but only when I get those early ones finished. Generally all my novel starts are off the the first few months of the year, though. This gives me plenty of time to finish the first drafts. Later in the year I might have a first draft, but most of my focus is on rewrites, outlines and edits. I don't write many shorter pieces these days.
Finishing everything I start is a way to keep me from wasting time. It's the other problem I saw so often with authors. They'd start something, throw it aside for something else, put that aside until 'later' for yet another thing. . . .
I have stories I want to tell, not just write a neat scene and never know what else happens. Because of the rule to finish everything, I am very careful about what I start. I rarely make a mistake, but when I do, I find out why the story no longer appeals to me and I fix it and finish it. No excuses. The story may not live up to the original potential, but I learn why. I don't just toss it aside and never figure out why I lost interest.
There is a final part to all of this. I write every day. This is the part I expect people not to do, to be honest. But writing is my carrot for getting other things done, and it's what I love to do the most. I expect others to be more reasonable, but even so, an author should want to write.
So there, really are the three reasons I never worried about deadlines, even when I was still selling to small press publishers. Now that I've gone to Indie Publishing, well. . . .
Now it's even more important. Now there is no one else but me saying I need to get this done. There is no one else out there saying 'Oh, you need to get your name on the 'shelf' more often.' The stress is less in many ways, but it's still there, lingering every time I look at a calendar and wonder when the next of the Two Year Novel Course books should go out, or if I have time to finish an edit this month, get it checked and up, or if I should be looking at a short story release to fill the space.
The only person depending on me making it is me. I won't disappoint anyone but myself if I don't come through with something on time. But I hate not making goals. I'm far harder on me than a publisher would be. No extensions! Get it done!
You have to love writing and you have to have so many stories growing in your head that you know you'll never get to all of them. That's what pushes me on. If I don't tell these stories, no one else will.
I'm not going to waste the time.
If you want to get to read about nearly twenty other writers, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Be sure to read tomorrow's post by Sharon Kemmerer