Why I quit working to deadlines

Anyone who has been following me on this writing journey may have noticed that I set myself time-related goals to try and get this novel over the finish line.

In my post on editing, I stated that I would be taking a month’s break and hoped to have completed all my editing by the new year, at which point I would move on to contacting literary agents.

Both of those goals failed. The first because I was itching to get back into my story as soon as possible. The second because, well, I’m still not happy with quite a big chunk of my story, so much so that I ended up avoiding my book for months.

So, it would appear that setting time-relevant goals for fiction writing is certainly not for me.

Why did I set time deadlines in the first place?

Well, for a start, my job as a content executive is entirely deadline-focused. Miss a deadline and things start to snowball, not a situation you want to find yourself in too often.

And the thing is, I usually hit my goals. They help to give my days structure so I assumed it would help keep me focused in my fiction writing too.

Secondly, I’m aware that if I ever do get this novel finished and published, I’ll have to work to a series of deadlines to get it into bookshops.

Thirdly, I always imagined that this is the way all authors work. I see writers talking about hitting different milestones in their writing and assumed them working to deadlines too. Surely authors who publish multiple books a year must work to stringent time-frames?

So, if all of this is the case, then why, after almost four years, is my work in progress not complete?

Well, I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I believe it’s because of five reasons:

1) I let other responsibilities get in the way

Work gets busy, I agree to deliver a presentation at a conference, I take part in a panel, I give my time to friends and family.

I don’t prioritise my novel as I should.

I’m not saying that I need to risk my job to get it done or anything, it’s more that I don’t consider these external factors when setting time deadlines.

2) Time deadlines are too much pressure

Writing this book is one of the biggest dreams I’ve ever had. And it was a dream that was mostly secret, only my writing buddies and the people in the office who saw my furiously typing away on my lunch breaks knew about it.

It took a long time for me to share my secret and even longer for me to start discussing my experience in this blog. Ultimately, if this fails, my dream fails. And that’s a lot of pressure.

Adding time goals onto that and it becomes too big a burden.

3) It takes the fun out of it

Being an author isn’t my job. It’s supposed to be fun. And it’s also something I can only work on in my spare time. If it’s something that’s stressing me out, I’m not going to want to do it.

4) Time deadlines are a creativity suck (for me)

In my day job, I’m pretty formulaic about my writing. I choose a topic, research what questions people have and answer them. There isn’t much creativity. Some, but not much.

So, when it comes to fiction writing, I want to have the space and time to get those creative juices flowing. I can’t do that with deadlines looming over my head.

Take this latest problem I’m having – there’s an issue connecting the middle-end to the end of my book. I’ve tried two resolutions that are practical and make sense. And they didn’t work. Now I’ve had time to replenish my creativity, I’m finally starting to see a way through.

A lot of fiction writing is strategic, especially if you’re a planner, but without creativity, you won’t get anywhere. As displayed by my latest journey with writer’s block.

5) Maybe I’m scared to finish

If I’m so great at hitting deadlines, so much so that I’ve completed every NaNoWriMo challenge I’ve ever taken on, then it’s weird that in this situation I’ve missed deadline after deadline.

While all of these other points are valid, perhaps the biggest reason I’m struggling is because of fear.

A few trusted friends have read my story so far and they have all enjoyed it. But they are friends, so their opinion could be a little biased. I guess I’m worried that I’ll finish the book, send it to an agency and be told it’s unsellable.

That would be heartbreaking. And I don’t know what my next dream would be.

I love my story and believe in its message. But there’s always that underlying, quiet voice that worries it won’t be good enough.

That’s a whole other issue I need to work through.

So, here’s what I’m going to do

The title of this post kind of gave the ending away, but I’ve decided that, at least for now, I’m giving up on setting time deadlines. Yes, the idea of this novel taking even longer to finish is stressful, but I’m finding it less stressful than constantly missing targets.

What are your experiences, dear writing friends? Do you set yourself time-related goals when writing your novel? I’d love to hear about it in the comment section.

If you enjoyed this post…

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Published by Rebekah

I'm a twenty-something cat loving, book reading, coffee drinking, food eating, normal gal who is trying to write a novel.

2 thoughts on “Why I quit working to deadlines

  1. Your thoughts are on this are definitely relatable. Editing is tricky. For me, it’s completely different from drafting. I’ve missed all but one of my editing goals, and I think that it’s going to be something that I have to learn how to time manage.

    I think reflecting on it and all of the other things going on is a really good start!

    I’m so excited to read your final work!

  2. I’m so glad you found the post useful, Katie.
    Editing is a really tough part of the process, and I think that’s definitely where impostor syndrome is at it’s worst!
    I’m so excited to hear more about your journey too 🙂

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