History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Dealing with Deadlines

I’m fortunate that I’m at a stage of my writing career when the majority of my deadlines are self-imposed, rather than external. On most of the occasions where I do have an external deadline, it’s one I’ve chosen to try to meet for a call for submissions or other opportunity. But it’s fairly unusual for me to be shooting for a deadline that I don’t have at least a little bit of control over.

However, when I do have one of those deadlines, I’m the sort of person who needs to work backward from the deadline so I can figure out when I need to start a project in order to finish it comfortably. I’ve written enough short stories and flash fiction to know about how long any given length of shorter writing will take me to complete. For flash fiction, I can sometimes turn that around in an hour or two. For short stories, I like to have at least three weeks for writing and at least two weeks for revising, preferably with some time in between to work on other things so I can arrive at the revising with a fresh outlook.

This means that if somebody were to ask me if I could turn around a short story in a month, I’d probably have to say no, unless either I had the perfect idea that I could execute quickly, or if the money was good enough to drop all my other writing and focus exclusively on one story for that month. (I generally have a handful of projects in various stages of completion at any given moment, which is also why I space out my writing and revising with time between them.)

In general, I think I could adapt my current practices to deal with deadlines, either tight ones or longer ones, that were externally imposed. But it would mean giving up some of the flexibility of being able to work on things on a whim, if I have a random idea that demands to be written. I’d have to get better at taking COPIOUS notes about what I’m planning and then get that project on my schedule as soon as possible, so that I don’t lose the energy and excitement that I would be taking into it if I could start right away. But I’ve done that with plenty of novel ideas, so it’s possible!

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