I am a deadline fiend. Give me a date and a time when I need to have something done by, and I will do whatever it takes–stay up late, skip school, call out of work, etc.
In grad school, I thrived on deadlines. As part of a low-residency program, the creative writing degree required four submissions per semester via email to our mentors. Each submission consisted of two craft annotations, revisions from the previous month’s work, 30 pages of new material, and a cover letter detailing our experience. On top of that, we had to read between four-to-six books per month directly related to the genre we were working in or on the craft of writing books.
For the first two weeks of the month, I worked full-time, read all my books, and wrote my two papers. For the last two weeks, I took Fridays off from work and spent the entire weekends writing. On Fridays I would write from about 10:00 AM until 2:00 AM. Saturdays were the same except I would break from about 9:00 PM to 12:00 or 1:00 AM to play video games with my friend then back to writing until I fell asleep. Sundays I wrote from about 10:00 AM (or whenever I woke up) until 9:00 PM. I tried to write about one and a half chapters or roughly 15 pages per weekend. I got less done on Fridays because I always reread my manuscript from the beginning to get into the character, mood, feel, voice, etc.
The reason I excelled at this type of deadline was not just because I was getting something out of it (a terminal degree) but I didn’t want to let my mentors down either.
I have since tried to make my own deadlines to finish this novel or that screenplay, but I have never been able to enforce them or meet them. I blame it on my lack of priorities. I can sit at the computer and level my World of Warcraft toon until I use up all my rested XP or I hit the next level, but I can’t just sit at my computer and finish what I say I’m going to by my deadline. I guess I’m just not tough enough on myself.
Recently, it’s come to my attention that I am missing two opportunities to send my manuscript out to different publishers during their open submissions this month and missing an opportunity to enter a screenwriting contest with one of the prizes being a reading with Robert McKee. And it’s all because I failed to meet those self-imposed deadlines over the past few years. Oh, I get stuff done; it just takes forever.
Well you know what? I don’t have forever. I don’t want to miss anymore of those open submission calls. I’m sick of being a loser. I want a backlog of manuscripts/screenplays ready to send out a moment’s notice. I mean, really, is this so hard?
I’ve decided what I need is to not call it a deadline. Because seriously, no one’s going to fail me if I don’t finish by a certain date. My “goal” is to finish revising/rewriting a specific manuscript by the end of the year (where have I heard that one before?). And the reason why I think it might be doable this time is because I have a list of priorities.
The story needs some help not only with plot but with character. I also want to change from first-person, present tense narration to third-person, past tense narration. That will require one set of revisions. At the same time I’m going to focus on sentence variety (simple, compound, complex, compound-complex) and beginning sentences with more than just a noun, pronoun, or article.
Secondly, I’m going to do a major rewrite because my protagonist seems to have come down with multiple personality disorder. (I blame the photo I found for inspiration). I’m hoping this will lead the story to a plot more in line with my original vision.
And lastly, I’m going to tackle the first chapter. I’ve never really liked it and I think it’s because I’m not happy with the protagonist, so hopefully that by starting my revisions/rewrites after it, I won’t get frustrated and give up before page 10.