One of the many perks of being a fictional writer is writing what you want, when you want. When you don’t have a publishing contract (yet), or anyone waiting to read your book, there are no expectations.
This gives you the means to go at your own pace and take as long as you like to craft your masterpiece. The downside is that you can take as long as you like to craft your masterpiece.
Without the obligation of a deadline (contractually or self-imposed), it’s very easy to just keep writing and allow it to take as long as it takes. It’s freeing, and another one of those writing perks. It’s also the fastest way to drag things out.
If you’re familiar with my blog or Instagram account, you’ll know that I’m currently working on the fourth draft of the final book in my YA supernatural series.
I started this final book in January this year, and wrote the first draft in only six weeks. Do you know when I started the first book in the series? 2001. That’s sixteen years that I’ve been working on this series as a whole, and that doesn’t account for the fact I thought of the idea in 2000, and spent a year thinking about it before writing anything down.
Now, I didn’t spend sixteen whole years working on the first three books, there was six years where I did no work at all, and those first few drafts written in the ’00s have little in common with the final drafts of today. In fact, it’s only been the last fours years that I’ve shaped the books into the final versions, the drafts good enough to show to others, and to send to publishers and agents. That’s because the last four years I got serious about finally finishing this series instead of just writing it when I felt like it. I started setting writing goals. I started setting actual deadlines.
Thanks to this, I’m on the final book. A book that will be finished by the end of this year (if not sooner). I also have a deadline for when I’ll stop sending query letters to publishers, and for when I’ll self-publish (if I decide to go that road). I’m doing this because sixteen years is a long time to work on something. And although I’ve loved every minute of writing this series (bar the rejections), I know it’s time to finish it and get the books out into the world. That is why I set deadlines. This is why you must set your own.
It’s too easy to fall into the safety of re-writing and perfecting when you feel like you have all the time in the world to get your book written. Put a limit on that time. Give yourself six months, a year, two if you want, but do it. Having that deadline reminds you to work harder, faster and smarter with your time, and eventually makes you a better writer—one who has a finished book.
– K.M. Allan