How fast can you write to keep to a deadline?
“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. ”
We all hate deadlines, right? Well, aside from Douglas Adams, most people hate deadlines. But there are some who absolutely love them.
When I began working with a new coaching client recently, I told her at our first meeting that she would need to send me what she had written that week in time for our next meeting. Was there consternation? Was there annoyance? Nope. Neither. The woman was practically bouncing in her seat and she actually did clap her hands as she exclaimed, “A deadline? You’re giving me a deadline? Oh, thank goodness, now I’ll really get some work done!”
Yup. She was a classic “Obliger” in Gretchen Rubin’s concept of the Four Tendencies (if you want to learn more about them, either go to my blog here or to her website). If my client only had herself to work for, she wouldn’t do it. She needed someone else to be accountable to. This was as much her problem that she needed help with as the plot and character development she was struggling with.
Before COVID hit, a lot of people probably grumbled and groaned about the deadlines they had at work. Every day they would go to work and slog away, knowing their boss was just down the hall and expecting something. But then COVID happened and everyone was at home. There was no toe tapping boss nearby. All of a sudden, a lot of people had to do what every writer deals with on a daily basis-self motivation. These people still had to get their work done, but there was no one looking over their shoulder.
A lot of people found that they had problems doing this. There were so many other distractions at home—the tv, the kitchen filled with yummy food, the puppy who needed to be played with, etc. A lot of people learned what writers deal with every single day.
So what do you do? If you are not a “Questioner” who won’t take direction from anyone but themselves or an “Upholder” who manages well with either internal or external expectations, how do you get your work done? And how do you get it done in a timely manner?
The easiest answer is to schedule your writing time into your day. Put it right there into your calendar.
Another thing you can do is to set a deadline for yourself. If you can take it as a serious deadline, it’s a great way to get you motivated to get to work on your book.
It’s this second concept that I want to delve a little more deeply into.
How long does it take to write a book?
So many nonwriters ask this question of writers. It’s second only to “where do you get your ideas?”
Now, I’m going to give you the answer that everyone hates: it depends.
It depends on how much time you have to devote to your writing. It depends on what your other commitments are. It depends on how fast you write. It might even depend on whether you’re a planner or a plotter (something I’ll be talking about next week).
The key here is to know how much time you can devote to your writing without taking time away from other important things that absolutely must get done. Once you’ve got that sorted out, based on how much time you have, you can determine how much you can get done in that time on your best day.
Yes, on your best day when you know precisely what is going to happen next in your story, when the house is quiet or the coffee shop is packed—however you write best. On that day figure out how much you can write and then take that amount and reduce it by about 15%. That’s how much you should be aiming to write each time you sit down with your work in progress.
Why 15% because you can’t recreate the perfect conditions every time you write. Because you need to have an achievable goal. If your goal is unachievable you may just give up before you start. So don’t go for the top, go for just a touch below it.
One thing that absolutely doesn’t matter is whether you write 500 words in half an hour or 1000. You simply need to sit down and write them.
Think about setting a deadline for yourself. See if you can keep to it. If not, perhaps you need someone (a friend, family member, or coach) to set the deadline for you and keep you accountable.