Tips and Tricks for Writing to a Deadline

When I work, it’s no secret that I love to do it fast. Riftmaster, for example, was written over the course of 30 days, after I decided my new year’s resolution was to write a new book. I started it on the 3rd of January 2019, and finished the first draft on the 3rd of February 2019. This is mostly because I have the attention span of a sparrow, and an obsessive streak to match. But I also enjoy the feeling of immersing myself wholly in a new project, and over the years have found ways to make my process easier, whilst leaving room for my mental and physical health. So today, But with NaNoWriMo just around the corner, I thought I’d share some of my own tips for writing to a deadline, and keeping yourself healthy and happy as you do so.

These pointers will be heavily focused on scheduling ahead of time, in addition to maintaining a healthy work/life balance.

With something like NaNoWriMo, you will obviously know when to start, and so be able to plan out your project beforehand. My advice to you on this would be to make the most of the time you have before actually starting. Get yourself excited! Make it so that you’re absolutely raring to go before the whistle blows! Write an outline. Put together an inspiration playlist. Set word goals for the end of each week. I can assure you that once you get started you’ll feel like a coiled spring, and the first few days, at least, will be smooth sailing.

Another thing to aim for is to to keep ahead of schedule. Set goals for the end of each week so that you know you’re on track, or even ahead of schedule. Plan to overshoot your target, even if it’s just by a hundred words or so. When you can, finish a few days ahead so that if you find yourself needing a day’s rest or swept up into some sort of crisis, you can take a step back without harbouring any guilt.

When doing this, though, remember to divide your time to ensure you don’t prematurely burn yourself out, and in some cases, lose interest completely. I’ll often allocate days where I challenge myself not to write at all. If you can’t do that, keep those days for planning or concept art instead. Perhaps edit your outline or previous chapters instead! But make sure you allow yourself to take a step back and just breathe for a second. Remember, most folks don’t even make it out of the door. You’re doing great!

When working like this, another important thing is to find a routine. Whilst it seems easy to write the moment you wake up and then sleep the moment you stop, it can be harmful to sit for extended periods of time without moving, and even moreso to skip meals. Looking at screens on a morning can also lead to headaches and tiredness on the afternoon, when I need my head clear to head out to work. As a result, I make it my absolute top priority to start my morning by getting some fresh air or physical exercise. I usually walk for around half an hour, with music, along a local route. Every so often, when it is raining or icy, I’ll do a home workout instead. Then I’ll work, cook food, and stretch before I eat to preserve posture. And on a night, whether it’s after work or a long day of writing, I’ll drink a chamomile tea, curl up, and get ready to do it all again. Routine makes it easier to begin writing when you need to, as well as to stop on days of downtime. As a rule, I always keep weekends free to spend some much-needed time with the people I love.

The final thing to remember is that there will be moments when progress slows, you hit a roadblock, or run into a scene you don’t necessarily know how to write. In this case: Skim it. Gloss over it. You’ll waste time on it if you try to get it perfect the first time around, but by lowering your standards and coming back to it later, you might even find that you like what you wrote the first time around! You’ll be really surprised what your mind produces when it’s not worried about being good. And if you’re not happy with it… well, at least it’s out of the way, and editing is right around the corner.

That’s about all of my advice for writing to a deadline. The starting line is getting so near now, and I can’t wait to get started. I hope this helps someone out there! And more importantly, I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, even if it was a little bit more on the technical and planning side!

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