Posts Tagged With: deadlines

Just coming up for air

I feel like I’ve been neglecting my blog this week – and by extension all of you readers. It’s been crazy, and much as I’ve wanted to, writing a blog post has been the last thing on my mind (and my to-do list).

Good news #1

I finished and edited a short story, and submitted it to a local literary competition…I was really proud of the beginning, but the ending wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped. My confidence has also been a little battered by the fact that my beta reader (my Mum) didn’t seem to like it all that much, but it’s not a genre she reads a lot so I’m trying to stay positive.

Good news #2

I’ve been kept pretty busy with additional days at my paid job…which means more money coming in!!

Bad news #1

More paid work = less writing time. I had to abandon one competition this week as the deadline was unrealistic, and it looks like I may not have anything ready for next week’s competition either.

Bad news #2

Less writing time = less blog posts = less people reading my blog. This makes me sad 😦 I love the feeling of knowing that I’m not just sending my thoughts out into nothingness, but when the posts dry up, so do the page views…

So…that’s my week. How was yours?

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The Etiquette of Competitions

Just a short post today, because I’ve been pretty snowed under lately. I have a few competition deadlines coming up in the next couple of weeks, and to be honest, I’m starting to panic.

Right now, I have well over half of a story that I’m really proud of. I was sitting on a train scribbling some nonsense or other (with pen on paper!) when this story just started flowing on to the page. Normally I’m a serious ‘plotter’ but I really enjoyed ‘pantsing’ this one. If I can end it as strongly as I started, then win or lose, I’ll be happy to submit it for my first deadline.

My problem is, there’s another competition that closes the next day. And I’ve got nothing. I’ve got a few key words I’m playing with, but they’re really more suited to a competition that closes the following week.

For those who aren’t into entering competitions, most will only accept original, unpublished works – but they are pretty open about how new they are. Some have a timeline, for example ‘only works written after X date will be accepted’. Some organisations will accept works that have previously been submitted to other competitions provided they have not been awarded a prize. Some organisations will even accept works that have been submitted to multiple, simultaneous competitions, provided the author immediately withdraws their entry if it wins a prize in another competition. Then again, some organisations insist that works must ‘not be under consideration’ for any other prizes during the period of their competition.

My preference is to submit something new to each competition I enter, mostly because if a piece isn’t good enough to win a competition when it has been specially written to fit the theme and word count, it is unlikely to win anything else. Of course this does put me under a lot more time pressure, so I’m pretty careful to only choose competitions that really interest me (for example, next month I want to enter a competition where writers are asked to write a story based on one of three Shakespeare plays).

Well…that’s what I’m up to this week – along with reading a stack of books I’ve borrowed from our newly refurbished local library and writing some more reviews…I’d better get back to work!!

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New Year’s Resolutions: Update #1

This is a follow-up post to Happy New Year! and The Disciplined Writer.

Discipline-wise, last year was not a great year for me. Don’t get me wrong. I made a lot of progress. I established this blog, had a few things published in The Paperbook Collective (Issues 3 and 5 if you haven’t read them yet), and worked really hard on always having some form of writing materials on me in case I had a great idea when I was out and about.

What I didn’t do well was actually sitting down and translating those ideas into prose. Recently I came across what I’m hoping will be a useful piece of advice in this area. A professional writing mentor suggested keeping track of word count goals by dividing them up into a pie chart and colouring in the segments as you go. (You can read the full interview here.) My pie chart hasn’t got any slices filled in yet, but I’m working on it…

Word count chart

Another thing I didn’t do well last year was meeting deadlines and submitting work to competitions and journals. Perhaps that had something to do with the way I was storing my list of deadlines. Here’s a screenshot of the excel spreadsheet I use.

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Quite straightforward really. I think what we have here is a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. If I wasn’t anticipating a deadline in the near future, I wouldn’t bother opening the document. If I suspected one was coming up, I’d check the list, and nine times out of ten, realise the deadline I was looking for was now unrealistic, or worse, already behind me!!

Now I have a constant reminder – front and centre.

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I’ve had this whiteboard for a while now, but it’s taken me a long time to figure out the most efficient way of using it… For a while I was using it for ‘to do’ lists, but since those changed almost daily, a notebook was sufficient. Now (as you can probably see) the left half is taken up with a list of potential blog ideas, and a small fraction of what’s on my TBR list. On the right hand side is a list of competition deadlines, themes (or organisation names where no theme is specified) and word limits. THIS YEAR I HAVE NO EXCUSE FOR FORGETTING A DEADLINE. Of course there’s always the possibility that I’ll miss one for any one of a variety of other reasons, but at least I’ll be aware that I’m missing them!!!

Incidentally, I’ve noticed the first couple of deadlines on this list are only three weeks away…I’d better go write something! 🙂

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I really hope I work better under pressure!

Anyone who’s been reading this blog regularly will know that I’ve recently been focusing a lot of attention on one particular short story for a competition which closes next week. I’m now under a lot of time pressure, as I still haven’t got a complete draft, let alone a finished product to submit.

This has got me thinking. In the past I always thought of myself as the kind of writer who worked better under pressure – that I was better off leaving everything until the last minute, knocking off one finished product in a hurry and sending it off with only minimal proofreading. I’m now questioning the rationale behind that kind of thinking… While it might be fine for school assignments and blog posts, I’m starting to learn that I’ve been foolish for thinking that the same might be true of creative pieces.

Usually I don’t plan a lot before I start writing a story. A scene will come to me, and I’ll have to get it down in a hurry before I lose it. Often it will be quite sketchy at this point, with only actions, dialogue and setting really clear. Then I have to go back and work on specifics – names for the characters, plotting out how they came to this point, and where they will go from here. Sometimes it turns out that the scene I’ve written isn’t even the beginning of the story. This time it’s been different. I put a lot of planning into this story before I started it, and it just feels wrong. Instead of just letting things unfold, I assigned certain actions to certain characters, and now I’m struggling to follow their motivations. I know what they did, but not why…which of course colours the how…

So I now have about a week left to get from half-finished first draft to a polished final product, printed out and in the post to arrive before the competition deadline…I really hope I can come up with something worth the effort!!

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Setting priorities should be a priority!

Imagine this. You have a few hours (minutes!) free and you want to spend them writing. If you’re anything like me you have a couple of projects on the go. How do you decide which one to work on?

I can be very fickle. As well as this blog, I have two novels on the go, and several short stories (one of which I hope to submit for a competition in two weeks). I have dreams of submitting to literary publications, and more competitions. I have a list as long as my arm of books I want to read (and some I want to review), but I also need to make time for my paid work, daily housework tasks, several different art and craft projects I’ve been working on…oh, and don’t forget some semblance of a social life!

So how do you choose what to work on? In those few precious spare minutes, how do you decide what is going to be the most productive? My first instinct is to choose sleep, and there are times when I’m so tired that rest is the only useful thing I’m capable of. Unfortunately, sleeping doesn’t put words on the page (although I’ll admit several times the inspiration for my stories has come from dreams!)

Since starting this blog, it has become a priority. There have been times when I’ve missed a few weeks – either because I’ve been too busy to write, or haven’t had anything to share – but generally it’s the first thing I’ll open when I’m planning to write. I think in part it’s because there is a sense of achievement in writing and publishing a post of a few hundred words, and it’s something that can be done relatively quickly.

Competition entries come next. The strict deadlines should be a strong motivator, but there are times when I’ve just had to admit defeat. I had hoped to submit the story I’m working on at the moment to last years’ competition, but I was burned out at the time from finishing a huge project. I realised that with a week to go until the deadline, it would be a waste of my time to try and rush the piece, and I wouldn’t be happy with it.

Sadly this leaves me with little time to work on the things that might, eventually, earn me some money. I have nothing ready at the moment to submit for publication. I’m going to have to bite the bullet at some stage, set a firm deadline, and get something ready…but I’m not sure where I’m going to find the time!

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“I love deadlin…

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

While such a sentiment is all well and good for a famous author, able to convince his publishers that his next novel is worth waiting for, it is less appropriate for those of us still trying to get our names out there…

This year my goal was to increase my profile by
1. Starting a blog (check)
2. Entering writing competitions (hopefully getting my work read by ‘the right people’ who would love my work so much that they’d help me to get published…)

The problem with number two is, competition deadlines are really not flexible. While I started out with good intentions, and entered the first competition on my list (unsuccessfully, but it’s all good experience), lately, due to circumstances that I won’t go in to, I’ve not spent as much time writing as I should have. This means I’ve missed one deadline already, and have another two coming up this week for which I won’t have anything ready.

Luckily these are only competitions, not work for which I expected to be paid, but I’m concerned that I may be sliding into bad habits. What if one of those competitions I’ve missed was going to be my big break?? I should point out, I really didn’t expect to have entries completed for all three competitions, knowing the deadlines were so close together, but neither did I expect that I’d have nothing ready at all!

Competitions are not the only inflexible deadlines. What if I had been working on a commissioned piece, writing perhaps for a newspaper or magazine? While it is true that delays on longer works are inevitable (the history book I co-wrote took almost 6 months longer than originally planned) when writing short pieces for professional publications, deadlines are fixed.

Perhaps I should ask myself, if I’d treated the competition deadlines as any other professional commitment, would I have made the effort to finish something, in spite of obstacles?

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