Deadlines are tough. We can all admit to hating deadlines of some sort, at some point in our lives. How many of you had times in college when you were scrambling to finish a paper the night (or the morning) before it was due?
I have deadlines at work from time to time. For example, there’s a deadline for retention letters in the spring. We have a deadline to return the paper that says we plan to continue teaching next year. I give my students (and their parents) “soft” deadlines to return permission slips and yearbook order forms and admission money for our zoo field trip. But that’s really it.
Since I’m still an unpublished author and thus do not work with editors, agents, or publishers, I don’t really have a deadline for my novel. At least, not a deadline that anyone important cares about.
I’m about nine and a half chapters away from being completely done with my novel rewrite. I started the rewrite in 2006, shortly before I met my husband, and it’s gone through several long hiatuses since then. After riding on the euphoria of newlywed-dom and getting a whopping twelve chapters done in about six weeks in the summer of 2009, I decided to set myself a deadline of sort. I “hoped” to be finished by the end of 2009.
Of course, my momentum came to a crashing halt as soon as school started that September. I was lucky if I got a chapter done in a month. December 31, 2009 came and went, along with my deadline, and I was nowhere near finished.
I realized rather quickly that my self-imposed deadline was rather lofty and ambitious. I should have known better, especially after two attempts to complete a NaNoWriMo novel in 2005 and 2006, neither of which got past 15,000 words. (If you don’t already know, NaNoWriMo takes place in November, perhaps one of the three busiest months for a teacher. Anything not pertaining to report cards, superintendent’s conference days, and parent/teacher conferences really gets thrown by the wayside.)
Still, I refused to let my deadline let-down get the better of me and my novel. I continued steadfastly plugging away whenever I found the time and the means to break through my writer’s block. I sketched scenes out in the airport when we were waiting for our connecting flight to Texas last spring. I wrote an entire chapter in two days when we went to my in-laws last Thanksgiving.
When I reached an approximate halfway point, my husband asked me, rather off-handedly, when I thought I might finish. I thought about it. I really gave it some serious thought.
See, this novel has, in some incarnation, been a part of my life for almost 18 years now. I started writing it in 1993, when I was in seventh grade. I never had a deadline, per say. I always figured it would be done when it was done. At some point, I decided I needed to completely rewrite the damn thing, because editing just was not working.
So I started from scratch again in 2005. I still had no deadline. I still felt I could simply let the words pour out and what would happen would happen.
Just before that massive chapter-writing-marathon of Thanksgiving 2010, I wrote out a detailed outline for the remaining chapters. It was a little scary to see my plot on paper like that, but it helped. It focused me. I had a tangible direction.
I decided to finish by the end of April 2011.
It didn’t happen. April, incidentally, is another of those months that surreptitiously steals teachers’ time. Again with the report cards and conferences, and the knowledge that, upon returning from spring break, it will be STATE TESTING TIME. April 30th came and went. I decided to set another deadline. June 30th.
June is also a time-sucking month for teachers. Are you starting to get my M.O. here? I pick end-of-crappy-months-for-deadlines deadlines.
The deadline continued to be pushed back, a couple weeks here, a month there. Some personal and family things got in the way (and they were important and had to be dealt with). And today, I pushed my deadline back again, as I’m nine and a half chapters from the end and August 31st is Wednesday.
So I’m shooting for September 30th now. And praying I meet the deadline with a big fat “THE END”.