Mom, I Don’t Want to Write Today

Remember when you didn’t want to go to school, and you’d lie in bed and, well, lie about having a stomach ache? (Maybe that was just me. Don’t tell my mother. She’s already upset that I write about s-e-x under my legal name.) It didn’t matter that there were things to learn and homework to hand in and tests to take and reports to give. You didn’t want to go to school that day, damn it. You wanted free time. You wanted to avoid the deadlines.

Same thing with writing. While there are some days when it’s like you’ve got an IV drip with liquid ideas filling your veins, there are plenty of days when it’s just staring at the screen and forcing the words to appear. Sometimes, this turns into nothing getting written, and sometimes that’s OK.

And then…there are the days when that happens and you’re on a tight deadline. (Oh noes!)

I’m on a deadline right now. I have to finish all my “Jet” chapters by 1/16. That comes down to 2 chapters a day, no excuses. Last night I had an emergency to deal with, so I had to drop everything. Today I have to write 4 chapters. The kids have no school today, due to ice and snow and hints of a wintery Armageddon. You see the snowball waiting to happen with my deadline.

My question to writers is this: What gets you to stick to your deadlines? Do you tell yourself “This is my job, and this is my deadline, and there’s nothing to discuss” and then pull a Nike and just do it? Do you bribe yourself with chocolate after a chapter, or with a round of Smash Bros. on the Wii when you hit your word count for the day? Do you OD on caffeine and writewritewrite? Do you call your agent or editor and beg for an extention?

One of the other distractions for me is a new release: A RED HOT VALENTINE’S DAY is now on the shelves. It’s an erotic anthology; my novella is a Hell on Earth standalone prequel. If smokin’ demon nookie is your thing, you’ll probably enjoy “Hell Is Where the Heart Is.”

And with that shameless plug done… what keeps you honest when it comes to meeting deadlines?

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  1. 1. S. M. Payne

    I force myself to sit at the computer and try for an hour or two. Usually, things start flowing. If they don’t, I call it quits.

    While this isn’t the best of strategies, I’ve learned my own rhythm, if I pull teeth and get out a scene or two, the next day I hate them and scrap them and write them from scratch anyway.

    But if I don’t give those two hours to try to get into it, then I never get swept away and stop caring about anything else and I don’t have a particularly good writing day the next day.

    And if I am writing well, and the world still calls, I just force myself to keep going as long as the words are coming.

  2. 2. Bradley Robb

    Good question.

    Over the passed few years, I have learned to love the outline. This allows me to option of jumping back and forth in the overall story while still progressing.

    If I don’t feel like my writing is going to be good at any one point, that is, if I feel like I am going to be doing more harm than good by abiding by the day’s word count, I turn to the outline, and see what I can do about developing that further.

    After that, I’ll hit up a writing associate on IM or Twitter and talk shop, which is usually a pretty big motivator.

    Copyblogger today also recommended sitting on only one half of your rear end. Sounds silly, but it’s worth a shot.

  3. 3. Kelly McCullough

    I tend to set personal deadlines well in advance of publisher deadlines and then promise myself the reward of writing a spec book in the freed up time between finishing the deadline book and the actual deadline. This mostly works because the spec book is whatever has worked its way to the top of the internal “write me now!” list and I’m dying to go play in the new world. This has the added benefit of getting the deadline book in several months early which can be good for a number of reasons. And, yes, everybody tells me that doing things this way makes me a freak.

  4. 4. Sandy S

    I tend to be more like S.M. Payne. Some days my fingers can’t find the keys fast enough and others feel like molasses in January. During those ‘cold’ days I will force myself to write something, even if its only a paragraph or two. Chances are it will be edited in the very near future anyway and on occasion it does the job of sparking a more interesting thread.

  5. 5. Kari Sperring

    I’m another one who doesn’t want to write today — my excuse being a slightly dodgy shoulder and neck pain. But… I have to write in a schedule or I get nothing done at all, and if I get disrupted I’m a long, cold starter. Having said which, I find online communities with daily or weekly counts very very helpful: somehow that involvement of a third party gets me started. (And official deadlines are even better, but my current one is waaay ahead.)
    Kari in the UK

  6. 6. Eliza Wyatt

    I pretend that every month is November, when it counts (NaNoWriMo season). Granted, I burned out around December 20th trying to keep up with 1667 words a day (Christmas, getting a cold, and nearing the last 20% of the novel didn’t help either).

    If that fails, I procrastinate and worry about the upcoming scene, write about why I’m having trouble on my blog, and then I feel better. Enough to gather up my courage and sprint through the difficult scene. So what if I set it up poorly? Revisions start after this draft– reconstruct it then.

  7. 7. Jamie Grove

    I have several methods:

    1. I tell myself that if I don’t start writing I might as well go to work-work.
    2. More Espresso + No Talking Rule = Words Have to Come Out Somewhere
    3. I just type until something happens.
    4. I make a sacrifice. (let your imagination wander)
    5. I remind myself that if I don’t write I’ll never get to the point where I’ll be able to beg for an extension. :)

  8. 8. Jeri Smith-Ready

    I like what S.M. says above. I think there’s something to be said for setting a daily time minimum (for me it’s four hours, but I write full-time, and it rises to more like 6 or 8 hours near a deadline). If I finish the word count early, then that means I have time for research (incl. movies or music related to the book) or brainstorming. There’s no motivation for rushing through the wordcount (and writing crap that just fills the pages) so that I get to knock off early and read comic books.

    I don’t even know if that answers the question. But there it is. Congrats on the new release!

  9. 9. Kelly McCullough

    I should probably note that the early deadline doesn’t keep me from having to slog some days when I’d rather go play in sun, or from freaking out about deadlines. It just moves it all forward so that the real deadline is never in any danger of being so much as dented.

  10. 10. Greg B

    I keep a pile of unpaid bills next to my laptop. That usually spurs the muse on.

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