Sunday, September 20, 2009

Deadlines and commitments

Long before I wrote for the newspaper, I wrote to deadlines. They were usually self-imposed but they were a good practice. I still operate that way. Without a publishing contract, it would be very easy for me to write whenever I felt like it. I've certainly slid in my productivity a time or two. But this is a business as well as pleasure, so I impose deadlines.

Whenever I dally too long on research or goof off with other things, I give myself a writing goal. Last week was creeping along until I realized I had a writer's meeting tonight. So I sat down every day to input Hell to Pay from the page on to the computer. At the same time I was playing with Casey's story. I intend to have a rough draft of his saga on paper by the middle of October.

Today's deadline looms. I'm making great progress towards it. If I don't meet it then I'll finish up by Wednesday to give the ms to my critique partner later in the week. Barring the discovery of any great plot holes or character deficiencies, I'll be sending that project out at the beginning of next month.

It's important to make and meet deadlines, even self-imposed ones. That commitment to your craft can make all the difference in this business. You're more likely to get the book written.

Douglas Adams was always one of my favourite writers. But his legendary inability to make a deadline means that readers were denied a great deal more of his work. Not that I have the audacity to compare my writing to his brilliant perspective but that deadline flaw keeps me at it when I'd rather be sitting on the porch drinking a glass or three of wine. Due to Adams's sudden death in 2001, The Salmon of Doubt remains unfinished. A book published under that title contains several short stories, interviews and essays and the eleven chapters from the unfinished sequel to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's an unsatisfying end to a story that has spanned thirty years, every medium available in his time and a great deal of joy.

It also serves as a valuable reminder to reject his famous quote, "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."


  1. Good for you. You are an inspiration and I will reread this if I start falling down on my commitment to deadlines again.

    My critique partners and I were talking about this 2 meetings ago. We each set a daily goal and a deadline. I had trouble with the daily goal at first but met my deadline. It felt so good.

    I'm so excited you are almost ready to send HTP out into the world. It's a good story and will make a wonderful book.

  2. Deadlines. Sigh...I definitely let too many of them go whooshing on by.

    I'm so excited though that your book is almost ready to send out!