One of the problems of being a creative writer without a book contract or editor looking over your shoulder is that getting your work finished is completely up to you. If you're highly self-motivated, there's no problem there. But, for the rest of us, there's usually always something else you could be doing, maybe even should be. So it's a challenge to fit writing into your schedule of work, household tasks, parenting, fun, and you find the days, weeks, months, years going by without your pet projects being completed and sent out for publication.
Or maybe that's just me.
I've discovered that a fun and inspiring way to finish work is to have someone else set the deadlines for you.
My husband was intrigued that a simple PDF certificate was enough to keep me pushing through the insane month of NaNoWriMo. He also noted that I willingly wrote a poem a day for the PAD Challenge hosted by Robert Brewer at Poetic Asides, which this year is also handing out completion certificates.
So he set a deadline for me to finish the second draft of my mystery novel, and promised me a special certificate if I got it done in time. He wondered if that would be magic enough to make me finish.
Well, my friends, he got his answer. I love me some pointless writing certificates!
The wonderful news, then, is that the second draft of my NaNoWriMo mystery novel is done, and we're calling it my reader's draft, because it was finally ready to be read by someone besides me. The grand kinks in the plotting had been worked out, whole sections moved around, and new transitions added. It's much improved, plotwise.
Sam was my first official reader, and there were two pieces of good that came out of that:
First of all, he read it really quickly, because he enjoyed it. Yea! He particularly loved the character based on him. ;)
Secondly, he had a wonderful host of suggestions for making it even better, most related to character building. He pointed out fundamentals of novel writing, like the fact that my main character should have a specific goal in mind from the very beginning, something to drive the story forward before the murder solving gets under way. Since it was a mystery novel, I was shorthanding it and allowing the mystery itself to be the only goal; I think it makes sense that that's the main goal, but since my character is an amateur detective, she needs to have something else going on in her life, some problem she's trying to solve, and ideally it should all relate to the murder in the end as well.
I can foresee a lot of thematic revisions ahead, intwining different threads and adding more character development and backstory, and it excites me at the same time it scares me. Maybe another certificate, Sam?
If you want to accomplish a writing project, you could use this tactic to your advantage. Find a person who will hold you accountable and who will present you with a prize if (and only if) you complete your mission. Unless you're closely related to this person, it should probably be financially inexpensive (e.g., PDF certificate) and not too much work to pull off. Or you could always buy yourself something but have someone hold it ransom until you turn in your manuscript. And it doesn't have to be a thing — it could be a fun outing or experience.
Alternatively, as with NaNoWriMo and PAD, you could find a group that's already doing what you want. There are blog posting and photography challenges out there, for instance, and presumably more besides. If you can't find a group you want, create one! There have to be other procrastinating creative types just aching for a kick in the pants.
In related deadline news, the PAD Challenge is wrapping up in a couple days. With racing to get my reader's draft finished, I have been haphazard at writing a poem a day. I more often write a few poems every few days! But it all counts in the end. I love that I'll have 30+ draft of poems by the end of the month (if I get cracking at catching up!). You still have time to get yours in as well. Remember to post in the comments on Robert Brewer's blog if you want your certificate! I know I'm geeked for it!
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