Deadlines and goals are useful. I mean, duh, right? They certainly work well for me, so I always have this nagging feeling that if I were operating with a real deadline on my novel, I'd be a lot more productive and probably finished by now.
What qualifies as "real" in my head is a funny thing. I've successfully met the deadline for National Novel Writing Month many times -- and without it, I might never have written any novels -- but the penalty for failing is only self-flagellation and maybe some mild disappointment from friends. I'm great at self-flagellation, so I ought to be able to set up a personal arbitrary deadline at any point, and I can create the potential for mild disappointment by announcing it on my blog or even just telling a few people.
I guess I have done that at least once, when I committed to an hour count goal last November as a parallel challenge to NaNoWriMo. I met my goal, and it helped me be more productive than usual. I was kind of intending to repeat the challenge a couple of months later, but that never happened.
I'm constantly making goals for myself about when I'm going to finish this scene, this chapter, this whole damn draft. But I never make them real by telling anyone else, so they're meaningless.
Thinking about this more, I realize that I'm only comfortable committing publicly to a goal based on a certain amount of time (or in the past, a certain number of words), not to one involving progress through the story. That's because I can't know for sure if a scene or chapter will be painless to write or will require long thought and agonizing over every sentence. I'm afraid that if I have to meet a deadline, I'll rush when I shouldn't, and the quality will suffer. Which would be a counterproductive use of productivity, so of course that's why I'm not comfortable with it. I mean, duh, right?
Therefore, here's another hour-based goal. Back in the spring, I did an assessment of how much time I spent working, and I wasn't pleased with the results. I resolved to push myself to focus more on writing each day, and that's been going pretty well, if you overlook a summer full of breaks. I'm currently more satisfied with how much I'm getting done.
So now it's time to boost the numbers and raise the stakes. I'm going to increase my hourly goal each week for the next four weeks. At the end of that time, I'm going to post about this again and tell you how well I'm doing.
And if I don't, your mild disappointment will rain down upon me! Believe me, this is one of the scarier fates I can imagine.
Good Stuff Out There:
→ Author Keith Ridgway confesses in The New Yorker's Page-Turner blog, "I don't know how to write.": "I've written six books now, but instead of making it easier, it has complicated matters to the point of absurdity. I have no idea what I'm doing." (Thanks, Nathan Bransford!)