Deadlines appeal to me.I began my writing career as a journalist for a daily newspaper. The same paper where I’d interned as an obit writer, the job that inspired my young adult novel, FAMOUS LAST WORDS.
When I graduated from intern to full-time reporter, I had to write a minimum of one news story a day—very often that turned into three or four—and one longer, feature piece that was due every Friday. That story was called “the weekender.”
One of the things I always admired about newspaper folks is that each day, a group of hard-working talented people come together to produce a newspaper. It’s amazing the amount of work that gets done when the clock is ticking. Every job I’ve had since my newspaper days, no matter how enjoyable, has lacked that sense of urgency and immediacy—conditions under which I thrive. Or so I thought. My time as a journalist was great training for my other writing jobs, the ones that would require the self-discipline to set my own work schedule and come up with my own deadlines.November is National Novel Writing Month (“NaNoWriMo”), an annual creative writing project that encourages authors to complete a draft of one novel, 50,000 words, in thirty days. In theory, this idea appeals to me very much. Want to write a novel? Give yourself a deadline. However I tried it for the first time last year and failed. Sort of. I didn’t finish a novel, but NaNoWriMo forced me to make writing fiction a priority every day. To commit to a daily word count. The problem was, my daily word count was not enough to a complete first draft, and I found it very difficult to not pause to revise.
My first two novels each took about a year to complete. I would write several chapters, workshop those chapters with my critique group, and revise those chapters before moving on. Writing a novel in a month messes with my process. My own deadline system.And yet this year, I’m going to try it again. Sort of. At the end of the summer, before my agent went on an extended leave, I promised her I’d have a draft of my latest work in progress—a YA contemp set at the New Jersey shore—completed by the time she returns in December.
This year, NaNoWriMo coincides with my self-imposed deadline and serves as good reminder that as of today, I’m 32,064 away from my goal. That’s what I’ll be scrambling to get done this month, but I have a feeling it will get done in my own time, and in my own way.