Jump to content

The Hack’s Guide to Setting Deadlines for Yourself

Recommended Posts

Hacks for Hacks
*sense of humor required

Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

Writers, like diamonds, sparkle under pressure. Without pressure? They’re just lumps of coal, best known for being set on fire or given to brats at Christmastime. Writers need deadlines the way Dr. Frankenstein needs electricity—it takes a dangerous outside force to inject life into our abominable creations. 

The power of the deadline is at the root of the Hack’s Paradox: You have no deadlines because you haven’t sold your book, but how can you sell your book if you don’t have deadlines to motivate you? (Please note that if you HAVE sold your book without finishing it, you are not a true hack, in which case why are you reading this column?) 

It can be tough to motivate yourself when you have no external deadlines. Pressure is what transforms a generic ham sandwich on white bread into a fancy and delicious panini that costs $9.95. If your writing career is withering under the tyranny of a peaceful and balanced lifestyle, this column will help you inject some much-needed stress and anxiety into your writing process.

Set an arbitrary deadline. Just give yourself a due date. In his seminal book on writing, On Writing, Stephen King says you should try to finish a book draft in like three months or so (I’m too lazy to look it up, and too temperamental to be corrected, so if I’m wrong, please keep it to yourself). Mark your calendar for three months from today and make that your goal. Will it work?  It might, but based on the fact that you’re reading this column right now, I’m betting it won’t. It sounds plausible enough, though, and I’m on a deadline to write this column, so I’m leaving it in.

Reward yourself. Give yourself a treat for finally writing “THE END” in your draft, whether that’s a fancy meal, a nice bottle of something or other, or a new book you want to read. Never underestimate the power of holding life’s small pleasures for ransom from yourself.

Find an accountability buddy. Why should you suffer alone? Find someone in your writing group who needs both outside motivation and the visceral thrill of laughing in your face if you don’t finish your book on time. This sort of positive peer pressure can be very helpful, and it also provides you with someone to drink and commiserate with if and when neither of you are able to finish a draft.

photo by Dafne Cholet

Make a big announcement. Tell all your friends; announce it on social media; buy an ad in your local newspaper, which is struggling and could use your support. Inform the world, in a tone that brooks no nonsense, that you will finish your book by X date. The idea is that if you don’t finish your book on time, your friends and family, your followers, and every subscriber in your paper’s circulation area will think you’re a flake and a failure, so you’d better hustle! This gambit works because, as a writer, you are genetically too egocentric to notice that literally nobody on earth but you cares if you ever finish your book.

Punish yourself. If the carrot didn’t work, it’s time for the stick. If you don’t finish your book by your self-imposed deadline, then no fancy meal, no nice bottle of whatever, no buying new books. If the deadline is important enough, you may even consider the nuclear option: delete the book altogether. And wouldn’t that be so sad? Wouldn’t it break your heart to be rid of this albatross of a book and to just live your life without a constant homework assignment every night, forever? If that doesn’t motivate you to meet your deadline, nothing will.

How do you get yourself to stick to your own deadlines? Share your tips in the comments!


About Bill Ferris

After college, Bill Ferris (he/him) left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.


[url={url}]View the full article[/url]

AC Admin

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 0
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Days

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Days

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.



WTF is Wrong With Stephen King?

  • Create New...