5 STEPS TO… WRITING WITH DEADLINE DRAMAS

BY CARMEL

Welcome to the Inspiration Diaries! Last year we had six writers – three published, three on their way – checking in each month as a sort of ‘year in the writing life’. (You can catch up here.) This year we’re doing things a little differently. Three new Inspiration Project graduates will give us a monthly insight into their writing lives, but first Catherine, Carmel and Hazel will be taking it in turns to share some of their favourite writing advice in our new series, 5 Steps To… 

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Right now, it feels like we are all living in a dystopian thriller, with plot twists happening at the end of every chapter. But I’m not going to talk about Covid-19 because let’s face it, you are living and breathing nothing else but that right now. Instead, I’m going to discuss the double d’s of an authors life. Steady, I’m not talking about my bra size – its the deadline dramas! An authors life will always include deadlines. Some are self-imposed, others are contractual from your publisher. But both need focus and discipline so that you don’t derail yourself by getting sidetracked with deadline dramas. I’ve written under deadline whilst in the midst of the big snow of 2017, the heatwave of 2018, the storms of 2019. And my current WIP Letters to Myself is due with Harper Collins on April 1st with a worldwide pandemic! I think I’ve picked the biggest deadline drama of them all, right?

You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.
What mood is that?
Last-minute panic.

Bill Watterson

So here are five steps to help you deal with deadline dramas!

  1. Find your WIP soundtrack.  For the longest time, I could only write in complete silence. But I’ve learned that it is possible to train yourself to write no matter the noise around you. While I wrote The Woman at 72 Derry Lane a song from Les Miserables became an anthem for two of the main characters – Rea and Stella. I started to play One Day More every time I wrote. And by the time I got to the end of the first draft, I realised that this song had become a trigger for me. Now I compile a soundtrack for all WIP’s, unique to each. It’s all about the ’90’s power ballads for Letters to Myself and when I hit that playlist, I’m in the zone. Now the kids are at home, 24/7, I simply put on my headphones and let LeAnn or Whitney do their thing.
  2. Set daily targets, in blocks. We talk about the importance of setting targets a lot here at IPHQ! There is nothing more satisfying than adding more words to your manuscript each day. My kids know that I have to do 1500 each day and they check up on me, cheer me on. The trick with targets is to make them realistic, so you don’t set yourself up to fail. But they must also push you too.  On a good day when I exceed target, I know I have some words in the bank, for the days when life goes pear-shaped! (I know, I couldn’t resist) There are lots of ways to keep track of your targets – I use Scrivener which has a cool built-in Project Target app. Or go old school and use Catherine’s downloadable target chart HERE.
  3. Be kind to yourself. If writing were easy then everyone would be doing it. Add a ticking clock and the pressure doubles. It’s imperative you take care of yourself so that you don’t fall before you reach the end. Pack your fridge with nutritious, delicious meals. Deadline month means I have lots of easy to prepare food for all the family. Plus a freezer full of pop-in-the-oven food, when I reach deadline week. I try to limit sugar because I’ve realised that with a sugar high, comes a sugar low = no words!  But I do reward myself in other ways. I stream my favourite show on Netflix. Have fun on Whatsapp with my pals. Then there’s always Tayto and Gin. It’s a judgement-free zone when you are under a deadline.
  4. Switch off social media. Right now, that’s probably not a bad thing. #FakeNews!  I limit my SM time to 30mins in the morning and 30mins in the evening. Think of it this way, as you write your masterpiece, you are giving yourself a digital detox.
  5. Place Arse Here. Unfortunately, there is only one person who can ensure that you stick to your writing goals. You! We can help out with tips, but the bottom line (pun intended) is that your arse must be placed on your chair every day! To help you with this, click HERE to download a poster to help you out. You are welcome! Now go write that book!

What are your writing with deadline dramas tips? Let us know in the comments below!


LISA

Well, it’s a crazy world we are living in right now. Schools, colleges and crèches all closed and everyone is feeling anxious. Panic buying has left the shops emptied, raised tempers and temperatures and in some parts of the country led to arguments and long delays. My kids are all stuck at home; the youngest is loving it; for now but the older two are concerned about getting coursework done and wondering what the impact will be on exams, and I know it won’t be long before cabin fever sets in. Work has been strange as we are now closed to the public (I work in a public library), but we are still answering the phone and renewing books and library cards and providing some activities, stories and links to online resources through our social media channels. Normally in times of stress and anxiety writing offers some release but I’ve been struggling to work on any of my current projects, instead, I’ve been cleaning (a bit obsessively), alphabetizing the books at work and writing to-do lists, including lists of things to write. I know, I know it is all procrastination but it has helped, somewhat. Last time I checked in with you all I was following the 100 days of writing podcast from Tim Clare, sadly I have not been consistent with this and it’s been a few days or eek…maybe a week since I did any of the ten-minute exercises. I will get back to it. I haven’t abandoned it. The main reason I took a break was to work on my “zero” draft of my new project which does offer complete escapism when I can stop panicking long enough to focus on it. It’s romantic with some mystery elements, a dashing hero and a stubborn and studious young heroine that might ever so slightly be inspired by some of my favourite Jane Austen characters. For now, writing has been done in very short bursts but I hope the anxious time will not last too much longer and that everyone I know stays safe and healthy.

TANYA

Hey y’all! I must admit it took me a while to figure out what to write this month. I mean, I don’t have anything very exciting to report other than I am moving forward. Then it occurred to me, isn’t that what it’s all about? Movement. Let’s also add staying motivated and mindful.

Since my last post, I printed out my work in progress and read through it. I needed to reacquaint myself with the storyline and characters, and given the fact it was written during NaNoWriMo, I also needed to make sure I had something to work with. I’m happy to report that while it still needs loads of work, it’s not total crap. Phew. Next, I made some notes highlighting areas I’ll need to rework once I go back and rewrite. Then, finally, I started writing. Chip, chip, as one of my dearest friends likes to say.

The day in, day out of writing is hard. Juggling life and the desire to sit and write has been all about prioritizing and striking a balance between what I must do and what I’d rather do. I have found my most productive writing time is in the morning. I’m an early riser and easily lured out of bed by the strong scent of Hawaiian hazelnut brewing in my ninja coffee maker. I strive to keep this time open for my writing, but of course, it’s not always possible.

Staying motivated is challenging. Having a tribe, that group of family or friends, who cheer you on, support you, offer chocolate or wine when needed, is invaluable. I’ve been blessed with a fabulous crew of writing and non-writing friends who encourage me. This month, one of my writing friends and I decided to challenge ourselves to write, read and move more…and well, by now, y’all know I love a good challenge.

The commitment I made with my friend and writing these monthly posts, have helped me remain mindful. They’ve kept me focused on the goal I set for myself at the beginning of the year. Finish the first draft!

So, in the end, I guess the only thing left to say is…I am March-ing on. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

AMY

‘Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.’ – William Shakespeare

Boy has a weekly ballet class. The class is for three hours and I religiously keep that time for writing, thinking or reading. I sit in my car for three hours, looking suspicious I’m sure, but I love it. I bring coffee, snacks, books, notebooks, pens, and my laptop. It’s a lot to remember – last week I forgot to bring change for the meter. It’ll be grand, I thought, in the year I’ve been parking here I’ve seen The Clampers only once. I settled in and began to write and was in the middle of a poem when a white van pulled up a little in front of me.

That’s a double yellow line silly, I thought, and put my head back down to write. From the corner of my eye, I saw a high-viz clad man looking in the windows of nearby cars. Nosy, I thought. Then I copped that it was The Clampers. Cut to me frantically rifling through the bottom of handbag for change as The Clamper looked in at me. I pretended to still be looking for money, found enough ten-cent coins to buy me half an hour parking, but The Clampers had moved on. I put my money away and went back to my poem. Ten minutes later they were back with clamps. I hurtled out of the car to the meter, groaned as my little bundle of ten cents bought me just half an hour. I wrote a stanza in that time, after all, I’d paid for it! The Clampers moved on.

They were back just as my time ran out. Clamps at the ready. I rapidly pulled on my seat belt and drove around the corner. I parked, pulled put the poem again, wrote a bit, glanced up and there they were again. For crying out loud, I raged, I have three hours! Just three hours! Feck off and leave me alone! They didn’t, strangely enough, and having run out of change to pay for parking and only one hour left, I ended up driving around the block a few times, staying one street ahead of The Clampers, and using each block of fifteen minutes to almost complete my poem.

Finding time to write is always difficult. I’ve tried to not write, but that didn’t work for me. I’m a grump when I’m not writing or thinking about writing. I’ve become accustomed to finding time and protecting that time. And no one, not even The Clampers, is going to take that time away from me!

 

Join us next month and each month for the rest of the year for more writing advice from Catherine, Carmel and Hazel, and to check in with our scribes! 


Find out more about Catherine, Carmel and Hazel here. Sign up to our newsletter to be among the first to hear about our next Inspiration Project event

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