Setting Deadlines

I've been struggling the last month or so, trying to find time to work on Draft 3 of The Novel. It's far too easy to avoid working on it. There are always dishes to wash, a dog to walk, day job work that needs doing, laundry that won't wash itself, errands that need running.

Lately,  I reach the end of my work day with brain cells drained. Some jobs feed my creative energy; others sap it. My current projects exhaust it. That was a large reason why I had hoped to make my vacation a writer's retreat, at least in part. But my exhaustion was deeper than I'd realized.

My goal was to have the revisions done in time to start sending out queries this fall. At the rate I'm going, that's not going to happen.

I have also learned, during the last few years of self-employment, that my chances for success improve dramatically when I have an external deadline to meet. I tend to let my own deadlines slip by.  (I'm sure any mental-health professional would say that indicates volumes about my own sense of self-worth, but that's another post for another night.)

So, to motivate myself, I've found an external deadline to meet: Authoress' Baker's Dozen Contest in October/November. Authoress runs a blog called Miss Snark's First Victim, and she is a champion for aspiring authors. Her contests bring writers together, with each other and with literary agents. The Baker's Dozen Contest is the largest contest she runs, and this year I want to be part of it. (For more details about the contest, visit her blog here.) For that to happen, I have to get cookin' --I have to finish my revisions and write a logline within the next two months. (A logline is, basically, a 1-2 sentence summary of the novel. Believe me when I say the logline scares me more than the revisions.)

Of course, that contest wasn't enough. I had to sign up for another contest, as well: the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. I participated in the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge earlier this year and earned an honorable mention in the first round. The contest was indeed a challenge, and for a while I swore I would not repeat the experience. But the challenge spurred me to write a story that I really like. I'm ready to write another one. Left to my own devices, however, it would likely be months before I started anything new. With this challenge, I'll be forced to write at least two new stories: one in each of the first two rounds.

So if you don't hear from me in September and October, it's probably because I'm up to my eyeballs writing, and revising, and creating, and panicking. The usual writer stuff. And should I advance or (dare I say it?) win any of these contests, you won't need my blog or an e-mail to tell you. You should be able to hear my whoop of joy through your open window.