I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.
Self-motivation is fine and dandy for some of the time. It sounds lovely for the writer to say that they were driven to tell this story, forced by their inner muse to weave it into the best thing they've ever written. But for a writer, nothing seems to me to be better at making me finish the damn thing or get me over the hump of an undigestible paragraph or plot point than having a deadline staring down at you.
Alas, as a relatively new writer with only a dozen+ publication credits for short stories to my name, signed contracts with deadlines built into them are pretty scarce, so mostly I have to motivate myself to write, send out, revise, send out. That's why I like Writers of the Future, with its four quarterly deadlines, or some of the limited submission windows for anthologies and certain markets. Sure, the rest of the time it's also nice to have open submissions, so I can keep having a number of stories out to market at any given time. But I like deadlines, too.
Of course, it helps to have the right deadlines. Somehow I was thinking I had two stories which had 30 June 2010 deadlines. And so I was sort of farting back and forth between them. Fortunately, when I am writing, I often (a) engage in cat-waxing and (b) do my due diligence for myself and recheck Submission Guidelines from time to time. That's when I realized that the story I'd been spending the most time on lately wasn't due for another six weeks. And the story which I had been avoiding because it had a thorny plot issue I had to resolve was the one I should've been working on. Dumb.
Worse, this second story was the one I was planning to submit for the Q3 2010 WOTF contest -- and I haven't missed a WOTF quarterly deadline since I started submitting to them on 30 June 2002. I wasn't about to miss this one.
I have a tendency to write long. I know, that comes as a surprise to most people. (grin) I chose to start writing short SF fiction because I wanted to learn how to write short SF fiction. Yes, I intend to write long SF novels, but with 64 finished stories since 2002, I have been able to work out a whole lot of issues, especially with my main 29th century universe SF writing.
Fortunately, spending six weeks at the 2004 Clarion workshop and writing my 24 hour story at the WOTF XXIV workshop means that I know I have an overdrive gear to shift into. The key thing was to remember that I was writing a short story and not a novel.
That sticky plot point? I had already reduced it to merely a mention in this version of the story, then using it at a joke for one character to prod another. But in the end, it wasn't mentioned at all. It means I had to go through the limited amount I'd already written and strip out a couple of nicknames for characters which were no longer needed, but that was easy. And whether that sticky plot point is resurrected in the novelette or novel version of the story, who can tell?
So at 3am EDT on Wednesday 30 June 2010, I finished my quick editing of my completed first draft and produced my printer file -- in this case removing my name from the title block and page number header for submitting to WOTF -- and sent it off to the printer. At 3:30am, I could go to bed. That last bit isn't as bad as it sounds -- I frequently pack it in between 2am and 4am. But today was a work day which meant that I couldn't expect to have time to do any more revisions and still get it into the mail by 5pm. Also, I had to get up and dressed early as a crew was coming to start putting a new roof on the house. (grin) So I would've liked more than three hours sleep. (tired-grin)
Is this the story that I conceived of back on the 19th? No. In some ways it is better, and there are a number of things left off which would've been there if this was say a 12,000 word novelette. And far less detailed and suspenseful if it was a 100,000 word novel. Instead what I got was about 5600 words -- only five of the previous 32 WOTF entries were around this length or shorter -- but I think it works. Is this the best story I could submit to WOTF? No. This is the best new story I've written for the Q3 2010 WOTF contest, as I have about three or four others I started but chose not to finish for this round. Do I think it will win? No. I mean, I think all of my stories have the potential to win, or I wouldn't submit them. It really is up to the judges.
The truth is I'll be really happy for any result that isn't a straight rejection. But no matter what, my bottom line is that I made my deadline. I finished my story. If it doesn't win, I'll rewrite it and send it off to other markets. And maybe someday it'll sell. Or I'll stick it on my website and let people read it there, especially as I've written this cryptic posting about it -- you wouldn't want to openly talk about the story or even its title so as not to contaminate the judging. (fairplay-grin)
So I'm pretty pleased with myself. I made my deadline. I have a new story to play with. And I even have a nifty new LJ posting to show for it today. (evil-grin)