Seven weeks ago, I accepted a challenge to finish my book by September 2, and if I miss my deadline, I have to give $1,000 to the presidential candidate I despise. More on the challenge and other productivity hacks for writers here.
Today, I’ll share an update on my progress, and what I’m learning through the process.
I’m eleven days away from my deadline, and I’ve finished twenty chapters so far(twenty-one by the end of the day!) for a total of 56,658 words.
I haven’t missed any weekly deadlines yet, but as I approach my deadline, I’m realizing finishing the book by September 2 is going to be much harder than I thought.
Here’s what’s happening and what I’m learning:
Personally, I have a much easier time starting things than finishing them, and part of that is scope creep, a term in project management that “refers to uncontrolled changes or continuous growth in a project’s scope,” according to Wikipedia.
In other words:
What seemed so easy and simple in the beginning of the project is so much harder and more complicated at the end of the project.
For me, I realized that while I thought writing 65,000 words would be enough, I’ve since realized the finished manuscript will be closer to 70,000 words. That’s not a huge jump, but when you’re less than two weeks away from your deadline, an extra 5,000 words means a lot more writing.
I’ve had to double my word count, and write an extra two chapters per week. Even with that, I’m still worried it’s going to be a close call.
When I coach people on writing their books, they almost always hit a wall about halfway of the way through their books.
In the same way, a few weeks ago I started having a really hard time finishing my chapters. I regularly had to work late on Friday to finish my chapters by the end of my weekly deadline. Last week, I was having so much trouble that I didn’t finish my chapters until 11:36, just twenty minutes before my deadline.
Part of the reason I’ve been struggling was that I was traveling and working a lot.
Still, finishing a book is hard, regardless of whether you have all the time in the world or only a few hours a day. Fortunately, I expected this, and so I’ve done my best to push through the pain.
Now that I’m almost done, I’m hoping a burst of adrenaline and focus will help carry me to the end.
One of the best parts of having firm deadlines is that you have to make decisions about your writing.
Before I started this challenge, I had all these ideas about what my book could be. I thought about going in all these experimental directions with it. However, the more ideas I had, the more I struggled with indecision.
When you have a deadline—especially if your terrified of the consequences if you miss that deadline—you don’t have time to think about all the ways your book could be. You have to decide what it will be.
I’ve had to make a lot of hard decisions over the last few weeks, and honestly, I’m not sure if they’re the right decisions. But I also know that I need to make them anyway if I’m going to finish my book on time, and for everything else, that’s what editing is for.
I’ve often said, “You are the worst judge of your own writing,” I’ve found this to be completely true during the writing process on this book.
I’ve finished so many chapters that I thought were terrible, submitted them to Becoming Writer, and heard back that people loved them.
At the same time, I’ve finished chapters that I thought were great and important, but when I submitted them, no one liked it.
To me, this is encouraging. All I can do is focus on the work, try to make my book as good as I can, and then try to use people’s feedback to make my book better. Worrying about whether what I’m writing is good or not is a waste of time.
Over the next eleven days, I have to write about fifteen thousand words. That’s a lot, but it’s not an insurmountable number. And while I’m feeling a little behind right now, I’m determined to finish this book by September 2.
If you think about it, send me warm, encouraging thoughts!
Have you ever hit the wall in your writing? Let me know in the comments!
Have you been struggling to finish a writing project? Today, spend some time working on either your work in progress or a writing piece you haven’t worked on in a while. Write for at least fifteen minutes.
When your time is up, share one paragraph of your practice in the comments section of this article. And if you share, please be sure to give feedback to at least three other writers.