Book Deadline Challenge: Week 3 Update

by Joe Bunting | 27 comments

Three 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.

Book Deadline Challenge Week 3 Update

I'm three weeks into the challenge, and I've finished nine chapters so far for a total of 42,721 words.

It wasn't hard to finish nine chapters, since I started the challenge with a little less than 30,000 words already written. However, since then I've written about 12,000 words, or about 700 per day.

Let's go a little deeper to see what is working and what isn't:

Writing Schedule

The last three weeks have been intensely busy. I was on family vacation from July 8 to 14 in Colorado. My house is being remodeled, which means coordinating with contractors and flooring guys.

With travel, family, and house issues, it would have been so easy to put off my writing and pick it up again when things “settle down.”

Of course, the truth is life never settles down. You will always feel like next week/month/year will be a better time for your writing, but that time never comes. Instead, write now.

This is where having a consequence really helps. If I miss a weekly deadline, even because I'm traveling, I lose something. If I miss three deadlines, I lose a really big thing.

Not only is that internally motivating, it gives me the best excuse if I'm with other people. For example, in Colorado I had to bow out of a few activities to write.

Normally, I would have sacrificed my writing to go with the flow and avoid hurting anyone's feelings. But because of the deadline, all I had to say was, “I'm sorry I have to write. If I don't hit my deadline I have to give $1,000 to the political candidate I don't like.”

This takes all the tension out the situation. Plus, I find that I'm more productive and am able to quickly finish my daily word count and get back to work.

Word Count

I'm using Scrivener to write my book, which has the added benefit of Project Targets.

Project Targets Scrivener

I set my project targets on the first day, inputing my word count goal, deadline, and the days of the week I would write.

Word Count Targets

Afterward, it gave me a daily word count that updates each writing session. The nice thing is that if I write more during one writing session, it lowers the word count of the next writing session. Vice versa if I write too little.

Scrivener Deadline Week 3The project target has been a huge motivator for me. Several days, I've wanted to give up 300 or so words into my writing session.

However, knowing I only had 342 more words, for example, to write to stay on track helped me push through and get my work done. And the writing itself on those days has actually been pretty good!

Accountability

For extra accountability, I've been posting my chapters each week to Becoming Writer, which has been a great way to get feedback on the book and stay encouraged in the midst of the writing process.

Becoming Writer Community

So far, feedback has been really great. Cathryn Ryan told me, “[C]ongratulations on finding a way to conquer resistance and get your book written. It is heartening to me, a novice, to know that even experienced writers struggle with resistance. There will be a lot of us here cheering you on.”

Sue Weems said, “Loving this memoir. The dialogue between you and your wife throughout cracks me up. The set up with your unpredictable grandmother has kept me reading. The pizza order and your ‘make the best of it' response mirrors what I expect we’ll see through the rest of the book. International travel (especially with family) requires an ironclad sense of humor and ability to roll with the punches. Thoroughly enjoyable. Will watch for the next installments!”

And Gary Little said, “I laughed my ass off at Grandma and the age ‘issue.'”

Success!

I think the feedback will get more critical as I get deeper into the book. I've spent the longest amount of time on and feel most confident about these early chapters, but as I write fresh chapters, they will feel more raw and in need of editing. However, right now, I'm enjoying all the praise!

Next Steps

I'm nearly through the beginning setup of the book and am about to delve into the middle, which is always the hardest part of any book. I have a lot of new content to write and a lot of notes, journal entries, and scraps of chapters to weave in. I expect the writing will get harder from here out.

However, I'm also really enjoying this process. Each day I write at my favorite café near my office. After I finish my daily writing session, I love the feeling of walking back to the office, knowing that I accomplished my goal for the day.

Most of the time, I feel genuinely proud of what I've written. But even when I've ended my writing session on a bad note, which often happens, I still feel like I'm making process toward my goal and am going to have some kind of book, even if it's just a bad first draft.

How is your work in progress going? Let us know in the comments!

PRACTICE

Today, share your writing with someone and get feedback. Ask a friend to look over it, print it out and hand it to your mom, share an excerpt in the comments below, or join us in Becoming Writer and post it in the workshop. Feedback and accountability are essential parts of the writing process, so seek them out today.

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Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

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27 Comments

  1. Candace

    Great article Joe! It’s hard to stay on track of writing goals during the summer when family reunions, pool parties, and BBQs abound. I really love your “I’m sorry I have to write. If I don’t hit my deadline I have to give $1,000 to the political candidate I don’t like” -line. That’s the best excuse I’ve ever heard! Haha!

    I always struggle to meet writing goals when around others for fear of offending them. I’ll have to try a similar approach. Maybe “If I don’t meet my writing goal I have to buy $1,000 worth of cilantro and rice and eat it until it’s all gone…” since cilantro really does taste like a dead stink bug to me.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Such a great excuse. 🙂

      Haha wow that sounds really horrible for you. Cilantro and rice are pretty cheap so you would be eating it for a really long time!

    • Candace

      Haha! Exactly the point…

  2. Davidh Digman

    Great thing to do!

    I have another way of looking at procrastination. I believe in procrastinating my procrastination.

    Procrastinating is so easy to do, there’ll be plenty of time to procrastinate another time. So instead of procrastinating on my book today, I’ll put off procrastinating until Tuesday after next. But today I will write.

    Congratulations on your success!

    Reply
    • Bruce Carroll

      I use a similar mind trick. I figure I can always quit tomorrow. Whether it’s writing, working out, eating right, etc. I can always write one more chapter, do one more workout session, or eat one more clean meal.

    • Joe Bunting

      Ha! Nice. Good idea!

    • 709writer

      Ha ha, I love that idea! Putting off procrastination; now that’s genius. : )

    • Davidh Digman

      See how it works? I wanted to thank you straight away for the lovely compliment, but it would have meant procrastinating my writing. So I left my procrastination until now! Thank you!

  3. M.C. Muhlenkamp

    Great accountability plan, Joe! I’ve done similar deadline challenges, but never something as encouraging. There’s no better way to stick to your guns than when money is involved, especially in something as specific. I’m rooting for you! Thanks for inspiring us to do better.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Very true, MC. Thanks for rooting for me!

  4. seth_barnes

    Hats off to you, Joe! Loved watching how focused you were while in CO. You’re doing great!

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks Seth! It was a lot of fun writing in the mountains.

  5. Marcy Mason McKay

    Congrats, Joe! Keep up the good work. I’m on 35,000 word in the follow-up to Pennies from Burger Heaven. We’re going to Colorado next week and I hope to WRITE LIKE A MANIAC, while my husband fly-fishes.

    Reply
  6. chatterbox

    I’m writing stories for my four grandchildren (ages 7-12), each story featuring one of them as the MC. Talk about motivation. Now, instead of the days when their parents pleaded to know “Are we there yet?”, I’ve got my grandchildren asking, “Are they done, yet?”

    Reply
    • Stella

      Sounds amazing. Your grandkids are so lucky. And living with a mountain view, sounds incredible! I lived in Switzerland for five months on exchange and couldn’t get enough of the mountain views.

    • chatterbox

      I love the Wyoming/Colorado mountains–no other place feels like home. As much as I enjoy visiting other places, I’ve never considered living anywhere else. Many years ago, I had an Aunt who spent a year traveling around the world, and she always said Switzerland was her favorite place; the only place she could imagine living other than the US. When she came home, she said our Rocky Mountains seemed small, so I can only imagine what majestic towers the Alps must be.

  7. LaCresha Lawson

    Thank you. Inspiring.

    Reply
  8. Bushkill (Kevin)

    Don’t know if it will let me post. This being my first and all.

    I like your accountability and drive. Two things I struggle with. Way too easy for me to kick the idea i’m writing to a back burner and deal with it another time. Getting it back from an editor hurt too.

    Reply
  9. jim calocci

    it’s great to take us
    on your journey
    it makes your point clearly
    all of us are still learning
    ” even if it is just a bad first draft”
    is the kind of humility and discipline
    that will help all of us to last
    thanks , as always , Joe Bunting
    for seeing the lesson in everything

    Reply
  10. Reagan Colbert

    Wow, this is great! Congrats on your success of this book so far!
    I, too, have recently come to that conclusion – there’s never going to be a perfect time, so just write.
    Despite what could have been used as excuses, I decided back in March to JUST WRITE! And I did. And out of it came two books, which I published on Amazon.
    Those have been my WIP, and since publishing book 2 earlier this week, I find myself on a week-long break before diving into book 3. It’s truly amazing what we writers can do when we decide to stop procrastinating, and it is awesome to see you doing the same! Somehow we, as one of your reviewers said, get the impression that experienced writers don’t struggle with these problems, yet every writer, no matter what their experience level is, does.
    I wish you the best with the rest of your book, Joe!

    Reply
  11. Stella

    I’m between jobs at the moment and have told myself to enter one short story contest a week until I’m working again. One thing I’m trying to improve is how I get feedback. So for my first story, I had no feedback because I finished it five minutes before the submission deadline. Second story, I finished the first draft two days before the deadline, so could send it to writing buddies and real life friends. I’m on story #3 now (for the upcoming contest!) and am experimenting with putting it on Facebook and seeing what feedback I get. This on top of the Becoming Writer community. This way, even if my writing isn’t improving, at least the ways I get feedback are improving!

    Reply
    • Stella

      Haha and what the heck, might as well share my story here too.

      *
      Aftermath (for the upcoming contest themed ‘Scars’)

      The lady could have been a fisherwoman. She had large red hands more suited for a working-class woman, not a professional of her stature. I found myself focusing on them, rather than on the words she was saying. Her words seemed to drift in and out of my brain, like a radio only intermittently tuned to the right station.

      “…government providing this consultation free of charge to all victims, so don’t worry. How can I help you?”

      Part of my brain sent up a red flag. She asked you a question. That demanded a response.

      “Uh, I don’t know.”

      She smiled. “That’s alright. For most of my patients, it’s their first time seeing a therapist. What made you decide to come today?”

      Screaming. Terror. Running. Smoke that filled my nostrils, my lungs, my dreams.

      “My mother made me,” I said. “She heard about the free consultation and insisted I come – she never passes up anything that’s free.”

      The therapist chuckled. “Again, you’ll be surprised how many of my patients are here because of that! Not like Singaporeans to give up free stuff, is it?” She made a mark on her clipboard, although I couldn’t see what I had said that was worthy of writing down. I did not want anything to be written down. I wanted everything to disappear. To go back to the way it was.

      “And the attack was two weeks ago, wasn’t it? How have you been doing so far?”

      Had it only been two weeks? It seemed like it was just yesterday. It seemed like it was a lifetime ago. The memories, expanding until they filled eternity, until they were all I could see at night.

      “Great. I’ve just been chilling at home – it’s summer vacation now.”

      “University student?” She scribbled on her clipboard again. “What were you doing out at that time?”

      “It was the last day of term. My friends and I wanted to celebrate over dinner.” The term had been too long, all of us looking forward to a well-deserved break. When Aisyah spontaneously suggested we go to town and enjoy ourselves, nobody else had any objections. Sure, we wouldn’t normally go to town on a weekday evening, but why not?

      If only I had refused. If only someone had objected.

      The lady was looking concerned now. “Oh dear. You were going to celebrate with your friends when the attack happened? That must have been very traumatic.”

      At first we thought it was a train breakdown. Not like those were uncommon. The MRT stopped moving. One of those recorded announcements played. ‘This train has stopped moving because the train ahead is still in the station. We apologise for the inconvenience.’ But then a shockwave through the tunnel. The lights went out. And the screaming started.

      I attempted to smile. “Why does it matter why we were there? Besides, we were luckier than the people on the train in front.”

      “A positive attitude! I like that.” More writing on the clipboard. “You seem to be very healthy. Just out of personal curiosity now – were you scared? What’s it like to be involved in a terrorist attack?”

      Smoke. Shrapnel. Silence. Someone started to sob. In the distance someone was yelling. Those Muslims! Those Muslims!

      “I don’t remember much about the attack,” I said. “It all happened too fast.”

      “Okay.” She seemed unperturbed by my response. “Just as well you don’t remember. Many of my patients, they develop phobias. Many admit to feeling nervous around Muslims nowadays. Considering we live in a society that’s 15% Muslim, you can see why that might be a problem.” She laughed. “But for you, I’m happy to discharge you. You’re very lucky. You’ve been through an emotionally traumatic experience. I’m glad to see you’re unscarred.”

      I stood up and shook her hand. “Me too.”

      *

      There was an empty seat on the bus. I would never take the train again. I moved mechanically towards the seat.

      The woman in the adjacent seat was wearing a tudung. Our eyes met and she smiled. I saw her starting to lift her grocery bags to make room. Sheng Siong, my mother’s favourite supermarket. Inside the bags I saw rice, Knife-brand cooking oil, jars of sambal.

      I kept walking. The back of the bus had plenty of standing room.

      The therapist’s words echoed. I’m glad to see you’re unscarred.

      *

      “Home so fast? Your therapist appointment, how? Okay or not?” My mother was ironing in the living room. On the sofa, my dad was watching TV.

      I mumbled something, hoping she would get the hint. “Okay lah.”

      She appeared to accept it. “If that Malay karang guni man comes, tell him no newspaper today.”

      Home was safe. Home had no Muslims. I had forgotten about the karang guni man coming every Friday to collect our recyclables.

      Of which there were a lot. I looked at the stack of old newspapers behind the door.

      “Then what do you want to do with them?”

      “Later you help me bring to the recycle bin downstairs.”

      Judging by the volume of papers, that would take at least three trips. I could just imagine that: tottering down the corridor, fumbling for the lift button with one hand, vision blocked by the precarious paper tower in my arms.

      “Ma, that’s ridiculous.”

      My mother finally looked up from the ironing board. “Aiyoh, safety first. After the bomb, better don’t go near that kind of people.”

      My heart was beating faster. “What kind of people?”

      My mother lowered her voice. “Like him, lor.”

      “Like what? Males? Guys who wear flip-flops? People with ten fingers, two eyes and a nose – am I getting close?” My heart was pounding now. I did not know what was making me go on.

      My dad looked up from the TV. “Don’t be so rude to your mother.”

      “Yeah? She’s being completely racist! And I can’t tell her to stop it?”

      My mother sighed. “Ah Girl, now you don’t want to listen to me. You already so lucky that you not injured by the bomb. But now, better not go near Malays. Later something happen to you, too late already.”

      I could take it no more. “Malays, Malays, Malays! You know Malays are different from Muslims right? And it’s not like the freaking karang guni man was the one who – oh, forget it.” Whatever fuelled me was gone. I dropped my bag and stormed into my room.

      *

      When I woke up the house was empty. They must have gone out for dinner while I was sleeping.

      The doorbell rang. It couldn’t be my parents, they had keys.

      Something clicked. If that Malay karang guni man comes, tell him no newspapers today.

      “There’s no papers today,” I called. My voice was barely a croak.

      A muffled noise. The doorbell rang again. Of course he couldn’t hear me. Should I open the door? I would have to come face to face with him. But if I didn’t, he would never go away.

      I opened the door just a crack. “No papers today.”

      The karang guni man was there. I had never spoken to him up close before. What was his name – Uncle Ahmad? Uncle Azri? Only in Singapore, I mused, could you call someone who wasn’t even of the same race ‘uncle’.

      Uncle Ahmad/Azri looked at me. “Everybody don’t have papers. I knock on so many doors, people don’t want to open. Or they say no papers.”

      “I…don’t know why that would be.”

      “My wife is getting worried. We have three children. But last two weeks, every day I have nothing to give the recycling centres. How to feed them, like that?”

      That feeling of being trapped again. A slowly rising panic in my throat. Why?

      “It’s okay. Hang in there. Maybe next week people will have more newspapers.”

      Uncle Ahmad/Azri smiled. “Thank you. I’m happy for people like you who have trust in me. So many people, they don’t even want to talk to me any more, because I am Muslim.”

      He turned to leave, then stopped. “You said your house no papers, right?”

      I wanted to say no.

      I wanted to say no…

      I wanted…

    • 709writer

      I was riveted – even leaned forward in my seat. I even forgot I was reading! Keep up the great work. Best of luck in the contest!

    • Stella

      Thank you! That is hugely encouraging and means a lot to me. How did you feel about the ending?

    • 709writer

      I got the feeling that maybe she ended up giving him a paper or maybe she still refused but wanted to on the inside. Great piece!

  12. juli

    Book finished at about 25k words. Going into final reading this week. I hope you meet your deadline, Joe!

    Reply
  13. 709writer

    Julia glanced back from her booth and stared as Sean walked into the restaurant. Her throat closed. His presence brought memories rushing forth, one after another.

    His hands gripping her shoulders. His weight pinning her to the ground.

    Black dots salted her vision. She had to leave this restaurant. Now.

    “Hey,” Shadow said across from her.

    She faced him. She’d forgotten he was there.

    “You ok?”

    Words rose in her throat, but stopped there. Sean’s presence made her insides feel like raw eggs, trembling and sliding around at the same time.

    Shadow spoke again. “What’s wrong?”

    “The man who tried to…” She searched for a different word. “…to hurt me, is here.” She then hugged herself, shutting her mind to every other person in the room in order to block out Sean.

    Shadow studied her for a second, then turned his eyes toward the rest of the room. “What does he look like?”

    “About six feet with light brown hair,” she whispered.

    She watched Shadow’s eyes scan over the restaurant. After a few seconds, his gaze froze on someone. A muscle twitched in his jaw and something dark passed through his eyes.

    Unable to resist, Julia peeked over the top of her booth and spotted Sean. Shadow eased from the booth, his eyes still fixed on the man.

    “Come on,” Shadow said as he extended his hand.

    Julia grabbed it and clung to the strength of his grip. Her pulse pounded so hard in her ears it almost drowned out the sounds of silverware clinking and people talking. She didn’t dare glance back again as she let Shadow pull her from the booth.

    His eyes trained on Sean, Shadow backed toward the door that led to the back patio.

    They’d reached the door when Shadow stiffened. A chill washed over her and she did look back.

    Sean was staring straight at her.

    Any feedback/comments welcome. I’ve got a dilemma with how to put a certain item correctly into a sentence. How should “a.m.” be written in a book when it’s at the end of a sentence or right before a comma? For instance, is “after seven a.m., he ran for his life” correct? And what about “he ran for his life after seven a.m..”? If anyone has advice, let me know. Thanks!

    Reply

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