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I'm very responsible when I'm writing a tech book or article under contract. I have a deadline, my editor is expecting my work, and I turn it in on time. Sometimes I put it off a bit, but I pride myself on making deadlines, and I will do whatever is necessary to do so.

But without this external motivation, when I'm writing for myself, I don't have the same urgency. It's too easy for me to tell myself that I'll do it later. What I need is a deadline for my novel, or parts of my novel. How can I simulate that same sense of urgency in a way I can take seriously? Just promising myself isn't good enough.

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

I suffer from this all the time. My wife says I always write better to a deadline, but I struggle to figure out how to set deadlines and stick them. Some ideas I've been thinking about:

  • Get someone you know to set a deadline for you, and behave as if you're writing for them.
  • Find writing competitions on-line and write towards meeting that deadline. You may win something, you may not, but it will help condition you to write towards a deadline.
  • Write stories for people you know based on dates e.g. you want a story ready for Christmas, a gift for someone's birthday.
  • Write with the purpose of submitting to a magazine for a particular issue.
  • If you're prepared to spend the money, find some creative writing courses and do them, not with the objective of getting the qualification, but more because they are geared towards enforcing some discipline to meet deadlines for submitted work.

Of course, no-one except yourself can commit to a deadline, and enforce the discipline to meet that deadline (trust me, I know), but hopefully this could help!

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Craig, I've decided to take your last suggestion, that of enrolling in a course. Thanks! –  Lynn Beighley Apr 21 '11 at 12:58
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If you need the heart attack feeling of an approaching deadline to turn in good work how about setting interim deadlines, in effect multiple mini heart attacks?

Failing that you can give yourself a daily reminder (or nag) by going to habitforge and set up a daily email reminder. This will ask you if you did what you said you'd do by answering only yes or no. So maybe you need to set a goal of writing 10 minutes a day, every day. Set this up and track it in habitforge. Most people don't like answering no so you get some automatic extrinsic motivation.

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Tell your friends, family, spouse that you will finish your novel in October, 15th (or whatever). Or tell it only your first draft readers. They will expect your work to be finished then. They will nag. You have a deadline.

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