Practicing Deadlines: Writing in a Time Crunch

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While I was at the Mt. Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, an established author commented to me how stressed she was trying to meet a publisher’s deadline. I felt bad that she was so stressed, but it didn’t really click about how that pressure can take a toll on one as a writer. So, it kind of gave me an idea. For the next three weeks, I’ll be living at the coffee shop writing, editing and rewriting like a madwoman to finish my second Victorian novel by September 1st. My goal with this exercise of a self-imposed deadline is to see how well I can be creative, edit, rewrite and edit my book again and produce a quality piece that shines. When it comes to getting a real publishing house deadline, I want to be able to deliver and deliver well.

Usually, I write with daily word count goals in mind, but in the 2nd-5th drafts, my perspective has to shift from word counts to chapters. To see my editing process, check out my post “From ‘Finished’ to Ready.” Today, I’ll be talking about using that process, but pairing it with ideas for how to write in a time crunch:

Check your word count. I usually try to leave myself 5-10k words to use in the editing process, but sometimes, that number is higher depending on where I ended the 1st/2nd draft. Hypothetically, let’s say I have 10k left to add.

Time your editing pace on the hardcopy. So, I need 10k added to my piece, but in order to get a realistic-ish idea of how many words I can write I can’t just calculate by my normal writing pace. This is editing pace. How I usually get my editing pace is that I print out my manuscript and get out my red pen and get to editing. I mark my start time and end time on each chapter. (I use the average of my editing time on my first 3 chapters to determine my pace.)

Time your editing pace on inserting your edits. After I edit chapters 1-3, I see how long it takes to input them into my Word doc. Now, I know this may seem like doing twice the work, but I find that when I print out the manuscript, I find A LOT of mistakes that my eyes just skimmed over in the computer and when I am inputting the edits into the computer, I get even more ideas and find a few more edits.

Your editing word count pace. Now that I have my average pace for my hardcopy edits and computer edits, I can get check and see how many words I was able to insert. This should give me an idea of my editing word count pace for my entire novel and give me the amount of hours that I have left on my project.

I think a safe editing word count per hour is 350-400. Pretty low, right? Just remember that this is a different kind of word count pace. It’s supposed to be slower because we’re trying to polish and enhance our stories.

So, if I write 400 words per hr and I need 10k (math…not my friend) ehhh…I think that should be almost 25 hours left of the writing process! Not bad at all!

Include enough time for critique partners to review. My partners usually only take 1-2 weeks to let me know their edits and while they are reviewing their hardcopies, I am reviewing my own and marking my edits once again, but this time, if I did my editing thoroughly enough before, there should hopefully be a lot less to edit. Once I have all hardcopies together, I input them chapter by chapter and my work is finally “finished.” I think a safe average for reviewing/editing the manuscript a second time would be 30min-45min per chapter. So, if your book is 30 chapters, it should only take you 15-20 hours for editing and inputting.

25 hours for print/input edits and 18hrs for second print/input edits= 43 hours total.

In the end, the author’s book came out on time and I can’t wait to read it! I’ll let you know how my experiment works out. IF all goes well, I should have my polished manuscript by September 1st! We’ll see!

Happy writing!

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About Grace Hitchcock

Grace Hitchcock's first novella, The Widow of St. Charles Avenue, released in Barbour Publishing’s The Second Chance Brides Collection August 2017. Her second novella will release in Barbour Publishing’s The Southern Belle Brides Collection in 2018. She has a Masters in Creative Writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in History. Grace is a Louisiana Southerner living in Colorado with her husband, Dakota, and newborn son.

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