Jeff Chapman discusses the positives of writing under a deadline.
This year I’m taking part in Write1Sub1, an experiment with writing and self-imposed deadlines inspired by Ray Bradbury, who used to write and submit a new story every week. There are two flavors: the weekly for the brave or insane and the monthly for the realistic or wimpy. Participants check in each week or month to report on their progress. I chose the monthly version because I didn’t want to fail. Most of my stories stretch to several thousand words, but I’m getting better. So far, I’m keeping up with my commitment. Four months in and I’ve written four new stories and placed two of them.
Write1Sub1 has pushed me to produce more stories and approach writing more like a craftsman rather than an artist. I have an order for this month and I have to complete something. I have to finish that first draft, which for me has always been the stumbling block. I’ve tackled ideas that would likely still be sketchy ideas in a notebook. I didn’t feel swept up with inspiration for these stories but I needed to write something. Strangely enough, as I worked on these stories, I did become inspired and passionate about them. Sparks for the inspirational fire come from the pen scratching the paper.
The deadline gives you no time to bemoan writer’s block. If you’re stuck, keep writing. If a part of the plot is blocking you, throw it out and try a different path, but above all, keep writing. Producing a large number of stories diminishes the personal stake you have in each one, which makes cutting and rewriting easier. There’s always another story to throw your heart into around the corner. You also have less time to be verbose. If you want to finish the story and have some time to reflect and rewrite, you have to stick to the essentials in the first draft.
With the threat of public humiliation hanging over me like the grim reaper with his scythe, Write1Sub1 has curbed some of my worst writing habits. If you’re having trouble finishing stories, create deadlines for yourself and stick to them and tell others so they can hold you accountable. Most importantly, produce something. You can always rewrite it.
Jeff Chapman writes fairy tales, fantasy, and ghost stories and hearing the expression “just a fairy tale” rankles him. His works have appeared in Golden Visions Magazine, The Midnight Diner, Mindflights, and Residential Aliens. He lives with his wife and children in a house with more books than bookshelf space. To learn more, stop by his blog at http://jeffchapmanwriter.blogspot.com/.