Hunting For Deadlines
I’m always on the lookout for short story competitions and anthologies – but I rarely finish my submissions before the deadline. Faced with a deadline far in the future, I don’t feel any urgency to get anything done. If a publisher wants stories to be submitted with a deadline of six months from now, I lose all interest in writing a story today because I don’t have the impetus to finish it quickly. Six months is a long time. Too long. In July I missed submitting something for an anthology because I started writing my story six months in advance and never completed it. I was annoyed at myself for failing at what seems like a simple task. A short story is only a few thousand words. It should be possible to write one in a day. I can write that amount for a longer project with no problems – but I couldn’t finish a short story in six months. The distant deadline felt like the finish line of a marathon, not a sprint.
Last month I decided to use deadlines in a different way. I looked only for deadlines that were coming up very soon. The first one I found had a deadline that ran out in a four days. With no time to procrastinate, I managed to write a story of 5000 words in two days, with plenty of time to edit it and send it off for the deadline. After doing that, I noticed another story deadline for the same day. With only two days to write the story, I wrote 6500 words in a few hours. That provided a heady rush of endorphins. I normally write about 1000-2000 words in a day – so I really felt like I had accomplished something as I emailed it off. I don’t know if either story will be accepted – but it felt great delivering something from first draft to final one in under a week. In August I looked for more short deadlines. Several were due at the end of the month – but that seemed like a long time off at the beginning of the month. I did other things until closer to the deadlines. Then with under a week left, I started writing near the deadlines. I wrote three short stories totalling 10,000 words in three days.
Using deadlines to speed up the writing process helped me enormously. Last month I wrote six stories in concentrated bursts that I would not have finished if I had not been watching a clock ticking down.
I can’t wait to hunt for more upcoming deadlines. I just hope I don’t start my submissions too early.
I love writing competitions – especially ones that are free to enter. One I like is a monthly one organised by Michael Brookes on his website The Cult of Me. Each month the challenge is to write a short story based on a picture. Entries have to be under 500 words. The deadline is short – so it is a great challenge. I’m very pleased my story Appy Endings was one of the winners in the August competition. If you would like to read it and the other prize-winning stories, please click here.