#IWSG: The Writing Lesson I Never Learned

Hello, friends!  Welcome to another episode of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group!  If you’re a writer, and if you feel in any way insecure about your writing, click here to learn more about this wonderful group!

This month, my muse and I have reason to celebrate.  I mean, any time writing gets done, my muse and I have reason to celebrate.  But this month in particular, we have an especially good reason to celebrate.  My manuscript is done, and it is now in the hands of my editor.

At some point, obviously, my editor will hand that manuscript back to me along with a big old list of things that need to be fixed.  But in the meantime, I don’t have to worry about it, and that’s a nice feeling.

Except turning my manuscript over to my editor did not feel like the triumphant moment I thought it would.  Why not?  Because my manuscript was late.  Very late.  I’m taking the self-publishing route with this book, so it’s not like I’m in breech of contract or anything like that.  The only deadline I missed was a deadline I imposed on myself.

But still, I’m really shocked by how long it actually took me to finish that manuscript.  And since I have other self-imposed deadlines looming on the horizon, I’m a little concerned.  Am I going to stay on schedule?  Are those self-imposed deadlines not as realistic as they seem?

Which brings me to one of the very first lessons I (supposedly) learned on my writing journey.  This comes from author/blogger Jon Gibbs.  I attended one of his writing seminars back in 2006 or 2007, and he told me—told a whole group of us young, naive writers—that however much time you think you need to write something, double it.  That’s how you set a deadline.

More often than not, that lesson has proven to be true.  Just about everything takes twice as long as I think it should.

So when I set my deadline for my manuscript, did I follow Jon Gibbs’ advice?  No.  And the two deadlines I have coming up in March and May?  Did I follow Gibbs’s advice for those?  Nope.  So my muse and I are going to have to cut the celebration short and get back right back to work.

Next time on Planet Pailly, have you noticed how windy it is in outer space?

34 thoughts on “#IWSG: The Writing Lesson I Never Learned

  1. Great news and well done! And self-publishing is, I believe, the way to go. The thing about deadlines however, is that while it’s good to have a target to work towards, creating artificial deadlines for yourself can create needless problems. Psychologically, it can be better to have a process rather than a target.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, I get that. And I can say that, in the last year or so, I learned a lot about my own writing process. I tried some stuff that worked really well for me, and I tried some other stuff that didn’t. I may have missed my deadline, but I do feel like I have a much better handle on my writing process than I used to.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Congratulations on getting it submitted!

    Estimating is hard. I work in IT, where we’re called upon to provide estimates all the time. They’re nearly all SWAGs (scientific wild *ss guesses). You learn really quickly that everything takes longer than it seems it should, particularly the stuff out of your control. Doubling sounds like a good policy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love the term SWAG. I’m going to start using that.

      I guess my own work experience in news has trained me to think of deadlines a certain way. Basically, get this on the air on time, or you’re fired. The result is a lot of sub-par stuff gets on television, but hey, at least you met your deadline.

      But that mindset doesn’t translate well to what I want to do with my writing. Maybe a more IT-like mindset would be better for me.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh, we have plenty of mandated deadlines too.

        A typical conversation:
        Customer: We want X in 90 days.
        Us: We estimate X will require 180 days. We can provide .5X in 90 days.
        Customer: We’ll settle for .75X in 90 days.
        Us: .75X will require 120 days. We can provide .5X in 90 days.
        Customer: We have secured a mandate from Vice President VIP for you to deliver X in 90 days.
        [90 days later we deliver somewhere between .3X and .7X]

        Liked by 2 people

    2. I did schedule estimates for a demolition project – it was a one-of-a-kind so me and my team mates had no idea what we were doing. Just broke it down into estimating small steps. SWAGS ideed, but putting them all together actually gave a decent result overall. You’d think my own schedule would be easy – after all, I’m in control. Except, somehow, not always.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. A lot depends on how repeatable the tasks are. Unfortunately, software development hasn’t gotten to that stage yet. (And if it is repeatable, you have to wonder why it’s being done and an existing piece of software isn’t being used.)

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Congrats! There’s nothing better than sending the finished draft off and nothing worse than getting it back. Last year was awful for me. I had a bunch of obligations that would pop up when I least wanted. I feel better this year. Not sure I’m doing a better job at my writing, but I feel better. I’m sure that, if the cat just quits sitting on my keyboard, I’ll be right on schedule.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know what you mean. The last two years or so, life just kept getting in the way of writing. It felt like I was constantly stopping and starting over again from scratch.

      Things started getting better toward the end of 2019, and 2020 looks pretty promising to me so far. Here’s hoping it stays that way for both of us!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Congrats of having a finished draft out with your editor! I know you’ve already rushed back to work, but one of us needs to celebrate your excellent work 🙂 I’m slightly horrified to discover that one needs to double the expected time, but I’m learning that is almost certainly correct. AT LEAST double possibly …

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, I was kind of horrified by the idea too, which is probably why I have such a hard time with it. I want to live in denial! But more often than not, things really do take twice as long as I think they should. Sometimes more.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Nothing’s better than being able to hand off a job to someone else. That short window of time before it comes back to you can be amazingly relaxing. Doubling my deadline times wouldn’t even come close to solving my problems. We’re talking orders of magnitude here. Congrats on finishing the manuscript!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Congrats on getting it done!!! It may have taken longer, but you still completed it and that is a win. My Squad always tries to get me to look at the bright side of things. Setting deadlines for yourself I think makes it harder to stick to, and yes I’m totally speaking from experience there. Remember the advice you spoke of, and try not to be too hard on yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

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