Over the summer, I compiled a “To Do” list of 76 items to revise on the memoir I’ve been writing for the past few years. I’d hired a freelance editor to suggest changes and a friend read it and offered feedback. I began with the easy ones, slogging through slower than a snail. Late September, 70 items remained. I really wanted to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which begins November 1st each year. I did not, however, want to set the memoir aside. So I gave myself a deadline. Only if I finished the memoir edits by midnight October 31st would I allow myself to plunge into a NaNoWriMo project.

At the beginning of October, I thought I had all the time in the world. Thirty-one full days. The weeks passed. My progress slowed. Each time I fixed one problem, several more appeared. In the last week of October, I still had 37 items on my list. I wouldn’t make it. When I complained to my husband, he said, “It’s not November yet.” I reminded myself of my deadline and trudged ahead.

I had hoped to get done a few days before November 1st in order to plan a strategy for NaNoWriMo, but October 29th, then October 30th came and went. Saturday, October 31st, I was down to four items. One of them involved moving an entire chapter and another required me to thread a theme through the whole book. I didn’t see how it was possible, but I had my deadline. I told myself, “Just start and see what happens.” At 6:35PM on Saturday night, I crossed “Renumber Chapters,” the last item, off the list. HURRAH! That gave me a few hours (thank you time change!) to plan for NaNoWriMo.

Do you set deadlines? How do they work for you? Leave a comment below if you like.

Nita Sweeney
(c)Nita Sweeney, 2009, all rights reserved

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