The euphoria of finishing a draft is intoxicating! There’s nothing quite like it.

The pages are neatly printed out and stacked. I feel like I’ve just come up for air, gasping from being so long under water.

As always, there was blood, sweat and sleepless nights leading up to the finish.

I forget that this is true of each finish, each stage of the writing process (outline, first draft, second, third … sixth).

Steel is forged by fire: a series of deadlines helps heat things up. An approaching long holiday can act as an effective motivation to finish. The most definitive deadlines are the ones when I have to give a manuscript to an agent or editor. A literary competition could work, as well.

Like preparing for a final exam, an athletic event or a recital, such deadlines force me to give it everything I’ve got. Again and again and again.

And so, here it is: the 4th draft of The Next Novel! There will be a 5th and a 6th, no doubt, before my publisher even sees it (and then likely there will be a 7th and an 8th, as well). The 8th will likely be the “downhill draft”—the polishing and fiddling. That’s always such a pleasure.

But right now, it’s still heavy lifting. For this 4th, the changes were major: a switch from 3rd to 1st person point-of-view, a major character eliminated, new scenes in, old scenes out. (The manuscript is 90,000 words, and the cut file is 60,000!) It’s possible that the 5th will be a significant re-vision as well.

But for now, it’s all all packaged up and ready to go to Fiona Foster—reader, writer, editor, reviewer, wise woman.

I feel like I’m on holiday—until I look at the wreckage of my office, the weeds in the garden, the overflowing in-box. Even so, I tackle them with euphoria.

How do you set deadlines for yourself?