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The Magical Power of Deadlines

By Emily Milner

The deadline for Segullah‘s annual writing contest is December 31. I confess, I love a good deadline. Occasionally I’ve had enough discipline to write, revise, polish, and submit something without a deadline. Mostly not, though.

Case in point: my story “The Living Wife” will appear in the upcoming Monsters and Mormons anthology. I had an idea about a woman who can see ghosts marrying a widower, a kind of ghostly take on polygamy. But I have never published fiction before, only a poem here or an essay there, so I wasn’t very confident about my ability to get something written. Still, I started working on it, and finally had a not-embarrassing draft ready a week before the deadline.

Then I found some excellent readers, who gave me wonderful feedback. One of them helped me cut out a lame extra character and brought focus to the whole thing. I incorporated their ideas and typed and typed up to the day of the deadline, only figuring out how to end the thing the day before.

Yeah, that’s probably not the best example of How You Are Supposed to Write. But it worked for me, and I believe that the deadline helped me keep going and actually finish instead of putting it off.

If you’re like me, you want to write a novel someday. Something big, something that feels permanent and has your name on the cover. But maybe if you’re also like me, you just can’t embark on that right now. Which is why I like essays. And poetry. And now, short fiction: it’s my small creation, small but real. You can do it too (and, if you do write novels already, take a break and write an essay for us!).

So, the Segullah essay, poetry, and fiction contest: deadline December 31. Please enter–get started thinking right now. Do some rush writing to get your ideas out. Read these blog posts with writing ideas. Get the raw material of your essay, poem, or story ready now, in October. Then in November you can shape it into a rough draft, find its structure and direction. In December you can show it to fellow writers who can help you polish it up. And December 31st, the deadline, you can click “send” and submit your work.

We can’t wait to read it.

Do you have any questions about the Segullah contest in the comments? How do deadlines help you in your writing, or the rest of your life? Or do they bug you and make you feel too pressured?

1-Genre fiction meets Mormons, which I think is a great premise. The book will be released October 31.

About Emily Milner

(Poetry Board) graduated from BYU in Comparative Literature, but it was long enough ago that most of what she learned has leaked out. She would like to mention other hobbies or interests, but to be honest she spends most of her free time reading (although she does enjoy attempting yoga). She used to blog at hearingvoices.wordpress.com. For now, though, Segullah is her only blogging home, and it's a good one.

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