Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
"As sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives..." (Okay, I probably just showed my age with this one. Bonus points if you can cite this reference in your comments.)
The pre-published crave them. The oft-published deal with them. The smart
writer plans for them.
But how? What steps can an author take to ensure that she makes her deadlines consistently and endears herself to her editors?
1) Be Honest
. Be honest with yourself. When that contract offer comes in and everything is shiny and possible, it's easy to commit to a deadline that is unrealistic. Take a deep breath, truly evaluate your schedule, your obligations, and your writing capabilities. Take the time of year into account, holidays, vacations, school events, etc. For me, I avoid January 1st deadlines because I am the bookkeeper for the family business, and the last two weeks of December are slammed for me as I finish up responsibilities and meet with the accountant, etc. I also take into account things I love. Like March Madness. As a rabid Kansas Jayhawks fan, I know I will be glued to the TV to watch their progress as they make yet another DEEP run in the tournament. (Note my total confidence!) Also, reckon for your writing style. Are you a fast-draft kind of writer? Plotter, pantser? Blitzer? Teaser? How fast do you normally write? Can you realistically knock out a quality 90K word novel in three months? Or will it take you four, five or six? Are you a one-book-per-year author? Be honest in your evaluation, because you want to love the process of writing, not be all stressed out and cranky because you've set yourself a nearly-impossible task.
2) Plan Some Down Time.
If you have X amount of words and Y number of days to your deadline, don't divide to get exactly how many words you need and assume you will do that every day over your writing period. Plan in days when you know you won't be able to write, or days when you don't plan to write at all. Your brain needs some time to refuel and relax in order to create your best stuff. Factor in interruptions, illness, and the unexpected and give yourself some wiggle room.
3) Plan Some Writing Marathons.
Especially in the beginning and at the end of your story, when you know how things are going to unfold with your plot. Get a lot written up front and at the end when you tend to write faster because you know how the story needs to finish. Some writers take a weekend or two away to really pound out the words. If this isn't feasible for you, sequester yourself away from family and obligations to focus on your work. Hire a babysitter, send the kids to grandma's, trade weekend babysitting with someone. Get your family on board with your need for solitude and then crank out the words.
4) Set Goals.
If you sit down every day with no expectation of what you're going to accomplish, chances are, you're not going to get as much done as you had hoped. Choose a word goal, or a scene goal. Aim for something that will stretch you, and then sit down and do it! The doing it is the most important part here. It's fine to set goals and talk about goals and all, but you have to actually do the work in order to accomplish them. It's like the old "I want to write vs. I want to have written." You can't just dream about making your deadline, you have to actually strive to do it.
5) Plan your Daily Life.
Make meal menus, shop in bulk, prep meals ahead. Group your errands, set aside a time to blitz-clean your house. Get as many ducks in a row as you can ahead of time so you're not having to break away from your story just as the words start to flow. A little organization up front can make a huge difference. And don't be afraid to say 'no' to some requests for your time. Treat your deadline as inflexible. There will be obstacles and barriers to your perfect writing time. Treat those as challenges to work around and through and don't make excuses.
6) Realize Your Deadline Isn't About Just You.
Publishers set deadlines in their contracts because they have many, many plans to make regarding your novel. There are so many steps that have to happen after you turn in your book, and they have to happen in a timely and organized manner. Several rounds of edits and rewrites, proofing, typesetting, printing, cover design, marketing plans, publicity plans, and so much more. Until your book is in their hands, most of these things can't really get going. If you're late with your work, it pushes EVERYTHING back. And, you will get a reputation as an author that cannot be relied upon to keep her word. Don't get me wrong. Life can and will interfere with your plans, and sometimes missing a deadline is unavoidable. But you must do everything realistically possible to hold up your end of the bargain.
Tell your agent and your editor where you are with the manuscript, keep them up to speed. If it looks like you're going to need an extension, let them know as soon as you can. Don't wait until midnight on the day your ms is due. And don't 'go dark' hoping they won't remember about your story's due date.
I'm currently on deadline. December 1st my story The Accidental Earl
is due. Knowing I would have family visiting for two weeks in October, I really hit my writing hard in the lead-up. When Nov. 1st rolls around, I'll have 30 days to finish. My family has been great, taking over shopping and cooking chores and generally not complaining about me writing into the early evening. They're troopers!
Deadlines can be intimidating, exhilarating, and extremely motivating. But meeting them won't happen by accident. But with a little planning and some hard work, you can meet your deadlines without drama.
Question for you: How do you respond to deadlines? Do you dread them or relish them?
Best-selling, award-winning author Erica Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. She’s a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota, and she is married to her total opposite and soul mate! When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. You can connect with her at her website, www.ericavetsch.com where you can read about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at https://www.facebook.com/EricaVetschAuthor/ where she spends way too much time!
Melisande Verity, works at Garamond's, and she's won the commission to create the perfect Christmas window displays for the season, and hopefully to win the store the prestigious Victoria's Prize. If she does, perhaps she can earn enough money to send her younger sister to music school....and just perhaps, she might catch the notice of her boss, Gray Garamond.
Gray is not convinced that Melisande is the one for the job, but he's resigned to his grandfather's choice. When the elder Mr. Garamond suffers a stroke, Gray takes charge of the store, and the old man asks Melisande to show Gray the true meaning of Christmas, that it isn't profits and sales, but rather the people that matter.
Don't forget...Books make great gifts, and Christmas books make GREAT Christmas gifts!