Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Make deadlines

For established writers, this is something they are used to. Deadlines. Those pesky little things that come from editors and agents when they demand for the next books or the next round of revisions. It is a known evil within the writing community, but for new writers, it is often something that is unknown.

I would, however, recommend for any new writer, someone who is still out there searching for that first deal, or even searching for the end of that first book, to begin using deadlines. Creating a timeline for your writing will keep you on pace, keep you focused, and, in the end, put you in a better place for when that editor or agent starts demanding those manuscripts.

Setting up a timeline is a fairly easy task. The first is to establish a regular writing routine. Regular means that you know you will write daily from, say 1:00 - 3:oo when the baby is asleep. Maybe your schedule is simply on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The key is to keep it regular and don't deviate from it. Make it known to your family that you write then. Don't schedule things during that writing time. This is a job and view it as such. You don't schedule a doctor's appointment during your work when you know you can't take the time off, right? Same with this.

Once you have established that pattern, create smaller deadlines. Don't just work with word count. I hear a lot of writers do that and their stories simply just don't move along at a steady pace. They will say, I want to do 4000 words a day. That's great, but is this a natural stopping point? Work with chapters. You have a great break there. Now, on your calendar, state when you will have each chapter finished. If you know it takes you two days to write a chapter, then make it happen.

Your goal is to have all of the smaller deadlines created, and eventually, the entire book planned out so you will have an accurate idea of when the book is to be done. Now here comes the fun part. Finish it early! If you have some spare time, go and write. If you get on a roll one day, don't just stop at one chapter, go for two, or at least dive into the next chapter. Little by little you will find that your story will get finished sooner than you think. The positive thing here is that if you do run into a bind later in the process, for example you get sick, then you don't have to panic when you miss one of your deadlines. You are already ahead of the game.

Does this require planning? You better believe it, but in the end, you will find yourself happier and certainly not stressed out.



  1. Interesting advice. Coming from a journalism background, I'm not phased by deadlines. I feel they're a normal part of the process

    I think the key part of being ready for deadlines is being realistic about what you can get done. I've always found problems when people agree to deadlines that are unrealistic for themselves. It's crazy for someone to tell you they're going to turn around a story in two weeks, when they'd really need a month to do that kind of interviewing and get it done (and I'm thinking news articles here). So, being realistic is important.

    I'm not published (in terms of books), but I'd be curious how much flexiblity the author has in setting the deadline, and if they're usually fairly reasonable (in terms of what an average person can do).

    Certainly practicing should give you a sense of how much you can realistically get done.

  2. Writer -
    Most editors and agents are fairly flexible, within reason. They will often ask when you think you can deliver the project, or make suggestions. In most cases, editors are fine, if given enough advance notice to bump back a deadline if you aren't going to make it. Again, this is always on a case by case basis.