Yay!  I just finished two things I’d promised to do (one on time, one very, very late.)  But in managing to finish those two things, I accidentally let my post for today slip my mind until I woke up this morning.  Which got me to thinking about deadlines.

When you start writing for publication, you’re going to face deadlines.  These are the dates on which the editor must have your work turned in so that things can move along to the next phase of a project.  Remember back in the day when you were in school?  One of the life skills you should have taken away is the importance of being on time.   Deadlines may seem arbitrary, especially if you’re not directly involved in the process past the writing portion, but believe me, they’re necessary.  I sometimes set deadlines of my own when working here on MW.  Whenever we have a special guest, I always ask that the post be turned in to me at least a full day ahead of the scheduled appearance, so that I have time to proofread it, add links and photos and schedule it to pop up right on time.  If the guest post is late, that makes me late and leaves you, our readers, with nothing new to see for a day. 

Deadlines for your work are no different.  An editor decides what day she absolutely must have your work so that she can edit it and pass it along to the next stage in the process.  If you’re late, she’s late, and the whole project slows down.  Being on time with your work is one of the best ways to impress an editor, and I highly recommend it.

But what if you’re delayed due to circumstances beyond your control?  This happens, and editors understand.  Be honest, and try to let the editor know before the due date if possible.  The sooner the editor knows of a problem, the easier dealing with it will be.  That’s not to say that it’s okay to be late with every single project and claim that life happened.  After a while, editors will start worrying that you have too much difficulty with everyday issues and that maybe some other writer might be a better choice for the next anthology or article. 

One other thing…if you’re coming up on a deadline and your work is not ready, don’t just turn it in with the thought that, “Oh, the editor will fix it later.”  He might, sure, but he could just as easily send it back to you and say, “Sorry, but this isn’t at all what we wanted.  Thanks anyway.”  Turn in the best work you can, and turn it in on time.


12 comments to Deadlines

  • There is the stereotype of the professional writer who misses deadline after deadline but at last turns in a masterpiece. I actually riff on the stereotype with my story “The Dragon Muse.” But the fact is — and there is no way around this — professional writers hit their deadlines. It’s part of the job, and the last thing a writer wants, particularly a new writer, is a reputation for being late all the time. Nice post, Misty.

  • Razziecat

    Great post, Misty. Deadlines are something I live with every day, so this is something I understand very well. I work at a newspaper, and while many things have changed in that industry, we still deal with deadlines, usually more than one per day. There’s a sign up on a cubicle wall at the office that reads, “If deadlines weren’t important, they wouldn’t begin with ‘dead’!” 😉

  • sagablessed

    “After a while, editors will start worrying that you have too much difficulty with everyday issues and that maybe some other writer might be a better choice for the next anthology or article.” This statement hits home too hard, I think. I can always be early for work, but writing? Sheesh.

    My writers’ group has this issue with me. They understand, but I do wonder from time to time if I am meant to write. Life has been a bit too unpredictable lately.

    I do my best however. And will continue to do so, as I have stories to tell. Your post just inspires me to do better. 🙂

  • Ken

    Words to live by. Great post, Misty.

  • Yup. And having missed some deadlines, and having been forced to re-address contract deadlines to do fewer books per year, I know first hand how editors react. They are very nice. But it’s hard for them.

    Now — what did you get done????

  • I’m usually good at meeting deadlines for work, but I’ve never really had to meet deadlines for writing. Sometimes I wonder if I’d be more timely with my writing if I had assigned deadlines for chapters or word counts, something. I’ve tried to set them for myself but that doesn’t really work, so maybe I can get some friends to hold me accountable.

  • sagablessed

    SiSi: I take an oath before my Church to accomplish a set goal in a set time frame. A member sets weregeld -a price I must pay to the congregation if I fail. This is not always money. Sometimes it is hosting a party, or not being able to speak at functions for a while, and so on.
    Just an idea if you need.

  • I’m glad the post is helpful to y’all!

    Faith, it was a blurb for one author’s upcoming book and an introduction to a short story for another author’s collection. But even though they were small things, I’m still happy with myself for finishing!

  • Sisi – I like saga’s idea! Accountability helps a lot.

    Another thing that helps me is simple visual reminders – I tend to get overwhelmed with lots of little things piling up and last minute demands from others. My To Do list can have dozens of things on it. To counter it I wrote BIC on a 3×5 card and taped it to the wall above my desk. Below it on another card I have the name and (self imposed) due date for my current fiction WIP and the due date for my current academic WIP. That’s it – just two projects at a time, one fiction, one nonfiction. That way I can’t start half a dozen ideas at once and fail to finish all of them. Any new ideas get written down and tacked to my idea board. When I finish a project, I can pull a new idea off the board and get started on it as my new project. That way I don’t lose ideas, but I don’t get overwhelmed by them either.

  • Thanks for this post, Misty! Great timing for me. 🙂

    I finished revisions and am starting queries now. Finally. Sent the first last night. But I hesitated for a few weeks, and I realized that it wasn’t just cooling off and taking a break. Part of me is worried that I have a fear, that once I get picked up by an agent and the book goes to an editor, I’ll have to stick to deadlines, and I won’t be able to make them. But another part of me thinks that finally having this process in motion will help instil more discipline. Because it’s not just something optional, it’s actual work and I won’t have a choice in the matter. Which as harsh as it sounds, could be exactly what I need. I’m just making it real now.

  • mudepoz

    Don’t hate me because I can’t write anything longer than 50K words. 🙂
    Yep, it took me a whole hour to finish this set of rewrites. Hey, I was only given 3 days…

  • I’m about to wrap up my book (finally), and it looks like it’s going to be close to 90k words. Is that a good length for a first novel? Do I need to go back into it during rewrites and try to add more/shrink down?