Meeting Your Deadlines (Almost) Every Time
by Liz Johnson
If you missed the last two weeks, we’ve been talking about deadlines. Yes, they’re important. No, you don’t have to fear them like a spider running over your toe. But in order to meet your deadlines and gain all the wonderful things that go along with that, you’ve got to stock up on the right tools. Here are the ones that have worked best for me.
Make a plan. You’ve probably heard that old adage, if you fail to plan, plan to fail. It’s never more true than for writers. Writing a book is a big task, so it’ll easily overwhelm you, if you don’t first make a plan. Figure out how fast you’ll need to write to meet your word count by your deadline.
Set small, obtainable goals. Maybe your goal is to write for thirty minutes three nights a week. Maybe it’s to write 1000 words every day. Whatever your goal, make it measurable and attainable. Saying that you want to write a book probably isn’t going to help. Committing to get up thirty minutes early and spend that time writing every day this week will help. Meeting smaller goals will make the bigger goal manageable.
Get some help. You don’t have to do this alone. November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and if you’ve ever participated in the challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days, you’ve probably heard about write-ins in your area. This is just a group of people who get together in a coffee shop or restaurant and write together. Something about having someone else with you doing the same thing helps you stay on track. Set one of these up with your other writerly friends—either in person or virtually. When I first started writing, I had a standing writing date with a friend and fellow writer. Jess and I met every Monday night for an hour of undisturbed writing time. We faced each other, our laptops open, tapping out our stories. I wrote the majority of my second novel across the table from her.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family for support. I finished my first novel only because a good friend of mine kept me accountable day by day to stick to the calendar I’d planned out—writing three nights a week for three months. Every morning when I got to work, she asked me if I’d written the night before. It was rotten having to tell her I hadn’t. So I started doing it. Talk about motivation.
And don’t forget about prayer. Help comes from above when we ask for it. If you’re lacking energy or creativity, ask for it. God, who created the heavens and the earth, has promised to never leave or forsake us.
Lest you think I’m perfect and always use these tips, I’ll make a quick confession. I nearly missed my deadline for this blog post. I failed to take any of my own advice. I had no plan, no obtainable goals, no accountability, not nearly enough prayer. Thankfully, this post and the others in the series aren't thousands of words each. If these had been books, you’d have found me on the floor of the Denver airport (where I wrote these) curled into the fetal position. Sometimes our very best intentions fall apart.
So what’s a writer to do if she’s going to miss her deadline? Editors aren’t cold-hearted. They understand that life happens. It happens to them, too. So if an emergency arises that is going to keep you from meeting your deadline for a contracted manuscript, get the conversation started as soon as possible. If you have an agent, rely on him or her for advice on how to deal with the situation. If it’s a personal goal, don’t beat yourself up, but don’t let yourself off the hook either. Get back on track and set a new deadline.
Ultimately, your plan needs to be tailored to your needs. You alone know what works best for you and your schedule. Just don’t skip over putting one in place.
What other tools do you use to meet your deadline? What advice have you heard that doesn’t work well for you? Why is that?
Be sure to swing by next week as we wrap up this series on deadlines.
Liz Johnson is a five-time deadline survivor and a New York Times bestselling author, who makes her home in Nashville, TN, where she works in marketing for a major Christian publisher. She loves great stories in nearly any format: books, movies, and interpretive dances. Her last novel was Code of Justice, and her next, A Promise to Protect, is scheduled to release late in 2012. Follow her adventures in publishing at www.lizjohnsonbooks.com or on twitter @lizjohnsonbooks.