Monday, April 9, 2012

Deadline is not a Four-Letter Word by Liz Johnson

When was the last time you had to meet a deadline? How much did you sweat it? After the March madness of meeting one on the 15th ,I'm hopeful that the process gets easier with experience. Thankfully, we've got writer friends here at Seriously Write to encourage us as we race toward the finish line. This month, Liz Johnson is visiting to share some tips on meeting deadlines. Read on! ~ Annette

Deadline is Not a Four-Letter Word 
by Liz Johnson

If you’re a writer or spend any time around one—or even just follow one on twitter—you’re going to hear that dreaded word. The one that seems to imply all sorts of evil in the writing community. You know the one I’m talking about.


I mean, it even starts with the word dead. Could it be any more ominous? As writers we’re taught to fear it, loathe it, and—in some circles—curse it. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard any writer talk about her deadline with stars in her eyes and joy in her heart.

“Oh, Diane, I’m so excited about my deadline! It’s looming out there like a beautiful sunset. Isn’t it gorgeous?”

“Umm … I guess?”

“I know! It’s fantastic! And only three weeks away. I can’t wait for it to get here. It’s been ages since we set the date, and it’s almost here. I’m so excited for it to arrive!”

You ever hear a conversation like that? Me neither. Why? Because we’ve been trained to dread the deadline.

But as a recent survivor of a deadline, I’m here to tell you that it’s not a four-letter word. No crying or cursing required. A bit of sweat and a whole lot of work? Oh, yeah. That is definitely necessary to meet your deadline. But you can make it, and you can make it work for you.

At my very first writer’s conference back in 2004, I heard that 90% of writers (that’s across genres and outlets) miss their deadlines. I have zero documentation to support this statistic, but after six years working in the publishing industry, I’m sure it can’t be far from the truth. Some writers treat deadlines like a suggestion or a wishful goal. But there are very real reasons to turn in your project on time.

Here are five of my favorite reasons to make your deadline:

1. It tells your publisher you’re serious about this project. Publishing is a business, so show your editor that you’re a professional by turning in your manuscript on time or even—dare I say it—early.

2. It builds a reputation with your editor and in the publishing community. There are enough writers not making their deadlines, that those who do are noticed. You may not be able to choose if you click with an editor, personality-wise, but you can choose to build your reputation with him or her as a timely writer.

3. It shows respect for everyone else on the team. A lot of hands touch a project before publication. There are editors, proofreaders, designers (both interior and cover), and production folks just to name a few. Long before you turn in your project, they’ve set up a schedule that allows them to get your project out on time. Missing your deadline throws their schedules off, too.

4. It frees you from the fifth circle of perfection. Thankfully (or maybe not) I was never blessed with that perfection gene, but I know many a friend who is. Maybe you know those writers, too, who revise and revise and revise and could keep going forever, because it’s just not quite perfect. Turning in your project frees you from the endless cycle and lets someone with an outside perspective help you make it even better.

5. It forms a habit. This can be especially important for writers working toward publication. Practice meeting your deadlines, and you’ll learn to keep it up year after year, book after published book.

Whether you’re writing a book, magazine article, or newspaper story, meeting your deadline is an important part of the process for new and established writers. Over the next three Mondays, let’s explore how to set deadlines, meeting those deadlines, and finally making your deadline work for you.

What other reasons can you think of for meeting writing deadlines? Have you experienced any positive results for meeting deadlines in the past?

See you next week!


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 or on twitter @lizjohnsonbooks.


  1. All of your reasons for making your deadline are excellent. I especially appreciated the 'fifth circle' one, which I think is SO true of many authors.

  2. I also appreciate #4. As a perfectionist, I always think the work can be better. A deadline forces me to stop at some point and let it go.

  3. Thanks, Tracy and Dawn. I'm glad to hear that #4 is helpful for the perfectionists out there.


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