Monday, April 30, 2012

Making Your Deadline Work For You by Liz Johnson

I sometimes work really well under pressure, how about you? Read on for Liz Johnson's tips on making deadlines work for you. ~ Annette

Making Your Deadline Work For You
by Liz Johnson

Today, let’s wrap up this four-part series on deadlines. By now you know how important they are, how to set one that works for you, and even have plenty of tools to make sure you meet it. Deadlines don’t have to be feared, and in fact, they can be something to look forward to.


Your deadline should be a motivator for you to sit down at your computer and get your manuscript written. It should be a gentle nudge keeping you on track and the voice in your head reminding you to get your word count in for the day.

After all, by this time we’ve figured out how to meet our deadlines drama-free. That date isn’t looming in front of us, taunting and teasing us. It’s pushing us to achieve what we know we can. To do our very best. It’s the banner at the end of the race telling us that we’re almost to the end.

I’ve only ever run one road race in my life. It was a 5K in July in Nashville, TN. Do you know the best part of that race?

The orange slices they gave us when we crossed the finish line. I’m not usually a big citrus lover, but those oranges were especially sweet—because I’d worked so hard for them.

Do you need to dangle a reward on the other side of your deadline? Maybe you don’t, but I sure do. When I reach my milestone, I celebrate. And unlike those oranges, I don’t make it a surprise. From the start I hang a prize at the end of the race and run (or write) as hard as I can to to get to it.

I recently turned in the manuscript for my fourth novel, and I was thrilled. Not just to turn it in, but also because I’d promised myself a trip to visit some friends to celebrate. The trip was wonderfully refreshing and so good for my soul. And it was all the sweeter because there wasn’t a late manuscript dangling over my head.

Celebrate your victories. Even the little celebrations can give you a boost toward your next goal.

Like setting your goal and making a plan, your celebration will probably be unique to you. Some of you male writers out there might not enjoy a spa trip. Maybe a fishing getaway is more up your alley. Maybe you’ll treat yourself to a five-course-meal or a date night with your special someone. Maybe you’ll just give yourself a week off from writing (I confess that I did this, too).

Along with sweet oranges, another unexpected part of that July 5K was a sudden burst the last quarter of a mile. I could hear the crowd, and I felt the surge of adrenaline propelling me forward before I even turned the last corner. Many writers experience the same last-minute rush.

A few weeks ago I was talking with a friend, who has published nine novels, and is under contract for her next three. The first in her new series is due in about six weeks, and she’s only about half way done. When I asked her if she felt like she was in good shape to finish it by her deadline, she said she was. “I write better under pressure.”

I think a lot of us write better under pressure. With that deadline looming we push out all distractions, focusing intensely on the story before us. I always like what I write at the end of a story better than the beginning for just that reason. It isn’t cluttered or distracted. I know right where I’m going, and I’m moving toward those two little words: The End.

If you’re like my friend and I, make your deadline work for you. Make it propel you toward your very best.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this month on deadlines. It’s not a four-letter word and shouldn’t be dreaded or feared. Keep it in its place and use it to meet your goals, celebrating each one along the way. Best of luck on your writing journey.

What do you do to celebrate the big and little writing victories? Do you write better under pressure? Do you have any other questions about writing under deadlines as we wrap up this series?


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. Thanks for being with us these past weeks, Liz! You are appreciated. :-)

    I'm always working under a self-imposed deadlines, whether they're related to editing or writing projects. When it comes to writing, giving myself word goals to meet each week really helps keep me focused and increases my productivity.

    I reward myself by making popcorn and watching a movie or a favorite TV show. :-D

  2. Thanks for having me here, Dawn. It ws such a pleasure. :)

    I love your popcorn and a movie reward. Sounds like a great treat after meeting weekly word counts.


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