Monday, October 22, 2018

Managing Deadlines

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

"As sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives..." (Okay, I probably just showed my age with this one. Bonus points if you can cite this reference in your comments.)

Writing deadlines.

The pre-published crave them. The oft-published deal with them. The smart writer plans for them.

But how? What steps can an author take to ensure that she makes her deadlines consistently and endears herself to her editors?


1) Be Honest. Be honest with yourself. When that contract offer comes in and everything is shiny and possible, it's easy to commit to a deadline that is unrealistic. Take a deep breath, truly evaluate your schedule, your obligations, and your writing capabilities. Take the time of year into account, holidays, vacations, school events, etc. For me, I avoid January 1st deadlines because I am the bookkeeper for the family business, and the last two weeks of December are slammed for me as I finish up responsibilities and meet with the accountant, etc. I also take into account things I love. Like March Madness. As a rabid Kansas Jayhawks fan, I know I will be glued to the TV to watch their progress as they make yet another DEEP run in the tournament. (Note my total confidence!) Also, reckon for your writing style. Are you a fast-draft kind of writer? Plotter, pantser? Blitzer? Teaser? How fast do you normally write? Can you realistically knock out a quality 90K word novel in three months? Or will it take you four, five or six? Are you a one-book-per-year author? Be honest in your evaluation, because you want to love the process of writing, not be all stressed out and cranky because you've set yourself a nearly-impossible task.



2) Plan Some Down Time. If you have X amount of words and Y number of days to your deadline, don't divide to get exactly how many words you need and assume you will do that every day over your writing period. Plan in days when you know you won't be able to write, or days when you don't plan to write at all. Your brain needs some time to refuel and relax in order to create your best stuff. Factor in interruptions, illness, and the unexpected and give yourself some wiggle room.

3) Plan Some Writing Marathons. Especially in the beginning and at the end of your story, when you know how things are going to unfold with your plot. Get a lot written up front and at the end when you tend to write faster because you know how the story needs to finish. Some writers take a weekend or two away to really pound out the words. If this isn't feasible for you, sequester yourself away from family and obligations to focus on your work. Hire a babysitter, send the kids to grandma's, trade weekend babysitting with someone. Get your family on board with your need for solitude and then crank out the words.

4) Set Goals. If you sit down every day with no expectation of what you're going to accomplish, chances are, you're not going to get as much done as you had hoped. Choose a word goal, or a scene goal. Aim for something that will stretch you, and then sit down and do it! The doing it is the most important part here. It's fine to set goals and talk about goals and all, but you have to actually do the work in order to accomplish them. It's like the old "I want to write vs. I want to have written." You can't just dream about making your deadline, you have to actually strive to do it.



5) Plan your Daily Life. Make meal menus, shop in bulk, prep meals ahead. Group your errands, set aside a time to blitz-clean your house. Get as many ducks in a row as you can ahead of time so you're not having to break away from your story just as the words start to flow. A little organization up front can make a huge difference. And don't be afraid to say 'no' to some requests for your time. Treat your deadline as inflexible. There will be obstacles and barriers to your perfect writing time. Treat those as challenges to work around and through and don't make excuses.

6) Realize Your Deadline Isn't About Just You. Publishers set deadlines in their contracts because they have many, many plans to make regarding your novel. There are so many steps that have to happen after you turn in your book, and they have to happen in a timely and organized manner. Several rounds of edits and rewrites, proofing, typesetting, printing, cover design, marketing plans, publicity plans, and so much more. Until your book is in their hands, most of these things can't really get going. If you're late with your work, it pushes EVERYTHING back. And, you will get a reputation as an author that cannot be relied upon to keep her word. Don't get me wrong. Life can and will interfere with your plans, and sometimes missing a deadline is unavoidable. But you must do everything realistically possible to hold up your end of the bargain.

7) Communicate. Tell your agent and your editor where you are with the manuscript, keep them up to speed. If it looks like you're going to need an extension, let them know as soon as you can. Don't wait until midnight on the day your ms is due. And don't 'go dark' hoping they won't remember about your story's due date.



I'm currently on deadline. December 1st my story The Accidental Earl is due. Knowing I would have family visiting for two weeks in October, I really hit my writing hard in the lead-up. When Nov. 1st rolls around, I'll have 30 days to finish. My family has been great, taking over shopping and cooking chores and generally not complaining about me writing into the early evening. They're troopers!

Deadlines can be intimidating, exhilarating, and extremely motivating. But meeting them won't happen by accident. But with a little planning and some hard work, you can meet your deadlines without drama.



Question for you: How do you respond to deadlines? Do you dread them or relish them?
Best-selling, award-winning author Erica Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. She’s a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota, and she is married to her total opposite and soul mate! When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. You can connect with her at her website, www.ericavetsch.com where you can read about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at https://www.facebook.com/EricaVetschAuthor/ where she spends way too much time!



Melisande Verity, works at Garamond's, and she's won the commission to create the perfect Christmas window displays for the season, and hopefully to win the store the prestigious Victoria's Prize. If she does, perhaps she can earn enough money to send her younger sister to music school....and just perhaps, she might catch the notice of her boss, Gray Garamond.

Gray is not convinced that Melisande is the one for the job, but he's resigned to his grandfather's choice. When the elder Mr. Garamond suffers a stroke, Gray takes charge of the store, and the old man asks Melisande to show Gray the true meaning of Christmas, that it isn't profits and sales, but rather the people that matter.

Available HERE: https://amzn.to/2IQkTcR or wherever you shop for fine Christian Fiction. 


Don't forget...Books make great gifts, and Christmas books make GREAT Christmas gifts! 

45 comments:

  1. Hi Erica:

    Back in the day I was an Erica Kane fan who was in "All My Children" but I heard the intro to "Days of Our Lives" many times growing up. It was what my mother called "My Story" during the heyday of soap operas. I don't know how many times I heard my mother say: "I can't miss my story".

    You can hear the intro here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAiqeB4p028

    On topic:

    I worked in the control center on two space programs and they had every minute of the flight charted on a theater size movie screen where all could see it. An up and down line moved across the screen indicating what needed to be done when the line passed over the event. As it went the items were checked as completed or undone.

    What I liked was that NASA built in 'windows' in which nothing was planned. These were to provide opportunities to catch up with the schedule if unexpected events delayed any actions required.

    I like the advice in your post and would add building windows into your deadline plans.

    Vince


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    1. Vince, in our home it was "As The World Turns."

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    2. Vince, sometimes I get asked if I was named for Erica Kane. :) I was not.

      I would love to have seen some of the amazing things NASA was doing in the 60s and 70s.

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    3. Hi Kaybee and Erica:

      I also remember "As the World Turns", "Edge of Night", and "Secret Storm". Back then, with no VCRs, three popular soap operas could be on at the same time so women had to choose stories to follow.

      It was not practical to get up and to switch between shows as each scene usually ended in a cliff-hanger. You could miss something important even leaving a soap for a minute or two.

      One day a new man joined our company and soon went to a welcoming party with his wife. As usual the men talked sports and women went off by themselves and talked about what women talk about.

      Toward the end of the party my friend walked back to where his wife was talking to another woman in hushed tones. He stopped out of sight of her and listened. She was talking about men cheating on their wives, a guy with a child he didn't know about, and other scandalous things.

      Finally when they went out to the car he asked his wife, "How do you know all these people already?"

      "Oh, that, we were talking about our stories. We follow the same ones."

      I'm surprised they didn't mention the trouble you get into when you eavesdrop.

      This is a true story!

      Vince

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    4. LOL! He's fortunate that was all he heard when it came to those stories. When I was a teenager, one summer I watched a soap called Santa Barbara, but that's the only one I ever watched. It was eye-opening, for sure!

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    5. Funny! I was probably living in Santa Barbara at the time. Never did watch that soap. And this event did happen in Santa Barbara but that was long before the soap came along.

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  2. Pomysły na biznesOctober 22, 2018 at 4:35 AM

    Really good content! Keep it up! Greetings from Poland!

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  3. Hey, hello my Polish friend! My cowboy series was translated into Polish last year... I'm so excited to think about all those lovely people reading a Ruthy cowboy book!!!!

    Erica, great post from a practical and artistic angle. Writing is a job... and needs time... and I love that you prepped ahead by working hard pre-family visit! Go you!

    I've had to learn to schedule deadlines to be spring-heavy... because I know I can get one book done over the busy farm season and have much more writing time from November through mid-May... but if I ignored that when it comes to scheduling deadlines I'd be TOASTED!!!

    What great advice!

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    1. It's SO important to take a good look at your schedule and know the rhythm of your year. You're smart to take on more things when your schedule allows and not be knocking your brains out with deadlines when you're slammed on the farm.

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  4. I work better with a deadline. They keep me focused. When not on deadline, I say yes to activities and projects in my church that I love to do. With a deadline looming, I have to say no to those extra activities. For that reason, I pad my pub schedule so I can often do both.

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    1. Very wise! I do much better with a deadline. Otherwise, I tend to fritter away writing time.

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  5. Good morning, Erica, Seekers and Villagers! I do fairly well with deadlines because of my newspaper career, but fiction deadlines are a whole other universe. I began preparing for publishers' deadlines before I signed my contract last year, thanks to the good advice I received here. I blocked out time for fiction, and I work within the blocks depending on what's going on. When I received my first-round edits from Pelican, I did those during the "block." I'm caught up on my Pelican stuff right now, so I'm using the "block" to rewrite my Genesis winner in prep for two agent requests. When that's done, I'll use the blocks for something else. I'm learning to deal with the most urgent request, i.e. the agent requests are more important right now than that Regency Dystopian floating around in my head. (I think the Regency Dystopian is the result of eating Mexican too close to bedtime, but What Ever.) What I'm working on NOW is looking at this as a profession and myself as a professional, and that's not always easy when you've spent your lifetime fitting fiction around what everybody else is doing.
    That said, I love Erica's tips.
    Be back later, Monday morning Bible study.
    Kaybee

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    1. LOL, Mexican food has been the origin of many a new genre! LOL

      You were wise to prepare for deadlines before you had them! Much easier that way.

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  6. I don't have to worry about the deadlines now. But have been thinking ahead to the day when I am able to sign a contract.

    Knowing that I have a permanent injury which causes the vertigo which will impact days when I cannot write or if I do write, It is almost impossible to think clearly.

    The last 2 months it has been non stop vertigo. finally Saturday night it let up for about 12 hours and hit again with a vengeance in the middle of church. So far this morning I am only having mild symptoms.

    My thoughts are that I need to have the books completely written including a whole series before I sign any contract so I can handle those deadlines since I never know when the vertigo will hit. This is why I no longer drive.

    So in the mean time I continue writing and polishing and learning how to write as I go.

    By the way this month even though I have had extreme vertigo I have managed to write and included in the number of words is the words I polished considering each page is 250 words. My total so far for October is 63k words. I do push through even with the vertigo which also includes headaches.

    I remember the opening for Days of Our Lives as Mom would watch it while ironing.

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    1. Oh, I am so sorry you're suffering vertigo. That can be so wearing!

      Congratulations on working in spite of your challenges. That's what real writers do!

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  7. Great post, Erica!

    I learn more about myself and how I handle deadlines with every book I write.

    With my last story (deadline Oct. 1st; turned in Oct. 20th. Do the math!), I learned that I need more than 90 days to write at 90K book.

    With the one before that, I learned that I can write under pressure when I need to, and turn out a story the editor loves.

    With the one before that, I learned that I can't depend on the schedule I set actually surviving life. Remember? Life happens. Things happen that throw the schedule out the window!

    So as I head into my next deadline (after doing a blitz cleaning of the house this week!), I'll try your tip of planning word marathons for the first quarter or third of the story. I usually take that part slow, building the characters and story, but since that isn't working so well for me, I'm willing to try something different!

    By the way, I love having deadlines. I'm not sure I'd finish anything if I didn't have to commit to a date to have it done!

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    1. It's a wild ride of a learning curve, isn't it? I agree, I love my deadlines, because I wander aimlessly without them!

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  8. "These are the days of our lives..." lol. 3 pm at my Grandma's house when I was a kid. Thanks for the encouraging post. Deadlines keep me on track and help to plan out my life. With four littles, deadlines and planning has to happen If it's a deadline I set for myself I try to leave some wiggle room but if it's set by others..game on! Lol (Lee-Ann B)

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    1. Lee-Ann, I love the "game on!" That's so me! I see it as a challenge I WILL accomplish if someone lays down a deadline for me. It's probably not healthy how much I attack those challenges...

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  9. I like deadlines. I like having a set day to shoot for and the accountability is something that motivates me. Unfortunately, my release date got pushed back a month due to the major rewrite I had to do on my story. I was told it is normal for first time authors and they were encouraging about it, but still...I felt like I had let them down. Anyway, I'm determined to do better the next go around. :)

    Thanks for an encouraging and informative post!

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    1. Sherrinda, how wonderful that your publishing house was flexible and wanted to turn out the best product possible. And we learn with every experience, so you'll take what you need from this one and approach the next project with that wisdom.

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  10. Erica, this really is such a great post. One I wish you'd posted in, oh, say February. :P

    This was the year I learned to take a hard look at deadlines. I had one set, but my editor had another. Much tighter than I was used to. So I was forced to look at things from her perspective and realized that her deadlines really were doable. Not only that, they would get me on a regular rotation of releases.

    Now that I'm more than half way through that contract, I am so glad she pushed me to write faster. But even then, I still had to look at the big picture to make sure I had downtime and wasn't perpetually fretting over an impending deadline. And, by the grace of God, I've been able to do just that.

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    1. Yay! I love that you embraced the challenge and slayed it! And that God helped you to do it.

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  11. Hello Seekerville! Erica, thank you for the wise advice. You said "to factor in interruptions, illness, and the unexpected and give yourself wiggle room." I realize for each writer this will be different, but what is a reasonable amount of time to allow for the unexpected? TIA! Hope everyone is having a great day!

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    1. Pat, you can't plan for everything, but I try to factor in at least a couple of weeks of wiggle room for a six month contract.

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  12. Oh, yes! I remember The Days of Our Lives soap opera!! :) (Aging myself here, too)

    Thanks for this great post, Erica! I'm finding that writing things down (like goals) really does make a difference. It isn't just for New Year's Day planning.

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    1. Missy, do you keep a writing journal. I've seen a couple of new ones for 2019, and I don't know if it would be profitable for me or not.

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  13. Hey Erica. Great post. I think I probably do better with a schedule than if just writing as the muse strikes. I have become such a schedule person since having kids. It's why I usually do nanowrimo every year for my main writing and use the rest of the year for edits blogging, marketing, and trying to find more publishers interested in what I hff ave ready. Maybe when my children are older I can graduate to more than one book a year. :-)

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    1. Amy, you have to plan for the life you have, not the life you will someday have, and it sounds like you're doing a great job of that. Your priorities need to center around your littles for now. And NaNo is a great way to lay down a lot of words in a short amount of time.

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  14. As a reading Deadlines or goals is very important. Nothing would get done if I didn't set them.

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    1. Me too! :) Do you set reading goals per month of per year?

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  15. Great post, Erica! I always build in extra time because I occasionally get migraines that last 2-3 days. You just never know! And I don't want to freak myself out with that kind of pressure. Congrats on making great progress! You've got this!

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    1. Thanks, Jill! Ugh on the migraines. That's the pits. I'm glad you've figured in some time for those nasty things, but more glad when you can do without them altogether!

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  16. Erica, I've been trying to get over here all day. This is such a practical post. I LOVE your suggestions!

    I LIKE deadlines. They make me work hard, and often I meet them. Of course, I'm pre-pubbed, so I have that wiggle room and the freedom to work in some flexibility when life happens. And it HAS happened over the past few months. I'm working to get back in my writing groove and wrap up my current project by the end of November. There. I stated my personal deadline. ;)

    Great post!

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    1. Yay! Way to be brave and state that deadline goal! You can do it!

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  17. Great post. I haven't had book deadlines to worry about yet, but on other projects I work best when there is a deadline. But I think your suggestions will be something to follow.

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    1. Hi, Sandy! Someday, you'll be managing book deadlines. It never hurts to practice now. :)

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  18. The Days of Our Lives...What's the bonus?
    I like deadlines but sometimes I overthink a plotline and that throws me off. And inevitably things I can't anticipate happen. Family dram out of my control loomed all around me with my novella. I asked for an extension but still made the deadline.Everyone interrupted me while I wrote. This is not normal-usually the family is respectful of my time. But this was a difficult situation. Now I give myself a little extra wiggle room for drama. I can procrastinate and it is worse without a deadline. I can write a full novel rough draft in 4 to 6 weeks but it takes me at least five more months to hone it into shape. Sometimes longer. Thanks for the great tips

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    1. Bonus points and confetti to you, Jubileewriter! And extra bonus points for working through family drama to meet your deadline!

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  19. Erica, First, the comment at the beginning of your post was the opening statement in the intro of "Days of Our Lives." May still be,I don't get to watch it anymore.
    Your post was invaluable with tips we can all use to meet our deadlines!
    Thanks!

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    1. Hey, Edwina! Yep, you got it in one! Sending you confetti and streamers! :)

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  20. Thanks for sharing all of these great tips. Deadlines are a part of all of our lives!

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