Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Deadlines – hate them or love them?

I’ve written seventeen books for publishers – well. . .almost, counting this last effort that still needs much editing, revision and those final couple of very important pages. Now I am realising just how fortunate I’ve been to only have had two real deadlines in all that time.
Fortunate? Hmm. . . Now I am close to finishing this manuscript, I am not too sure and would love some comments – perhaps from other writers especially what their experiences have been with deadlines to have a manuscript finished by a set time.
First of all, let me clarify this. Sure, my editor at Harlequin Mills and Boon medical romances did need at least two manuscripts every year to keep my ‘author profile’ before the romance readership but in a sense I never had a set, fixed date – or deadline on a contract – to send her a new manuscript. I can only remember actually having one for the Heartsong Presents editor and that was the last book in my Great Southland historical series they planned to release over three consecutive months.

If you have had a peep at my website, you will have read that the same year I signed my first contract with HM&B I also signed with the Christian publisher, Barbour, in Ohio. Unfortunately, I soon discovered I had no time in our busy lives then to write for both lines. (Photo shows different covers for my five HM&B books)In fact, that requirement of HM&B was the main reason I had to decide eventually whether to continue writing for them or writing my first love, the inspirational romance novels for the Christian romance book club, Heartsong Presents. There was really no decision to make. Because I love Christ and the difference He can make in people’s live, I simply enjoy that extra freedom to include the spiritual journey of my characters too much!

My writing career has now taken me down a different path from those early, shorter Christian novels to these current, longer books almost double the wordage. But once again I am writing a series and discovered after returning from summer holidays over our Christmas, New Year period that this last manuscript was required by the publisher early March. With our overseas trip last year and so many other things besides the planning of it earlier and the actual five weeks away, there have been other numerous things happen to give me excuses to not keep writing this third book, Justice at Baragula. And now I am paying the price of that with this deadline!

It has been a rather exhausting time. To start with it was simply so hard to get back into the discipline of writing every day. I worked out how many words I would need to average each week, than broke it down to how many every day to meet the deadline. By the end of that first week I nearly decided I simply never had a hope of meeting that deadline. To start with, after such a long break from that first 20,000 plus words already written it was so very hard to get back into the heads of the main characters and their story. I’ve described it was almost as hard as pulling hen’s teeth! However, little by little their story began to grow as my thoughts became consumed with it again. I usually discover the last few chapters of a book are the ‘easiest’ to write. That does not necessarily apply to that last all important final page! (Perhaps that is why I’m procrastinating and writing this blog post right now?)

Spending so much time on the computer has meant tired and sore eyes some days and stiffness in parts of my anatomy. This means I’ve had to discipline myself not to spend much time on the internet – even reading blogs these last five and a bit weeks! Perhaps the hardest thing has been exercising that ‘no’ word to so many things. And why, oh why did the peaches on our trees have to be ripe right now? I am still hoping they will survive in the fridge until I get a chance to make some jam and chutney again this year. The house needs a good tidy and clean but a real blessing has been the support of my husband with meals, washing up and even laundry.

This week I am hoping to tackle those revisions and edits. Does the storyline flow okay? Is there enough conflict, suspense, excitement, drama in the right places? Have I used the same words and phrases too often? Is the dialogue real to the characters?

Not at all sure about actually loving a deadline but I am I wondering if I should at least like having one! At least it made me knuckle down and get right back into story-telling mode so this book is nearly written! Perhaps my personality needed the challenge?

Well, I know there are other ‘deadlines’ besides finishing a manuscript. I would love to read your thoughts and experiences on some of them

This is Mary’s second book in her new Baragula series. See the publisher website for details of where it is available:

or buy an autographed copy from Mary – see her website for details

Outback from Baragula is expected to be released by a distributor in the US during 2010 The third in this series, Justice at Baragula will be released later in Australasia in 2010.


  1. Ah, deadlines. I'm without an imposed one, so it's far too easy to let things slip and gain bad habits. One of my major goals right now, besides actually finishing my current novel, is to treat the process professionally and meet my weekly goals.

    Good to see you today, Mary!

  2. I find that my creativity does not flow as well on a deadline. It doesn't dry up, but my writing lacks something.

  3. I know exactly what you mean, Valerie. Lack of self-discipline too many times requires a deadline to make me more disciplined. It certainly has this last few weeks!

  4. Reg, I sure hope that isn't true with this manuscript. However, my biggest problem is that I like to completely leave a manuscript alone for weeks so I can re-read it more objectively and with colder heart and eyes. This helps me pick up flaws. This time I am relying on a special writer friend to help me with the editing instead. Thank you, Narelle!

  5. Mary, I'm chiming in late because I'm doing a Book in a Week challenge this week, and I have a self-imposed word count deadline to achieve. I'm 1000 words short of my goal and ahead of my schedule (I was behind until yesterday). I'm rewarding myself with some online time and I'm looking forward to reading Justice at Baragula :-)

  6. Hi Mary
    I need a deadline to get me motivated, but I don't find it easy to meet them.

    I love this quote:

    "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."
    — Douglas Adams

    Best wishes

    Ruth Ann

  7. Laura O'ConnellFebruary 19, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    Hi Mary,

    I like deadlines they keep me disciplined to write, because missing deadlines would mean I'm unprofessional, so I keep going.

  8. Had to smile at your quote, Ruth Ann! I think if a writer these days missed too many publisher's deadlines they would find it that much harder to be offered other contracts.

    I know exactly what you mean, Laura! I think also a deadline helps us not feel guilty about saying all those 'no' answers to family friend and even church activities!