Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Deadlines... any survival tips?

Narelle here. I'm filling in for Jeanette, who is hard at work on her next contracted novel and has a deadline looming.

We all have deadlines in our lives. I remember, during my university days, all my essays would fall due at the same time. The week or so before the deadlines was crazy as I grabbed every spare minute I could find to work on my essays. I have deadlines at work, with certain tasks that need to be completed by the end of the day. I also know two or three hours before my work day ends whether or not I'm ahead or behind on my schedule. I'm also a great believer in the old saying 'Make hay while the sun shines' because you never know what disaster may strike that throws out your carefully planned schedule.

I'm yet to receive my first publishing contract and enter the world of published author deadlines. I have author friends who talk about how a deadline on a contracted book can be all consuming, and their lives revolve around getting the book finished and submitted to their editor. They often juggle multiple book contracts and have revisions to complete whilst they're working on their current book. Deadline pressure isn't necessarily a last minute phenomenon and they can feel the pressure to write a certain number of words per day or week for many months before their book deadline.

Every three months I undertake a 'Book in a Week' (BIAW) challenge with one of my writing groups. I set a target word count goal for the week and focus all my time and energy on achieving my writing goal. BIAW can give unpublished authors an insight into what life is like for published authors working on a deadline. I've learned to be self-disciplined, organized and I set aside time to achieve my daily word count and self-imposed deadline.

I've heard writers pre-cook meals, ignore housework and clear their schedules to meet their writing deadlines. I set the alarm on my phone so I don't miss important appointments or lose track of the time and forget to collect my kids from school. I write a weekly 'To Do' list so I can manage and keep on top of all the writing and other commitments in my life.

Do you have any survival tips on how to manage the various deadlines in your life? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


  1. Hi Narelle

    Many thanks for the super post.

    I don't have any survival tips for you, but I can't resist adding this quote:

    "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."
    Douglas Adams
    English humorist & science fiction novelist (1952 - 2001)

  2. No tips on how to meet deadlines but an observation on the effect of deadlines. I find I'm more productive when there's a schedule to keep, and more creative when my life is full. So, the author's dream of time-to-write, is wasted on me since I do my best work under pressure. If that isn't crazy-making, I don't know what is.

  3. Ruth, I love this quote :-)

    Alice, I'm like you and I'm more productive when I have a schedule to keep :-)

  4. I do NOT do my best work under pressure. Back in high school my mom suggested pretending the deadline for a paper was a week before the real thing. That helped me to juggle multiple assignments due the same week in grad school. (Although I remember one evening when I was typing one paper in the kitchen while my husband typed my hand-written draft of another paper in another room. (That was in the days before computers and I had FOUR major assignments due the next day.)

    Six weeks ago I was struggling with the pressure of having extended a deadline because of a whole lot of other stuff that had fallen on my plate. I ended up going to the doctor for steroids to treat the rash on my face that was swelling my eyelid. My face got better. Now the extended deadline is approaching, and my eyelid is starting to itch. I can do this!

  5. Great post, Narelle! Afraid I too am someone who at times needs a deadline - especially to do something I am not sure how to tackle, not sure I even want to do it! The hardest deadline is the one to keep when there are questions that need to be answered by the editor and when you live in a very different time zone you simply have to wait until they wake up and are at work while you are asleep - or trying to sleep! And then of course, the editor probably has another deadline of her/his own to keep so your email might not get answered that day anyway!

  6. Hi Narelle! Great post, and great comments. I used to work best under pressure. Now I just get tired and fall asleep. I think I like the idea of pre-cooking meals and ignoring housework. Even better would be to have one of those services where they cook up an entire week's worth of meals.

  7. Tips! Have some awesome friends like you, Narelle, to relieve some of the pressure. Thanks for stepping in! I'm with Suzie that I don't work best anymore under pressure; my creativity dries up and I get knots in my stomach. I do not cook and let the dust pile up under the furniture. I am thankful for a patient husband when crunch time comes for finishing a book.

  8. I have university papers (hand-written because there were few personal computers in those days) where there are lines of ink goiong straight up the page because I've continually fallen asleep while writing!

    Once I had a deadline with a painting exam, finished the painting (about 6 feet square)in my student digs, by working straight through the night. I then had to carry the thing, wet and ugly, across town to the university as dawn broke, in a high wind. I was staggering tired and it acted like a kite, so it was more like the painting was dragging me along. If I'd have taken flight I bet some early morning workers would have booked themselves into the nearest psychiatric hospital!

    Clearly I'm not good under pressure!

  9. LeAnne, I hope you can meet your deadline and avoid another visit to the doctor. Stress can do terrible things to us. Hang in there!

    Mary, I hadn't thought about how time zone difference can create additional stress. I also need deadlines on things I don't necessarily want to do, otherwise I procrastinate and find all sorts of reasons to avoid doing it :-)

  10. Suzie, thanks for stopping by :-) It's tough trying to work under pressure when you're feeling exhausted. The meal delivery service sounds like a fabulous idea :-)

    Jeanette, you're welcome. I agree that a patient husband definitely helps :-)

    Ann, LOL over the university papers and painting exam :-)