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Deadlines: One of the Best Kept Secrets in Writing

by Kathy Harris

A goal is a dream with a deadline. – Napoleon Hill

Want to know a secret? I love deadlines!

And I think you should too.

Search online for the quote above, and you’ll find it, or one like it, attributed to a number of different people. I first heard it from one of my early writing mentors, multi-published author Kaye Dacus.

Despite all of the quotes about deadlines, they are still one of the best kept, and misunderstood, secrets in the business. If you lack confidence in your writing. If you’re too busy to write. Or if you’re a procrastinator, deadlines are for you! They’re not only motivational. They help you prioritize.

If it hadn’t been for deadlines, and the encouragement of others, I might not have finished two of my manuscripts. Or had my first book published. Deadlines not only put wings to your dreams, they set the wind at your back. They push. Just when you need it.

Here are three reasons to love—rather than hate—deadlines:

  1. A deadline is the ultimate compliment! If someone gives you a deadline, it means they believe in you! Similarly, if you set a deadline for yourself, it means you believe in yourself!
  2. Deadlines force us to do what we think we can’t do. They push aside our fears and make us sit down and write. They encourage us to edit what we thought was an unsalable story, allowing us to see its possibilities. They drown out the never-ending noise of our internal editors and allow us to listen to the story of our heart. Former editor in chief of Vanity Fair magazine—and the first female editor of The New Yorker—Tina Brown calls deadlines ‘one of life’s greatest antidotes to insecurity.’ (The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992). Nolan Bushnell, the inventor of Pong, calls them the “ultimate inspiration.”
  3. Deadlines put you ahead of the game. You can write now. Or you can write later. But one of these days, you will have to make up for lost time if you want to enter a contest or submit a full manuscript to the agent or editor who requested it at a conference.

I experienced this recently. One day near the end of the 2018 ACFW conference my agent looked at me and said, ‘I want you to finish your manuscript in six weeks.’

Really? Me? I could name a dozen reasons why that wasn’t possible. How would I have the time? I work. I’m a caregiver. And I don’t believe in myself…

But, evidently, she believed in me. And enough to set the challenge. So, the first, and only, word that came out of my mouth was “Okay.”

And now I have another secret to share.

Meeting my deadline resulted in a contract. My second book, and my first romantic suspense novel, Deadly Commitment, will be published in January 2020 by New Hope Publishers/Iron Stream Media. I’m excited to be working with my first editor, Ramona Richards, again! And she will soon be throwing more deadlines at me.

Yes. Deadlines beget deadlines. But how can you not love them when you realize the rewards? Reading your words in galleys. Seeing the cover art for the first time. Opening a box of books that are stamped with the words Book One.

Oh, no! I think I see another deadline in my future.

Would you care to join me?

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Kathy Harris lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and writes romantic suspense and women’s fiction. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency. Read Kathy’s blog or follow her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

 

 

 

 

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4 Responses to Deadlines: One of the Best Kept Secrets in Writing

  1. My project now is pretty odd,
    a sonnetized devotional.
    I’ll now pause – you may applaud,
    but please don’t get emotional.
    It’s built around a certain path
    upon which I now travel,
    that of facing cancer’s wrath
    and watching life unravel.
    I must say, though, I’m having fun
    trying to beat the clock;
    a poem for a single year’s new sun
    three-sixty-five plus one…tick-tock.
    And on the horizon the deadline-loom:
    “Finish this, mate, ere your doom.”

  2. Rick Barry says:

    Thanks for a terrific and encouraging blogpost, Kathy. It’s true. A solid deadline kicks away the excuses and forces us to roll up our sleeves and “Just do it.” I’ve had to learn to create my own deadlines when no one set a deadline for me.

  3. Natalie Watkins says:

    “…if you set a deadline for yourself, it means you believe in yourself!”

    My favorite line from your post, Kathy. Thank you for this encouragement!

  4. Setting incremental goals is the only way I can get anything done on my writing. 🙂