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Make Friends with your Deadline

By Denise Hunter

They don’t call ’em deadlines for nothing. I’m pretty sure it’s because most of us feel half dead when we get there. Add a hectic holiday or an unexpected illness, and you may not be the only one ready to tear out your hair.

But if you plan ahead and work steadily, you can reach your deadline (real or self-imposed) with some measure of sanity-even during the holidays! And make no mistake-publishers LOVE writers who meet their deadlines.

Every writer has their own method, but here’s what I do to stay on top of mine-I haven’t missed one yet:

1. Break down the task. A book is a huge project. Figure out how many pages (or words) you need to write a day to get your ms. finished by deadline. My quota is 6 quality pages per day (I edit as I write). Do the math-if I can do it, anyone can. Desired Page Count divided by Pages Per Day= how many days you need to write for your first draft. (For me: 350 pgs divided by 6= 59 writing days.)

2. Mark it down. Print out a calendar of your writing months and checkmark the days you will write your daily quota. Don’t check the days you don’t plan on writing (vacation/weekends/etc).

3. Add wiggle room. Add a few extra weeks between now and your deadline for life to happen. It will. It also leaves room for when you get stuck and need to spend your writing time fixing plot problems. This brings my writing time up to 80 days.

4. Add time for rewrites. I like to have a month for rewrites. This brings my writing time to a total of 110 days.

5. Stay accountable. Chart how many pages (or word count) you wrote each day on your calendar and tally up the end of each week. If you fall short one day, try to make it up by the end of the week. If you fall off track a bit, redo the math about 1/2 way through your WIP and adjust your calendar (or daily quota) as necessary. If it helps you, find an accountability partner and cheer each other on.

Writing is a business, and meeting your deadlines show you take it seriously. You do take it seriously, don’t you?

Wishing Season JPEGDenise Hunter meets her deadlines in Indiana, the setting of her most recent books The Wishing Season and Dancing with Fireflies. She is the internationally published bestselling author of 25 books. In 1996, inspired by the death of her grandfather, Denise began her first book, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she’s been writing ever since.

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2 Responses to Make Friends with your Deadline

  1. Rick Barry says:

    Sounds like a good, workable plan, Denise. I especially like the wiggle room, because life certainly has a way of happening.

    Thanks for sharing from your experience!

  2. Becky Wade says:

    Good post, Denise! I work in very much the same way — steady and measured — and it really helps to keep me (mostly) sane.