The Good, The Bad, & the Ugly of Deadlines: Pt. 2

Sydney St. Clair continues:

Today, I’ll finish talking about deadlines, those necessary evil’s of life. Let’s look at:

Types of Deadlines Writers Face

Completed Manuscripts This is the most common and the most important. None of the other deadlines can happen until you meet this one, and no one else will be able to meet their deadlines unless you meet yours. If you are not published yet, you will never be published unless you finish that manuscript or two or three. As said earlier, being productive and making progress is the key to making writing a career.

If you don’t set yourself a deadline, you might spend years working on the same story without working forward. Now this is not necessarily totally bad. You do have to learn the craft, whether it’s on one book or four.

I spent seven years on the first book, with some starts on other works, and one other complete manuscript written during that time. . But that book one wouldn’t let go so I learned my craft on it and was determined to see it sold. For me, it worked but it’s rare in this business to sell your first manuscript.


White working on your manuscript, many authors send out proposals to agents/editors. The process of waiting is so long, it makes business sense to see if anyone is interested. But before you send those proposals out, know how long you need to finish if your ms is requested. Agents and editors are not going to wait a year for that ms. They want it now. More than month is too long so again, learn how fast you write and plan accordingly around your deadline.

Writing Goals

All serious writers who want to be published and successful should treat your writing as a business. And this means goals. You need your deadline goals:

Daily/Weekly: word/pages, social media, website, etc. What do you need to achieve short term for those long-term goals/deadlines?

Yearly Goals: How many books completed, sent out, in various stages of writing, revising, editing etc. Daily/weekly help meet these deadlines/goals

Five Year Goal: Where do you want to be in five years? It’s true that there’s much you cannot control in this business but you can control your production and progress with deadlines and goals. If you want four complete manuscripts, then you need those deadlines and you need them broken down so you can see how to achieve that goal.

Promotion Deadlines

This is an on-going task. First, know your publishers process. How long from the time you turn in your ms to its release day? Typically, it’s 7-12 months. Smaller houses and e-pubs are much shorter. Currently, I have about 8 weeks! And if you are writing a series, you will be in process of promoting the book you just turned in, the one coming out, and the ones already out. Add the one you are just about to start and that’s even more. Some deadlines area:

Soliciting for reviews

Setting up blog tours

Setting up book signings (if print and if there are bookstores in your area)

Coming up with promo material and knowing lead times to get said material in time.

Press releases

Social media

Launch parties and probably a lot more depending on how much you decide to do

10 Facts of Deadlines

Fact 1: Deadlines are a necessary evil. They are a part of the writing business. If you want to succeed, you have a long list of deadlines in your future. Aside from the deadline of turning in your book, there are revisions, edits, copy edits, galleys, book fact sheets, and more. Then there are all the marketing deadlines, promotional deadlines, and enough other deadlines to scare off those who are faint of heart. This is not a business for those who fear those pesky deadlines.

Fact 2: Deadlines are Hell. Life doesn’t stop or slow down just because you have a deadline. I know. I’ve had tough deadlines, and there were times I couldn’t make them. I’ve written through death in the family, health problems, and family problems. Children, spouses, pets, changes in your life like moving, all rear their ugly heads at the worst possible time.

Yes, you can ask for extensions but if you do this too often or don’t meet those extended deadlines, you lose credibility. And keep in mind, those life issues will continue to crop up over and over, and you the writer have to learn to write in spite of whatever life tosses your way. Picture a little gremlin lurking in the corner just waiting to thwart you and turn your well-ordered life into chaos.

Fact 3: Good, Bad &Ugly, Deadlines Change the Way You Write. As I mention in the first part of this article, deadlines change the way you write. There is so much of the writing life that eats our writing time. The very act of selling, negotiating, announcing, enjoying that heady “sale” moment can easily eat up a month. Or two. Then there is all that time on email, research, learning the craft of this business, marketing, and promotion and yes, googling our name and book titles for reviews. When is there time to write?

Well, it doesn’t get better after you’ve sold your first book, or your tenth. Now is the time to learn self-discipline. Depending on what you write and where you sell, you may be asked to provide your next book in as little as six months. Or if you are me, with a new six book series of novella length stories, six-eight weeks! And let’s say you have six months to turn in your next book. You may lose a good two months due to life. Setting a deadline, knowing where you are on your book at all times, will help keep you on track.

With my novella’s, I know how many days and hours each book takes. I plan out a certain word count per day and yes, there are days that I have to double that to make my deadline. But knowing how much time I need is invaluable to setting and making my deadlines.

readerFact 4: Deadlines Are A Way Of Life. Meeting deadlines is a sign that you are a professional, something your editor and publisher both want and expect. Yes, writing is an art but once you sell, you merge the art with business and it’s the business that will make or break you. Your publisher needs and wants reliable wordsmiths, not temperamental artists. Before selling, writers can write as the muse hits, when they have free time, when the kids are behaving and the spouse is in a generous mood etc. Once we are on deadline, we have to deal.

We free-spirited artists can go weeks without writing and justify it as “family comes first,” or taking a break, or whatever. We can rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and perfect those first three chapters to our hearts content. We can agonize over every little scene. We can create elaborate character sheets, charts and other “busy” work to show we are writing. We can look good; we can look professional with all those trappings and feel great.

But the ugly truth is, much of that isn’t writing—it’s the pretense of writing. It’s not putting words down onto paper and pushing toward a deadline. When you have six months or a year or whatever to write a book, and you know that life will nibble away at some of that time, you don’t have a lot of time for fancy. That nasty deadline looms and reality doesn’t care if you have pretty charts.

Fact 5: Deadlines Change The Way You View Writing. Okay this is a big one folks. When you have deadlines, writing is no longer something fun you do because you want to do it. Now you have to write. Now it’s work. Now it’s a job. Suddenly, that story you came up with, provided a ten-page synopsis on, wrote those first 30-50 pages, were so eager to sell, doesn’t seem very interesting, isn’t working, the characters aren’t coming to life, etc. In fact, you even hate those characters and that stupid plot—why did I want to write this story in the first place?

What you thought would happen isn’t. And you’re stuck having to write that damn story because you sold the story and you are under deadline. You have to make it work. Somehow…

Fact 6: Deadlines Force You To keep Writing. Even if you think it’s all bad, even if you don’t know what you’re doing, even when you just want to toss in the damn towel. That sneaky, pesky deadline keeps you writing. There’s nothing like pressure to make you vomit those words onto paper.

Fact 7: Deadlines Motivate You. They hold you accountable. You can’t put off writing. The clock is ticking. No time for hand wringing, dilly-dallying around or overthinking your writing process. You have that invisible teacher/boss standing there, tapping his /her foot, or holding your paycheck hostage. I am a procrastinator. Deadlines keep me from giving in and putting off what needs to be done now. Deadlines make me get organized and busy.

Fact 8: Deadlines Include Synopsis. Unfortunately, in order to get that sale which means a coveted deadline (yeah, you want that deadline because that means you are succeeding in your writing career) you have to write that synopsis.

Fact 9: Synopsis Are A Necessary Evil. Just as deadlines are a necessary evil. No one said writing was all fun and games.

Fact 10: Synopsis suck. Deadlines suck. Get over it, get used to it, and embrace it. Your writing career will thank you.

When it comes to deadlines, there is a lot to consider and a lot of benefit. So, do you set deadlines? Why or why not? Do you meet them? What tricks or advice do you have to share to help others set and meet their deadlines?

7 responses to “The Good, The Bad, & the Ugly of Deadlines: Pt. 2

  1. I agree, Sydney – Deadlines motivate me to keep moving forward.


  2. The main type of deadline I’ve had to deal with is promotion deadlines. I’m lucky that I don’t have any writing deadlines…yet. Great post!


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