Friday, May 4, 2012

Writing Deadlines

As a writer who currently has no publisher, no contract, and no deadlines, how can I write about deadlines?

A deadline is part of  goal completion.  I have always set goals for myself and writing is no different.  My goal is to write something every day.  That’s a daily deadline.  I have another goal to write one or two blog posts each week.  That’s another deadline, but may also be part of the first deadline. 

Deadlines are part of life from school to work; you can’t avoid them, so you might as well embrace them.

I embrace them by meeting each one head on with planning and preparation.  I schedule deadlines on my calendar, although some are part of my daily routine.  Writing is a daily routine for me.

When do I write?  I devote at least one hour each morning to writing, sometimes two.  If I have a break in the afternoon or evening, I write then also.  But morning between 7:00 and 8:00 is my primary writing time.  I am fed and caffeinated and at the top of my game.  It’s all downhill from there!

To get back to deadlines, the word deadline first appeared in737px-stockade--Andersonville_Prison stockade written form during the Civil War and denoted the boundary—marked either by wooden or virtual stakes--of a military prison within a stockade.  Any prisoner who crossed the line would be shot and killed. 

Fortunately, the meaning has changed; no publishers would dare impose that type of penalty!  However, in 1997 Harper Collins cancelled 70  books because the authors missed deadlines.  Read more here:

How would it feel to have a book—a book that took you years to write, then another year or two to find a publisher and maybe another year or two to bring it into production--cancelled because you missed a deadline?  Your baby is now dead in the bathwater because you forgot the soap and left the room to find it. 

A deadline is no excuse for shoddy work.  Online journal submissions have deadlines. Sometimes those deadlines result in less than pristine work.  I reviewed two of my recent rejections, and realized that I should never have sent them.  I was so intent on meeting the deadline that I submitted, what I now know to be, incomplete work.    

If I had known then what I know now, how truly incomplete my essays were, I would not have submitted them.  But the deadline meant more to me than the work and the stress of my mother dying made me less attentive.  My attention was focused on that date, that deadline on my calendar.  Now, I have the opportunity to work the essays into something that I will be proud to submit, but I wasted both my time submitting them and the time of the editor who rejected them.  A double fault.

How do you meet a deadline?  Set goals.  Make time to complete those goals.  Finish early and have a trusted reader review your work to ensure that it is ready for submission. 
And whatever you do, don’t kill your baby through neglect.

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