Deadlines are not your worst enemy

by Robin Lovett
published in Writing

Deadlines are terrifying.

They’re funny little things almost made to be broken, but without them we’d get nothing done. (Even this article, I’m turning in two days late, but if there wasn’t a deadline, would I write it at all? Probably not.)

Reaching a book deadline involves a lot of panic. Or at least, it does for me. I have three months to write book one for my publisher, followed by another three month deadline for book two. I signed that contract. I agreed to this.

I agreed to this?! Was that me? I must have been out of my mind! I just have to remember… It’s a good thing!

Deadlines mean people want to read our work and have faith that we can do this. And the truth is—we can. Even though remembering it in the midst of our struggle is hard.

The only medicine I’ve found is to make a plan. Whether I stick to it or not, just having one gives me the security to NOT PANIC! Or at least, not so badly it’s debilitating.

There are four crucial levels to making the plan.

1) Be aware of your deadline

When is it and what’s going on in your life between now and then? Plan ahead. Know which days and weeks you’re likely to get lots of work done and which ones realistically you’re not likely to get much writing time. Make plans to utilize your windows of optimal work time.

2) Work backwards

Start from your deadline and figure out how many weeks you’ll need for time off, final edits, and critique partners, etc. This will tell you when your first draft needs to be done.
My current three month deadline / twelve week schedule (which I made backwards) looks like this:

  • Week 1-5 Write draft 1
  • Week 6 Time off from the draft
  • Week 7 Draft 2 edits
  • Week 8 Send draft 2 off to my critique partners.
  • Week 9 Work on edits from critique partners
  • Week 10-11 Send to my agent
  • Week 12 Final Edits

This is my goal schedule. It’s flexible. Those first five weeks of getting draft one done are the most crucial, and the time when I panic most.

3) Set small goals

So there’s no freaking out at a blank doc going, OMG 75,000 WORDS IN FIVE WEEKS! I’ll never make it!

Thinking that, I’ll be too scared to get anything done.

Dividing the word count over five weeks comes to a little over 2,000 words a day. For me, this is reasonable. I know my weekly schedule. Some days I’ll be lucky to get 1,000 words in, but other days I’ll have time for 3,000-4,000. It should even out.

But I always panic when I miss a day or two.

4) Panic a little, but not a lot

Pressure helps us get work done. It’s all about finding the right amount. Some weeks I’m going, “No, f#%*$ way is this happening.” But I have some cushion in my weekly plan, so it’s okay, I tell myself.

That little bit of panic I can handle. What I cannot handle is working on draft one until the day of the deadline. I know some authors who can finish their last chapter the day the book is due and send it in. That level of freak out would send me into debilitating panic attacks and make it impossible for me to even see the page.

Know yourself. Know what level of panic you’re capable of handling, and the optimal amount of pressure you need to get work done.

My schedule worked for my first deadline. I met it a week early—I still don’t know how that happened. Meanwhile, I’m in the middle of deadline two. I’m almost on schedule.

It doesn’t mean I’m not panicking. I’m learning to make friends with the panic.


Sarah-Lovett-photo-223x300Robin Lovett writes contemporary romances with her debut novel, Racing To You. Her next series, Bad Boys of Blackmail is scheduled for release the summer of 2017 through SMP Swerve. She is represented by Rachel Brooks of the L. Perkins Agency. She loves to chat on Twitter @LovettRomance and every Sunday evening you can find her chatting with other romance writers at #RWChat.

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