Hello interwebs! I’m popping in today for a quickie post about something currently on my mind.
If you follow me online, you probably know I’m currently under a rapidly approaching deadline for my newest novel, The Canary Club. It’s a prohibition era YA romance and as with any historical project, the amount of research that is going into it has been nearly crippling. But I’m on track and I’m going to make it. Because that’s my job.
But what I want to talk about is something I’ve noticed quite a bit recently with fellow authors. I’m going to call it Deadline Disrespect.
As an author, whether you are on your 30th novel or your very first, deadlines are going to be both your best friend and your worst enemy. And in this business, there will be all kinds of deadlines imposed upon you. Some will be self imposed, i.e. I WILL have this book finished by summer, some will be from your agent i.e. Have the first draft to me by September first, I have an opening in my schedule that month, and some will be from your editors i.e. Here’s your first round of edits, I need them back Monday.
When working with a publisher, these are especially important becasue the process is scheduled not just around you, but a myriad of other books, editors, and releases. Promotions are scheduled, editors are booked, and fans are notified. Missing a deadline can be costly at best, disastrous at worst. Recently, a friend of mine writing with a publisher missed her deadline by almost a month. By the time she turned it in, the editor was already onto other books and wouldn’t be free for another three months. They sent her to a new editor, who hadn’t worked on the previous books in her series, and the process took weeks longer than it should have because everything that was established in the first book had to be re-explained to a new editor. That delay pushed her release back 7 months and cost the publisher $500 in promotions they had set up for her.
I know many self-published authors think this doesn’t apply to them, but it does. You still have editors you have to schedule with and you risk the same loss of funds–from your own pocket–when you miss promotions. Not to mention that fans HATE it when they are all psyched up for a release only to get a note that it’s being pushed. And if you’ve put your book up for pre-order on Amazon? That’s even worse. If you miss release day with a pre-order, Amazon will spank you by not letting you do pre-orders again for a YEAR.
Why deadlines are good:
Deadlines will help you press yourself. There will always be a reason not to write. It will always be a holiday or a birthday or a vacation, or hell just a TV show you’d rather watch. A deadline gives you the equivalent of a ticking clock that for most people helps them buckle down.
Why deadlines suck:
There will always be a reason not to write. Life happens. People get sick, kids and families need attention, sometimes you just get burnt out or creatively blocked. And there are simply those people who don’t work well under the pressure of a deadline.
But suck it up buttercup. Because that’s part of the job.
At the end of the day, deadlines are what separates the professionals from the amateurs. If you can’t stick to a deadline, then publishing is not for you. And if you are on your 30th book (or whatever) don’t think that means deadlines don’t apply to you. They do. If you prove unable to meet a deadline you tick off everyone–your publisher, your agent, even your fans. Whether you are traditional, indie, or self-published, deadlines are important. They are necessary to your career. Learn to love them.
Sure, we’ve all missed a deadline at some point. It happens. But it’s when you make a habit of it that it becomes a real problem. I’ve seen more authors screw up release dates, upset editors schedules, and leave fans hanging becasue they set a deadline they couldn’t possibly make. Better to ask for extra time up front on a deadline than to come in late. Remember Scotty From Star Trek? He had a great piece of dialogue that applies here.
Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge: Yeah, well, I told the Captain I’d have this analysis done in an hour.
Scotty: How long will it really take?
Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge: An hour!
Scotty: Oh, you didn’t tell him how long it would *really* take, did ya?
Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge: Well, of course I did.
Scotty: Oh, laddie. You’ve got a lot to learn if you want people to think of you as a miracle worker.
The gist is, ask for more time than you think it will take, if you finish it early, you’re a miracle worker. If crap hits the fan and you turn it in only on time, you are still in their good graces.
If you think you’re going to miss a deadline:
- Talk to your team (publisher, agent, editor, whomever) and explain the situation. Get an extension, or if there’s a more serious issue preventing you from completing in a reasonable time frame, make them aware of it as soon as possible.
- Buckle down. I know it sucks to sacrifice IRL stuff, but sometimes it has to happen. Work furiously.
- Identify what has put you behind in the first place and work to change it. Obviously if you’re down sick for two weeks, there’s nothing you can do. But you could be using that time to research, scribble plot notes on napkins–anything to keep progress moving.
I recently complained online that a Friday felt way too much like a Monday, and asked why that was. A very wise friend chimed in with the answer.
Because writers don’t get weekends. we don’t get holidays or spring breaks. We are always either in the process of writing, thinking about writing, or dreaming about writing. For that reason, I highly suggest scheduling in vacations or breaks between projects for the sake of your mental sanity (though most writers never FULLY stop writing, it’s still a nice break just not to be on deadline with something), just know that the business of writing means respecting–and meeting–your deadlines.