Douglas Adams may have famously said: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
But the rest of us have to make a pay cheque and no-one wants to hire writers who can’t stick to deadlines.
Even the most conscientious writers can find themselves right up to the wire at times.
And it’s easy to let your work slip as the pressure rises.
Here’s a few tips on how not to do that.
And how to make sure you stay motivated until the project is finished.
When you’ve only a few days to complete something I find it helps to plan everything down to the very last detail.
Which means breaking your day down into half hour segments and deciding how you’re going to fill them.
This should give you a great idea of how much needs to be done, how much you can realistically do in a day and when you should tackle certain things.
For instance, if you’re more focused in the mornings then move all the difficult work to before lunch.
If you’re drained in the late afternoons then schedule something less intense such as editing and revising.
When you get up in the morning think about the day you want to have and then go have it.
Get a second opinion
You’ve been wrestling with a project for a long time. You’ve lost count of the number of re-writes you’ve given it.
Deadline is fast approaching and you’re still not happy with the final result.
Instead of stressing yourself into a dark corner, get someone else to read it.
Readers are an invaluable tool.
Not only can they give you a fresh perspective, they can also catch any mistakes you may have missed in your deadline-induced panic.
Perfect for procrastinators, they will email you daily, weekly (or even hourly) to make sure you’re on track.
I generally don’t use them because I’m a freakish list maker and keep a fairly detailed calender, but I have found them useful for projects that are booked well in advance.
If a client sends me a November deadline in September, it can be a lifesaver to get an email alert nearer the time.
And if you really can’t make deadline…
Sometimes there are circumstances beyond your control (a flaky interviewee, a technology failure, a family emergency) and there’s no possible way you can make your deadline.
If this is the case don’t be afraid to reach out to your client/editor/publisher and ask for an extension.
Explain the situation clearly, tell them when they can expect your work and reassure them that the quality will not suffer.
In my experience, editors and publishers love clarity from their writers so don’t be tempted to offer vague promises.
If it’s going to take you another week, be upfront and ask for a week.