Like most writers, I love words. I love the way they fit together to create entire worlds. I love their rhythm and the way they can set a mood. I love words. But there’s one that I hate. I shudder every time it’s so much as whispered.
Did you here that? It was the automatic nervous twitch of every writer out there facing the dreaded countdown clock. It’s the reminder that the book you couldn’t wait to start must come to an end. And it has to happen pronto. Someone is expecting that finished, polished, ready-to-go book. And you have to deliver.
Maybe you’ve signed a contract and promised your editor you’ll turn your book in by a specific date. Perhaps you’ve promised to send it to your critique partner. Or it could be a commitment that you’ve made to yourself. The book has to be done.
I know this scenario well. I’m right-smack-dab in the middle of it. It’s three weeks away, and my book is the opposite of finished. I keep staring down the deadline and staring at my progress and thinking, this might not work.
I also know the importance of meeting deadlines. The fastest way to prove you’re a serious writer is by meeting deadlines—even the self-imposed ones. It’s not always easy. Life gets in the way. But the book still has to be written. So here are my five tips for conquering the deadline blues.
Make a plan.
Set small, obtainable goals. Maybe your goal is to write for thirty minutes three nights a week. Maybe it’s to write 1000 words every day. Whatever your goal, make it measurable and attainable. Meeting smaller goals will make the bigger one manageable.
Set up a reward system.
Decide on a small treat when you reach each of your small goals. Perhaps you’ll watch an episode of your favorite TV show only after you’ve gotten in your 1000 words for the day. Or maybe you’ll save dessert until after the chapter is done. And when you’ve completed your book? That might be the perfect time for a weekend getaway with friends.
Ask for help.
You don’t have to do this writing thing alone. Sure, writing can feel like a solitary journey—and it often is. Just you and your computer. But you’re not alone. You have friends and family who want to see you succeed. They want to help you, so don’t be afraid to ask. My best friend is a wonderful chef, and when I’m in the throes of birthing a book, she’s been known to bring me a homemade meal that I’d never have time to make myself. I have another friend who offered to keep me accountable to write my first book. Every day she checked in with me to make sure I wrote the night before, and because of her I finished my first published novel. Help can take many shapes, and only you know what help you need. So ask for it.
Let the calendar motivate you.
A few years ago I was talking to a friend, who was working on her tenth book. With six weeks to go, she had written less than half of her book, so I asked how she was feeling. “I work better under pressure,” she said. Many writers fall into that category. Creatives can definitely be procrastinators. If you know you work faster and write better as time dwindles, then keep an eye on that clock and use it force out distractions and propel you to your best writing.
Yep. It’s pretty simple but even easier to forget. If you’re feeling the deadline stress, take a deep breath and a moment to talk with the God who gave you desire to write in the first place. Ask for His help. Lay your worries before Him. And watch how God works.
As writers, we don’t have to fear or despise deadlines. In fact we can make them work for us. And when deadline is no longer your least favorite word, you can choose another one, like maybe that word that you can never spell correctly. For me it’s melee. (I had to look it up. Again.)
Liz Johnson has kindly offered to giveaway a copy of her book, Where Two Hearts Meet. Simply answer the question below in the comments and a winner will be chose at random.
“Do deadlines stress you out? How do you deal with them?”
Liz Johnson is a thirteen-time deadline survivor of twelve novels—including The Red Door Inn and Where Two Hearts Meet—and a New York Times bestselling novella. She makes her home in Tucson, AZ, where she works in marketing, explores local theater, and dotes on her nieces and nephews. Follow her adventures in publishing at www.lizjohnsonbooks.com or www.Facebook.com/LizJohnsonBooks.