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Deadlines: When Do They Matter?

by Jennifer on March 24, 2010

By Jennifer Blanchard

Deadlines. A single word that controls so much.

A deadline is a deciding factor–A newspaper editor decides which stories to run based on who turned their story in on time.

A deadline is an ending–Writing contests set a cut off day and time; you either meet it or you don’t get to enter the contest.

A deadline is a commitment you make with yourself--You create self-set deadlines for the projects you’re working on; whether you meet them or not is your business.

And yet as important as they are, there are also times when deadlines don’t matter.

As many of you know, today was the original launch date for Butt-In-Chair. I announced it throughout the month, as well as in the March newsletter that I sent out last Monday.

But then something unexpected happened. My eBook designer had an untimely death in his wife’s family and he was worried he wouldn’t make my original deadline.

This is one of those times that, for me, deadlines don’t matter.

I told him not to worry at all about the deadline, which I know he appreciated.

I was lucky because my deadline was flexible. And it worked out well for the eBook because I was able to spend some time adding even more ideas and advice for making a habit of writing.

Now there are times in writing–when you’re doing it professionally–that deadlines have to be hit no matter what’s going on in your life.

For example, when a publisher gives you a deadline, they mean it. If you don’t make your deadline you risk losing your deal. Holly Lisle is teaching a Crash Revision course (for $5!) to help writers learn how to rewrite their novel in seven days to make a publisher’s deadline (see the description on the SavvyAuthors.com site).

In that case, you have to meet the deadline.

So how should you deal with deadlines?

Here are my recommendations:

  • Build a few extra days into your writing schedule for every project, that way you’re covered if something comes up.
  • If you know (for sure) you’re going to miss a deadline, communicate it right away. They may not like what you’re telling them, but at least you’re telling them before it happens.

    This is important, especially if you’re writing for a newspaper or magazine. Since these publications have specific “shipping” schedules to follow, telling them ahead of time you’re not going to make it will allow them to find a replacement writer so the story can still run.

  • List out all the steps you have to take to get to your deadline. There’s nothing worse than being days away from a deadline and finding out there’s a step you missed. Write the steps out; for example: a magazine article would have you finding sources, setting up interviews, interviewing the sources, writing the article, editing the article, submitting it to the magazine.
  • Don’t wait ’til the last minute on your deadlined writing projects. You’ll regret it if you do.

How do you feel about deadlines? Are you OK with flexible deadlines or do you prefer concrete deadlines?

About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard is founder of Procrastinating Writers. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.

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