Hi Everyone, it’s Judith Couchman. My assignment for this year focuses on blogging about writing: technique; practical pointers, encouragement, and such. I hope this helps you.
In Parker’s defense, Viking asked her to write a novel in less than a year. She usually spent six months writing a short story. Parker built a legendary reputation for missing deadlines. The book project proved doomed from the start, and in the 1970s Viking reported Parker’s project as the longest unfulfilled contract in its history.
This story chills me because I’ve struggled to meet deadlines. In fact, I missed the due date for this blog because multiple emergencies took its place. I’m writing it late and back-dating the post, just in case my advice might help somebody. These bits of wisdom form my complete oeuvre about deadlines.
1. Agree to reasonable deadlines. Most missed deadlines trace back to setting unrealistic goals at contract signings. We want the work and say yes to writing feats. Don’t agree to excruciating deadlines to please your publisher or to feel accomplished as a writer. You’ll wind up sick, ruin relationships, and miss your deadline, anyway. Up front, tell your editor what’s realistic and usually the company will adjust. When figuring a deadline, double (or triple) the amount of time you think the project will require. This allows for the unexpected, writer’s block, and emergencies. Or it’s just more realistic. Writers tend toward wild imaginings about how fast they can write well.
2. Trim your schedule. Writing requires time, space, and focus. You can’t just add writing a book on top of everything else you do. Cut unnecessary activities. At least while you’re working on a writing project, say no to new responsibilities. Talk to family and friends about the time and space you’ll need–and how you’ll compensate for lost time with them later. Clear out as much as possible so you can write and meet your deadline. The clergyman Everett Edward Hale proclaimed, “I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” For writers “the something we ought to do” is to write.
3. Write regularly. Designate a place to write and work there regularly. Keep a writing schedule to get the work done. Hit-or-miss writing jeopardizes a deadline. The author and poet Maya Angelou kept a strict schedule and location to write. With her notable wit, Angelou explained, “I write in the morning and then go home about midday and take a shower, because writing, as you know, is very hard work, so you have to do a double ablution. Then I go out and shop—I’m a serious cook—and pretend to be normal.” Angelou created an ideal working schedule. On the other hand, essay and fiction writer E. B. White said, “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.” Some writers work around crying babies. Others write in absolute silence. So to meet a deadline, set the best schedule and working conditions for you, and work.
Judith Couchman is a CAN member, the writer of 44 traditionally published works, and a writing coach. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or through www.judithcouchman.com.