Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Love/Hate Relationship with Deadlines

I recently finished a book that had a deadline. (A deadline I totally mixed up with another book deadline and when I opened the contract I had a tiny freak out moment. Okay... a BIG freak out moment.)

I've complained talked to several people about deadlines. Among the advice was "deadlines smeadlines" "it'll come out great under pressure" "relax, you still have a month" and the popular "stop stressing" (subtext: you're driving me nuts, Cassie. Write the dang book.) ;)

Thing is, I like having deadlines. I hate them too. And when I have them, I am one of those people who not only has to meet it, I have to be EARLY. It's always been like that. I'm 15 minutes early to everything, and when I'm not, I'm pissed off to no end until I get to my destination. I turned in assignments and projects days early. I like to get things done and not think about them ever. Ever. 

I'm also a procrastinator. Which makes no sense, but it's true. When I get an assignment, I put it off for a couple days, then dive in and do it in one go. I get ready to leave five minutes before I walk out the door.

So, with writing, I can't exactly write 70K in one day. Rarely can I do that in one month. But I NEED deadlines or I will never get the book done.

Long opener for my list of how to deal with deadlines.

PLOT: Even if you are not a plotter.

SPRINT: 30 minutes a day. Instead of Facebooking/tweeting/instagramming/pinteresting... WRITE. Even if you don't want to.

SET SMALL WORD COUNT GOALS: If not word count, scene goals. Don't stop in the middle of a scene. Write it out in it's entirety. Chapter goals work too.

KNOW WHERE YOUR MUSE LIVES: Mine lives in the shower. Every time I get stuck, I hop in. I was a wrinkled prune the entire month of December.

GIVE YOURSELF WIGGLE ROOM: Books are not perfect when they are first written. Have a self imposed deadline for your drafts. For your critique partners. For your editor. That stuff takes lots of time and it's the most important time, so make sure there's a lot of it.

BE HONEST: If you can't make a deadline, admit it. Whether it's to yourself or a publisher. You both want a book that will be brilliant, and if rushing it won't make it brilliant, then say so.

GET RID OF DISTRACTIONS: Just unplug the internet. You can Google that one place you need in your manuscript after you've finished the scene.

SKIP AROUND: If you don't know what's going to happen in the next chapter, write a different one.

BE OPEN TO CHANGE: As I'm reading this list, a year ago I would've been, "This is so not helpful" because I was a pantser. I wrote in order. I couldn't put in filler just to move on to the next scene. I was stubborn and said, "This is what works for me and I'm not changing it!" But as I've had to deal with writing several books in a limited amount of time, I found out that trying new methods helped my writing more than anything else.

DON'T STRESS: Reward yourself when you hit your goals, so you get the instant gratification of sitting down and finishing that chapter you didn't want to write while ignoring your Twitter feed. Close your eyes and listen to music. Smile.

REMEMBER WRITING IS FUN: And always should be, even when you are on a deadline :)

And I'd love to hear your methods for meeting your own deadlines. Since I could always use advice on it, lol!

Spell for the day:

Petrificus Totalus. 


  1. I tend to procrastinate as well, which is why I like to get things done early. (Scary we have that in common.) When I know I have a deadline, I just block off the appropriate amount of time (and every night if I have to) until it's done. Not to go all Nike, but I just do it.

  2. Great list, Cassie. I'm a bit that way, too. I like to finish things ahead of time, too. But I also procrastinate! And deadlines help me buckle down. :)

  3. I am a procrastinator too. Which is awful and I HAVE to quit. Wait until the last minute and have a family issue and a slew of snow days and you are like the wrestler smooshed to the mat by the sweaty bigger guy.

    I needed this today. I should start writing things in my calendar as due days early!

  4. I'm also a procrastinator who needs deadlines. Luckily, I take the deadlines I give myself fairly seriously, so that seems to work out for me.

  5. Those are some great things to do. I am awful at procrastinating, but when I do sit down to write I turn off the internet, grab my coffee, plug in my tunes and write. :) I don't have any deadlines right now, only ones from myself and I tend to push those to the end. :)

  6. In school, I was the kid who did their big projects all in one go. It helped to have only that one thing to focus on. Of course, my procrastination tendencies were also bad enough that I was doing this the night before it was due. It's okay though, because apparently I work well under pressure. I typically got excellent grades on my assignments, no matter how minute I was in doing them.

  7. Such great advice. I like to be early with deadlines, too. I'm also a huge supporter of skipping around or ahead in a book you're writing if needed. Saves my lazy writer a** all the time.

  8. I excel under pressure, and even impose some on myself for manuscripts that I'm putting out on my own. But I couldn't do it if I didn't plot, and the way you said "skip around" I do that like crazy. I'll sometimes write the last chapter before I'm halfway there.

    Great post!

  9. Well since you love deadlines so much, instead of saying, oh-those-people-giving-you deadlines are so dumb. I'll say suck it up girl!


    Deadlines can be good sometimes. As long as they're reasonable!

  10. Haha, YES with the turning things early and the finding your muse in the shower. Me too!

  11. I'm with you on liking to just get things done! Great list, too. I'm finding that plotting helps a TON!! :D

  12. Procrastinating is a problem for me too. And sometimes I finish things at the last minute or like you in a few crazy sprints. I love your tips, writing is a journey and we all need to remember and enjoy it.

  13. I'm the same way about being early. I freak out if I'm running late (to the point where I get people mad at me), and thanks to online classes this semester, I'm turning in assignments before they've even been assigned. I can't stand waiting until the last minute.

  14. Good advice, but personally I like stopping a writing session in the middle of a scene. It encourages me to pick up the story again faster, and prevents that moment where I open up the document and stare at the cursor thinking 'now what?'. I really need to find where my muse lives.

  15. Great advice, Cassie! One of my biggest problems with deadlines is procrastinating. I need to be more disciplined.

  16. All true, Cassie. I need a map or I get lost. I need a timeframe or I never show up. I think my muse lives in house cleaning. I am really happy about that.

  17. I gotta say I'm . . . REALLY feeling this right now. My deadline to get a book to my publisher is in three days. And what am I doing?

    Making a comic about how I'm doing things other than working on the thing that's due. It's kind of meta.

    I'm not normally the kind of person who needs an externally imposed deadline to get something done, but this one just kinda snuck up on me after a month of doing other things. It's gotten to the point where I've realized "Okay . . . I think I'm actually going to have to pull a couple all-nighters for this. Well crap."



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