There is a saying that goes “nothing ever gets down without a deadline.” Often you hear this saying the most from self-help gurus. They claim no one is motivated enough to finish something without a deadline. I am not sure if this is true or not.

If you are an independent author, then your time is your own. You don’t have a three book deal where an editor is hammering you for the first three chapters of your next book. Or telling you to stop writing until the next year comes by.

Deadlines are often not just about getting something done as it is about meeting a marketing plan set by the publisher. I know, I publish too. However, this still doesn’t answer the question of whether or not anything gets done without a definitive deadline.

Let’s take J.R.R. Tolkien. This man singlehandedly created an entire world so vivid most who read his books feel as if they have been transported to Middle Earth. He wrote for his own pleasure when you got down to it. The Hobbit took years and wasn’t his first book about Middle Earth. He’d written several poems about the realm he would ultimately name Middle Earth.

After the Hobbit was published, his publishers pushed him for a sequel. One it would take him, by some accounts, over twelve years to write. Even his good friend C.S. Lewis of Narnia fame often chided the man to step up his pace.

I am personally glad he didn’t. He created a world full of songs he’d written and an entirely new language. Tolkien invented the elvish language. He literally created a language from scratch for his characters. You can speak it today and some have become fluent in it.

I wonder if Tolkien would have produced such a sweeping epic full of connecting details if he was on a hard deadline. Given what I have read about his personality, I highly doubt it.

Then you have the other end of the spectrum. Stephen King is famous for his productivity. His publishers only wanted him to produce one book a year so they could market each of his books properly and make oodles of money. A strategy that worked. However, King couldn’t contain his writing chops. He would produce one book for the publishers and then write others under pen names or just write entire novels because he had to write. Deadlines mean nothing to a writer who can produce ten thousand words every day of the year.

Which leaves the rest of us somewhere in between. The first thing you must realize is that, if you are in the writing game full time, you will work under deadlines. Period. It is often the difference between a professional writer and an author.

A writer must produce on time, every time. Authors often get the luxury of not taking deadlines too seriously. Especially if they are famous. Being famous, and marketable, gives you quite a bit of clout in this industry.

If you are given a book deal by a publisher, you will have to produce to a deadline. Publishers are in the business to make money. Let me repeat that – this is an industry whose sole purpose is to make money. If it doesn’t make money, then a publisher is unlikely to spend their money to produce a book.

Publishers and editors work to tight deadlines. They set those deadlines in their marketing. If you have a deal to produce a ninety thousand word novel in a year, then the publishers marketing machine goes to work the next day and continues to drum up interest in your work as hard as they can. One of those ways is to let the readers know how soon before they can get their hands on the book. An old marketing ploy but a goodie. Especially if the author has gained a following.

This is where authors struggle. Writers have long ago learned to work under deadlines. Deadlines are their bread and butter. If an editor or publisher can count on you to produce creative work on time for printing, then you are far above most in the game. Too many writers, or people who want to be writers, miss their deadlines for whatever reason.

Frankly, I stopped caring about the reasons why someone misses a deadline. There are a million of them. What I can tell you is, once a commitment has been made, you must meet it. If you can’t, then you must let your editor or publisher know. Long before it gets close to the deadline.

This is where I often tell people to read their contracts. In the fine print there are often reams of words dedicated to meeting your deadline and what happens if you don’t. Read your contracts. Have a lawyer read your contract before you sign it. Then get to work.

In the end, that is how you meet your deadlines. You work. Yes, writing is work. Those who don’t write for a living often find that statement amusing. They don’t think writing is work. I tell those who don’t think writing is work to craft me three one thousand to fifteen hundred word blog posts over the next three days on the art of selling. Then I add that I need a three hundred word article on stain removal tomorrow and an outline for their novel in four days. And, oh yes, I need a five hundred word critique on the last movie they saw.

It gets daunting at times. I get a lot of blowback from my authors when I start to push them. Authors are notoriously lazy. They want to tell me all about their book, how it came to be, what it means to them and so on and so forth. I hurt their feelings when I tell them I don’t care. I don’t want to hear about it. I want to read it! Let their work talk to me.

I will push for their first three chapters inside of a month. Period. Ready for editing. And then I want the tempo changed and some of the text removed and??? The list can go on forever.

What matters is I have deadlines I must meet which means my authors must meet theirs. If this doesn’t work for an author then, I often recommend self-publishing. Then they can set their own deadlines and craft the books in the time frame they want. It is often a better deal for many first time authors.

Deadlines are a part of the writing world. A huge part. You have to decide if you want to be like Tolkien, King, or somewhere in between. What you decide is important if you intend to work with publishers and editors and others in the writing game.

It all boils down to this. If you have deadlines, meet them. If that is a problem, then remember all it takes is work. A four letter word for anyone but work is the answer to meeting your deadlines. So, get to it and git ‘er done.

I’m Ross, the Editor-in-Chief at The Pyrateheart Press and I’m out.

2 thoughts on “Deadlines

  1. I’ll also throw in Parkinson’s law, where the work will stretch or compress to fill the deadline that’s been given. For some reason, even when I set rough deadlines for myself, my WIPs do end up being completed by said time. So I personally have taken the deadline route. Maybe my background in journalism has a role in that as well. Anyway, thanks for this post!


    1. Yes, Parkinson’s Law is interesting in the world of writing. Do you think this is true for the work of most Authors too?

      On the flip side deadlines can curb creativity if not managed realistically.

      Thanks for reading!


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