Deadlines

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Zurakowski

Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.

Yesterday Gina brought up an excellent reason for why some multi-published authors might end up writing the “same” story more than once. She pointed out that authors often write on contracted deadlines. The books are to be written and turned into the publisher by a certain date. This does leave much less time for the rewriting and editing that can eliminate the “ruts.” (Thank you, Gina.)

An author’s first book isn’t usually written on a deadline. An author can take years to work over the manuscript. Then the book is published, does well, and the author is offered a new contract based on a synopsis and the first few chapters of a story. The new contract comes with a due date for the complete manuscript. Suddenly there’s pressure! Without a doubt the shortened amount of writing time can cause lower quality work.

Then there’s the “P” word. PROCRASTINATION! I’m guilty of it, are you? I’ve heard of many an author waiting until the last month before the deadline to write the contracted book. The publisher allotted the author 6 months to a year (typically) to write the book, but the author didn’t start until the last minute. Imagine what would happen if the author got sick during that month! Life happens, and it seems to “happen” all the more when you procrastinate. So, while writing on a deadline can affect the quality of an author’s work, procrastination always results in a rush job.

My advice to you: When writing on a deadline, set up a word count goal for each day or week and stick to it. Also leave a little time toward the end for feedback and revision. You owe it to your reader, your publisher and yourself to do your best!

12 Responses

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  1. Ah, Rachel, these are words of wisdom. Most of life teaches us to work ahead of the game, beyond the curve… Even if you’re a pressure person, you can learn to do this. Why do people forget that in the writing biz?

    I’m a big believer in working a project or two ahead. Remember Stephen King’s Bag of Bones? About the writer whose wife died and he had a stash of work that got him through his grieving process?

    Sage advice. A stash of money and a stash of completed or nearly completed work is never a bad thing.

    And you are just adorable. Is that too unprofessional to say out loud???

  2. Wendy says:

    I stick to my 1000K a day. The key for my lately is giving myself permission to take one day off a week.
    ~ Wendy

  3. Lori Benton says:

    I was the child who in grade school started her assignments the night they were given, who finished all her homework on Friday so it wasn’t hanging over her head, spoiling her fun all weekend. πŸ™‚

    Your advice not to procrastinate is so crucial. But I’d like to add that an author must write her best book possible in the time allowed her by her publisher, which might not mean it’s the best book she could have crafted given a little more time.

    I’m told readers would forget about an author if they took eighteen months or two years between their books (working hard on them all the while, not stuck in procrastination). Yet those authors I enjoy who don’t release books every year I find myself anticipating far more than those I know will have another book out before I can blink, and when I finally get their newest book in my hands it is an Event. Then I want to devour it, savor it, go on line and talk about it with other fans for months to come, knowing the wait for the next will be a long one, but worth it.

  4. Nicole says:

    Lori, you had to be a teacher’s pet! πŸ˜‰ I waited to do the term paper until the night before it was due, remaining up until 4 AM to finish it. The problem was I usually always got and A or a B, so there was no deterrent.

    Writing must move forward. Somehow, some way, writers must keep creating that next book. One novel isn’t enough. Work hard. Do your best. But write the next one. And the next one.

  5. Erika Marks says:

    So true. As writers we polish that debut without realizing the luxury of time we have had to do so.

    Now I am on the cusp of book number two for a contract and an accompanying deadline for it and I have decided I am one of those people who thrives under a deadline–it is the open-ended world of “do at your own pace” that seems to rob me of productivity, oddly enough.

    Lori, you make a good point about perceived relevance. It doesn’t do anyone any good to feel the pressure to stay on the radar at the expense of producing quality work. I am always thrilled when beloved authors re-emerge with new novels, no matter the lull between them.

  6. Thank God for deadlines, or I’d get nothing done.

  7. Rachel Zurakowski says:

    Lol. Thank you, Ruth! It’s nice to be called adorable every now and then.

  8. Rachel Zurakowski says:

    “Your advice not to procrastinate is so crucial. But I’d like to add that an author must write her best book possible in the time allowed her by her publisher, which might not mean it’s the best book she could have crafted given a little more time.”

    Great thing to point out, Lori. Thank you!

  9. I agree, one shouldn’t procrastinate when writing a contracted novel. As soon as the ink dries on that contract, you need to get started writing that book!

  10. Morgan Busse says:

    These posts have been great to read πŸ™‚ I’ve been trying to figure out what my own rut is.

    As far as procrastination, I was the type that took home my college syllabus, got out my calendar and planned out my homework so it was done 2 weeks in advance πŸ™‚ Yeah, having a husband and 4 little kids has mellowed me out lol.

  11. Cat Woods says:

    I love deadlines, even though I can procrastinate with the best of them. However, I also know how much my first book has matured with the luxury of time to edit it. This is something that scares me about subsequent works when the deadlines are tight and I won’t have as much time tinker withe them.

    Which reminds me. Better get writing.

    ~cat

  12. Excellent advice.