WRITING TO DEADLINE: Friend or Foe?

by Normandie Fischer

When I hear an aspiring author say he’s been working on a manuscript for ten (or fifteen or twenty) years, my first thought is that he’s a perfectionist. He’s learning his craft.

Great idea.

But then he says, “My problem is that I can’t find the time to finish it.”

Aha. Time.

His words beg the question: Do all published authors have hours of silence, hours with no demands, hours when they’re not expected to play some other role? Because if they don’t, how do they ever finish a manuscript?

Could it be that finding time to write is all about making time to write?

Many of my writer friends are under contract to produce a certain number of books per year, which means that much of their day is dedicated to writing the next book while marketing the ones already released—if they’re not busy plotting or writing the next book while they wait for edits of a recently submitted manuscript. Traditionally published authors have two main jobs—writing and marketing—both of which take an inordinate amount of time.

And what about indie authors? These folk are acting as their own small publisher—writing and rewriting, then hiring editors (both developmental and copy) and proofreaders and cover designers and formatters. They decide on release schedules and get hopping on that marketing of the old and the new. If they want to create an audiobook, they have to research the narrator and oversee the production. The onus is on them for every aspect of every book, all of which takes an inordinate amount of time.

Which brings us back to: “I can’t find the time.” If there are only a limited number of hours in a day, days in a week, weeks in a month, and months in a year, how do some manage to publish while others can’t find the time even to finish a draft?

I see the hands waving and suggestions flying that some are called and some are not. Fine. Agreed.

And yet, isn’t it possible that some absolutely brilliant writers remain brilliantly hidden because they haven’t made the time to write, hiding behind the idea that they can’t find the time?

I am a new convert to the idea that, whether traditionally published or indie published, we all need deadlines. A few months ago, I would have scoffed at the notion of an indie needing a deadline. I did the traditional dance with my first two books and then skipped happily into indie land. (And, yes, it was probably about control. Sigh.)

One of the elements I was certain would work well with my personality and work ethic was the freedom to set my own pace.

Until that pace stalled. And this always-on-time-if-not-early person found herself flailing in maybe-later land.

The only way I got back into production was to set a goal—x number of words a month—and a deadline—a send-to-editor-by date. Sure, the deadline was arbitrary. If the date came and went minus a checkmark for task completed, no agent or publisher’s editor would flail me with a verbal whip. But I’d know. And I might miss my own editor’s window.

The process worked. The Christmas book released. And here I am, ready to do it again on my next manuscript.

So, what’s your time-management story? Have you blamed lack of time when you failed to complete a writing task? Has setting a goal helped?

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Normandie Fischer studied sculpture in Italy before receiving her BA, summa cum laude with special honors in English. She and her husband spent a number of years on board their 50-foot ketch, Sea Venture, sailing in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. They now live in coastal North Carolina, where she takes care of her aging mother. She is the author of six novels. Read more on her website, Facebook, and Amazon.