Four Tips to Meet Deadlines

by Sarah Sundin, @sarahsundin

As a natural procrastinator, I struggle to meet deadlines. In college a late assignment only hurt myself. Not so in the publishing world. A late manuscript causes ripple effects in the publishing house from editing to marketing to sales, affecting our relationships and reputation—and our contracts! Even with smaller assignments, tardiness causes annoyance, inconvenience, and sometimes a loss of that opportunity.

Conversely, writers who meet deadlines gain respect, trust, and affection—and couldn’t we all use more of that?

Here are four keys to meet your deadlines and save your sanity.


1) Set Goals

Before I was published, my writers’ group encouraged us to write our monthly goals on an index card and keep it in sight. Since then, I’ve shifted to a goal chart. In this simple table, I enter all my assignments over the next few years, broken down by month.

The table has columns for types of projects—novel writing, publisher assignments (edits, title questionnaires, catalog copy), articles and interviews, and publicity (newsletter, website updates, speaking events, etc.).

Smaller projects get assigned to a month. Big projects, like novels, get broken into smaller monthly goals, such as a number of chapters or a word count goal. Leave room for “life”—like vacations, family events, and conferences.

2) Log Assignments

Author interviews, blog guest posts, and articles can overwhelm the writer. To keep track of the multiple details, I keep a spreadsheet, but a table works just as well.

I list each assignment chronologically by post date. I have columns for the website or blogger’s name, and the URL for the blog or website—after it posts, I change this to the permalink so I can visit and interact with commenters. The next four columns are for the date I receivedthe assignment, the due date, the date I sent it, and the post date. I note if I’m giving away a book and if I’ve mailed it. Then a column for notes.

3) File Assignments

We creative types don’t like stifling routines, but certain routines can save your hide. Whenever I receive a new assignment (book, interview, article, speaking event, endorsement request), I follow these steps.

  • Enter it in my goal chart. If applicable, enter it in my calendar, especially speaking events or book signings.
  • Enter interviews and articles in my spreadsheet.
  • Download or copy-and-paste interview questions or article guidelinesinto a Word document immediately. Give the document a functional name, like “Interview – blogger name – post date” or “Article – Novel Rocket – 8-29-17.” Save the creativity for your novel. You can also file the document in a folder.
  • File the email in a folder. My email folders include “Interviews and Articles,” “Speaking,” “Conferences,” “Endorsements,” and “Publisher.” When I finish an assignment, I can double-check the instructions in the emailand respond to the original message.

4) Track Goals

The neatest calendars, charts, and spreadsheets don’t mean a thing without a tracking system. Get in the habit of making monthly, weekly, and daily checks.

On the first of each month, I analyze the previous month’s goal chart, highlighting completed projects. Leftoverassignments are scooted down to the next month. This helps me see developing problems and forces me to evaluate how much I can actually accomplish.

At the beginning of the week, I sit down with my goal chart and calendar, and I plan my week. At this stage I make sure I take care of the little assignments without falling behind on the big ones.

At the end of each day, I do a quick review and reassign any incomplete projects.

With a bit of time and effort, even the dreamiest novelist can become a professional!

TWEETABLES

____________________

When Tides Turn

When Quintessa Beaumont learns the US Navy has established the WAVES program for women, she enlists, eager to throw off her frivolous ways and contribute to the war effort. Lt. Dan Avery employs his skills in antisubmarine warfare to fight U-boats at the peak of the Battle of the Atlantic, but the last thing he wants to see on his radar is fun-loving Tess. As Dan and Tess work together in Boston, the changes in Tess challenge his notions—and his heart.


Sarah Sundin
is the author of nine historical novels, including When Tides Turn. Her novel Through Waters Deep was a finalist for the 2016 Carol Award, won the INSPY Award, and was named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years.”A mother of three, Sarah lives in California. She enjoys speaking for church, community, and writers’ groups.Please visit her athttp://www.sarahsundin.com.

Writing With Chronic Pain

by Lynette Eason

I don’t know about y’all, but the older I get the more my body lets me know it’s not on board with the whole idea.

When I was younger, I didn’t worry about getting older. I still don’t worry about it per se, but since being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, I’ve had to make a few lifestyle changes. However, in spite of all of my efforts to be healthy, there are still bad days and good days. And since I never know from day to day how I’m going to feel, I have to make the most of the good days.

So why bother with the writing? Why do something that causes me stress and pain?


Because I love what I do and I’m not willing to stop doing it. I want to live life to the fullest, to fulfill the plan that God had deemed to be for me from day one. And I know that as long as I’m relying on Him no matter how I feel, if I’m in His will, it will get done. Period.

This may sound crazy, but I write several hours a day, seven days a week. MOST weeks. In 2016, I had five full length novels and two novellas release. Okay, maybe that’s a bit much, but it just kind of worked out that way. LOL. For me, I’m a fast, mostly clean, writer. I won’t say my first draft is my final draft, but it’s pretty close. So, when I’m done with a story, I’m done. At least until my beta readers and editors get ahold of it, but basically, my part is finished and I can move on to the next. That’s part of the reason I can write as much as I do and have that many books out. Not everyone has that ability, so you just have to work with what you can do and be sure not to compare yourself to anyone else. I only tell you what I do when it comes to writing through the pain, because if I can do it anyone can do it. Maybe to a lesser degree, but you can do it. I promise. And please, note, I’m not telling you that to say, “Look how awesome I am!” But to say, it can be done and I live it everyday. Now, if you add a headache or a migraine into the mix, I’m down for the count, but otherwise, I can work through it.

So, when your back hurts, your shoulders and neck are killing you, and your hips are screaming, what do you do? First, you do what you can to get the pain under control and then…

Here are a few things I do to stay on top of the writing craziness and deadlines.

Disclaimer: This is not going to be super helpful for those of you with small children so don’t want to hurt me too bad after reading this. My children are teens. One in college, one a sophomore in high school.

  1. I pray. A lot. And non-stop during the massage I treat myself to on a regular basis.
  2. I don’t clean much. I keep us from living in filth, but my kids and husband do the majority of the deep cleaning. I vacuum when I need a break from sitting and it’s good exercise. And if I do clean, it’s in spurts. I don’t try to do the whole house in one day. And I NEVER clean on days that I do laundry.
  3. I get up and move regularly. If I sit too long, my hips lock up on me and my shoulders turn into very painful rocks of muscle. I joined a gym and hired a trainer to teach me how to do a workout routine. I know not everyone can afford to do that, but if you can, once you learn the routine, you can ditch the trainer. LOL. I actually hate going to the gym, but found I feel tons better when I do, so I force myself.
  4. I work/write first thing in the morning when I’m fresh and awake. My mind definitely functions better in the morning.
  5. I eat a healthy breakfast that includes protein and some carbs. By the way, I also eat gluten free and recently, one of my doctors to me to stay away from red meat and refined, white sugar. (This is a new one and in the beginning, it nearly killed me. But once I got through the first couple of days, I could see a difference in my brain function and a reduction in my pain levels after less than a week.)
  6. I lost weight. Being overweight puts incredible strain on your body. I’ll be honest, when I started losing weight, I thought I would miraculously feel amazing. Well, it didn’t happen. I still had the pain and I still get extremely tired in the afternoons, but I know there are other health benefits I’m reaping due to the weight loss. 
  7. I nap. Yes, I know not everyone can do this. But if you can, do it. If you have little ones, nap when they nap. If you work a full time job, nap half of your lunch break and write the other half. (Yes, I did this when I was working full time and even 15 minutes of closing my eyes was surprisingly refreshing.) I’m really trying to learn to listen to my body and lie down for an hour every afternoon. I usually am able to fall asleep so I make sure I set my alarm to wake me if I need to wake up. If I don’t need to wake up, I don’t bother setting it. And yes, I still sleep at night. Most of the time. 
  8. I write some more after the nap. By this time, my kid is home from school, but he works a lot of afternoons so I can still write until my husband comes home and then we all do dinner and have family time.
  9. I learned how to say “no”. As much as I would love to do everything and be superwoman, I’m coming to grips with my limitations. I can’t teach at every conference or even attend all of the ones I’d like to attend. I can’t mentor every person who would like me to mentor him/her and I can’t even jump on every writing opportunity that comes along. And the list goes on. I simply can’t do it all. Not only due to physical limitations, but because of the time involved in a lot of the things. I still have to write my own stories! LOL.
  10. I prioritize. This is huge. For me, it’s: God, Family, Writing, and then everything else comes after this. If those three things take up my entire day then nothing else will get done. Period. And I’ve learned to be okay with that.

So, these are just a few of the things I do to keep myself healthy and able to do the job I love and am passionate about. What about you? Do you have chronic pain? What do you do to make sure you’re living life to the fullest in spite of the pain?


TWEETABLES
Because I love what I do and I’m not willing to stop doing it.~ Lynette Eason (Click to Tweet)

Lynette Eason grew up in Greenville, SC. She attended Converse College where she earned her Masters degree in Education. Lynette is the author of more than forty works of romantic suspense, with over 500,000 copies sold of trade editions. In the 2017 edition of Christian Market, she was named as one of the top five romantic suspense authors in the industry. In 2016, she won the Carol Award, the Golden Scrolls Book of the Year award as well as the Daphne Award in her category. She also finaled in several other contests. One crowning achievement that she is most proud of is the fact that she finaled in the 2016 James Patterson co-writer competition, landing in the top ten out of thousands of entries. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA). She teaches at writing conference across the southeast. She also travels extensively and is excited that she is getting numerous requests to speak and teach at various events.

Title Photo Copyright: andreypopov / 123RF Stock Photo

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?

TWEETABLES

Writing to Deadline: Friend or Foe? by Normandie Fischer (Click to Tweet)

Dare to Deadline or Finish that Novel ~ Normandie Fischer (Click to Tweet)

The only way I got back into production was to set a goal ~ Normandie Fischer (Click to Tweet)


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.

Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

by Lisa Jordan

I don’t make resolutions. Since 2009, I’ve chosen one word as a way of focusing on my prayers, lists, calendar, and commitments. I’ve found making resolutions causes too much pressure and guilt when I’m unable to achieve them. However, I do set goals that help me to plan ahead.


Fitzhugh Dodson said, “Without goals, and plans to read them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.”

With that in mind, I’ve learned about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

Specific—your goal needs to be specific. Think about what you want to accomplish. Why does your goal matter? What’s at stake? Who is involved in helping you achieve this goal? Where do you need to be for the goal to be achieved? What’s holding you back?


In 2017, I’d like to write a novella collection in addition to my Love Inspired novels. It matters because the additional income helps to meet our household and my writing budgets. If I don’t write, then I have less income for writers conferences, etc. My writing team is involved in the process. And in order to meet this goal, my fingers need to be on the keyboard. So to make my goal more specific, I could say my goal is to write 1500 words a day, six days a week.
So how will I measure my goal?

Measurable—your specific goal needs to be measurable, meaning you need a way to track your progress. If you’re setting a writing goal, you can track word count progress on a spreadsheet, even going as far as showing the number of words written against the number of words still needed for the rough draft. If you achieve your daily word count, you know you’re on track to meeting your goal.


Attainable—your goal needs to be attainable, meaning it needs to fit within your abilities and lifestyle. When setting goals, it’s great to stretch yourself, but know your limits. With my demanding day job and other obligations, I couldn’t commit to writing more than 2 Love Inspired novels a year if I want to write novellas as well. If your overall goal feels intimidating, set mini goals for yourself. If having a completed manuscript by the end of 2017 feels overwhelming, consider something more attainable like two chapters a month.
Realistic—your goal needs to be realistic. Writing a book a month isn’t realistic to me, even though I can dream about having the skills to make it happen. Writing one book in three months is more realistic and manageable for me. As I continue to hone my craft and improve as a writer, I’ll be able to produce stronger fast drafts, which will enable me to complete novels sooner rather than later. Writing 1500 words a day is a realistic goal and doesn’t feel overwhelming for me to achieve. Keep your expectations in check so you’re not setting yourself up for failure.

Timely—your goals need to be timely. Without a commitment to meet your goal, then you could lose focus and motivation. Plus, learning to write with deadlines prepares you for the publishing world. Set a timetable with a start date and an ending date. You can even break your timetable into smaller increments to help you succeed rather than stress.

Life happens. Be flexible. Take stock of your goals periodically throughout the year and see if you need to adjust your goals…and your attitude. Keep expectations in check. Be willing to ask for help and to accept help from others. Delegate tasks in order to give yourself more time to work toward meeting your goals. By maintaining S.M.A.R.T. goals, you can reward yourself when you reach them by your deadline.  

TWEETABLES

Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals by Lisa Jordan (Click to Tweet)

S.M.A.R.T. goals—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely~ Lisa Jordan (Click to Tweet)

You can reward yourself when you reach them by your deadline~ Lisa Jordan (Click to Tweet)

Heart, home and faith have always been important to Lisa Jordan, so writing stories with those elements come naturally. She is an award-winning author for Love Inspired, writing contemporary Christian romances that promise hope and happily ever after. Represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Management, Lisa also serves on the My Book Therapy leadership team. Happily married to her own real-life hero for almost thirty years, Lisa and her husband have two grown sons. When she isn’t writing, Lisa enjoys family time, kayaking, good books, crafting with friends and binging on Netflix. Learn more about her at lisajordanbooks.com.