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!



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 at