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

The I’s have it. But should they?

by Rachel Hauck, @RachelHauck

Ever listen to a conversation where “I” was the predominate word? I did this, I did that, I went here, I went there… I, I, I, I.

After awhile, the picture is etched that the person talking is really into themselves.

The same idea applies to writing in first person. As the writer and storyteller, it’s easy for us to get going in the first person narrative and forget to not let the “I’s” have it.
When I started working with editor Ami McConnell, she warned me. “Watch the overuse of I.”

“Hmmm, in first person?” I thought, but answered, “Okay, I’ll do that, very good idea.”

Yes, it’s way easier said than done. It takes time, rethinking and rewriting to avoid the overuse of I, or starting every sentence in a paragraph with that same slim pronoun.

Okay, I can hear the question, “How can I avoid ‘I” when writing in first person?”

You can’t, but you can change the way you structure a sentence to minimize I’s effect or to omit it completely. I found it hard at first to adjust my I sentences, but after awhile, it became a habit.

Here’s an example from my book, Sweet Caroline:

No answer. I check the pantry. “You here?” Still no answer. The kitchen feels cold and abandoned. Regret strangles my heart from some dark inner place, but I refuse to surrender.

After reading this short paragraph, the last phrase “but I refuse to surrender” doesn’t feel necessary. Or, it could be reworded to “but surrender is not an option.”

Frankly, the sentence really ends with “Regret strangles my heart from some dark inner place.” The reader gets the picture. When the galley’s come, I’ll edit out the last part.

Here’s another example:

I slumped down against the side of the boat, pillowing my head against a life jacket. “I’m not sure Mitch ever knew.”

This is a perfectly fine sentence, but it could be reworded to read, “Slumping down against the side of the boat, I pillow my head against a life jacket.”

Here, “I” is buried in the middle of the paragraph. It doesn’t stand out as much, but communicates as effectively as the first sentence.

Take a look at something you’re reading or writing in first person, and see if those “I’s” don’t stare at you from the page. If you see a sentence or paragraph with three, four or five “I’s” rewrite it, figuring out a way to trim them down.

Listen to me now, this is a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. Some sentences and dialog will have I’s, it can’t be helped. This Doc Chat is just to make you aware.

Avoiding the overuse of I does make our work stronger, and causes us to go deeper in the character’s POV and with our own writing to NOT let the “I’s” have it.

Have fun!!

The I’s have it. But should they? by Rachel Hauck Click to Tweet)

It takes time, rethinking and rewriting to avoid the over use of I.~ Rachel Hauck Click to Tweet)

Avoiding the overuse of I does make our work stronger.~ Rachel Hauck Click to Tweet)


Tenley Roth’s first book was a runaway bestseller. Now that her second book is due, she’s locked in fear. Can she repeat her earlier success or is she a fraud who has run out of inspiration?

With pressure mounting from her publisher, Tenley is weighted with writer’s block. But when her estranged mother calls asking Tenley to help her through chemotherapy, she packs up for Florida where she meets handsome furniture designer Jonas Sullivan and discovers the story her heart’s been missing.

A century earlier, another woman wrote at the same desk with hopes and fears of her own. Born during the Gilded Age, Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of the old money Knickerbockers. Under the strict control of her mother, her every move is decided ahead of time, even whom she’ll marry. But Birdie has dreams she doesn’t know how to realize. She wants to tell stories, write novels, make an impact on the world. When she discovers her mother has taken extreme measures to manipulate her future, she must choose between submission and security or forging a brand new way all on her own.

Tenley and Birdie are from two very different worlds, but fate has bound them together in a way time cannot erase.

New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal best-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a past ACFW mentor of the year. A worship leader and Buckeye football fan, Rachel lives in Florida with her husband and ornery cat, Hepzibah. Read more about Rachel at

Wishful Thinking (The Writer’s Lament)

by Linore Rose Burkard, @LinoreRBurkard

It’s summertime and the living is easy….right? Perhaps not. Most of us still slog to the office or work long hours. But whether you get to take a vacation, kick your feet up, enjoy a splash at the shore—or not—I offer this post in the spirit of summer fun.

It happened the other morning as I was enjoying the swing in my backyard. Looking around at the explosion of early summer growth in the garden and flower beds, I saw chores waiting. Chores I hadn’t gotten to because of my writing, mostly. And so I did what any writer would do: (No, I didn’t don the gardening gloves and get to work.) I wrote a poem! Yes, it’s an exaggeration, but I think many of us who tend home and family and garden as well as writing novels will admit to entertaining such “Wishful Thinking.”
Enjoy, and happy summer!

Wishful Thinking (The Writer’s Lament)
If I had no books to write
my house would sparkle, clean.
My garden would be weeded
and my porch would be pristine.
The lawn, no doubt, be greener,
the flowers massed and bright;
Instead I have “if only!” sighs
when, sad, I view the sight.
If I had no books to write
The laundry would be done,
The children look their finest
and meals, five-course, if one.
If I had no books to write
I’d have no late fees looming
from bills unpaid or mail-stacks
laid in piles, all a-glooming.
The perfect house, and perfect meals
and family would be mine;
And so it’s well I write my books—
Or th’ illusion would unwind!
For if I had no books to write
The world’s imperfect, still.
And my poor soul would poorer be
without the writing thrill.
How glad! That I have books to write
(Despite no homestead Eden)
For writing’s more exciting
than “house beautiful” housekeeping!
©2017 Linore Rose Burkard

Permission is granted to copy this poem so long as proper credit is given to Linore Rose Burkard as the author, and with the URL

Wishful Thinking by Linore Rose Burkard (Click to Tweet)

The Writer’s Lament by Linore Rose Burkard (Click to Tweet)

A Poem for Writers by Linore Rose Burkard (Click to Tweet)

Linore Rose Burkard wrote a trilogy of genuine regency romances for the Christian market before there were any regencies for the Christian market. Published with Harvest House, her books opened the genre for the CBA. She also writes YA Suspense/Apocalyptic fiction as L.R. Burkard. Married with five children, Linore home-schools her youngest daughter, teaches workshops for writers, and is a writing conference coordinator. Her latest PULSE EFFEX SERIES, takes readers into a “chilling possible future for America, while affirming the power of faith in the darkest of times.”

The Pulse Effex Series takes readers into a chilling future for America while affirming the power of faith in the darkest of times. YA fare with no magic, vampires, shape-shifters, or sorcery!

The Only Thing Writers have to Fear. . .Is Fear Itself!

by Patty Smith Hall

“So first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”  

~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Well, Mr. Roosevelt, easier said than done!

Most writers I’ve met over my twenty-year writing journey have experienced fear about their work at some time or another.
Whether it’s the terror over receiving a rejection letter or the fear that their work will never be good enough, most of us write with a sense of doom lingering in the back of our minds. So how do we get past the paralyzing effects of fear and advance our writing career?

1) First, you’ve got to own it.

When I was in my first year of nursing school, I had a clinical instructor who scared the crap out of me. She almost seemed to take pleasure in making nursing students cry! The very first week of clinical, she flunked half of our group out of the program because they couldn’t make a hospital bed correctly.

I was terrified. Becoming a nurse was my dream. What if I flunked out over something as silly as a hospital bed corner? Then the day came that I had to draw up my first injection. I’d made up my mind that I wasn’t going to let the barracuda derail my nursing career. As she’s standing beside me, waiting for me to prepare the shot, I turned to her and faced my fear.

I told her she scared me to death. The most surprising thing happened. She smiled at me (which was unusual as she’d never smiled before!) From that moment on, she became my biggest cheerleader, even caring for my oldest daughter when she was born prematurely.

Own your fear or it will own you!

2) Act despite being afraid.

When I first started writing, I wrote short stories and devotionals, then tucked them away in a drawer where no one would ever see them. That’s okay for those who write simply for the joy of writing, but for those who know they’ve been called into a writing ministry, that’s outright disobedience!

This was brought home to me at my paternal grandfather’s funeral. For most of his 96 years, Granddaddy had evaded our questions about his salvation. All he would say is that we would learn the answer at his funeral. When that day came, not only did we learn that Granddaddy had accepted Christ as his Savior, he had a powerful testimony that he’d kept secret because he thought others would think him crazy!

Instead of being comforted, I was angry. How many people could he have reached if he’d not been afraid? In that moment, my mind flashed to all those devotionals and short stories I’d hid away. I was just as bad as he was, paralyzed by what other people might think. It wasn’t long after that I started submitting my work.

Be Bold—nothing ventured, nothing gained.

3) If your worst fears come true, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again!

Rejection is never fun. It leaves you bruised and battered, unsure of yourself and your abilities. Working writers deal with their fair share of rejection. It’s been said the paper used to write the horrible things could wallpaper all of New York City ten times over. It’s part and parcel for a writer.

Just remember—a rejection letter is also a badge of courage, a talisman that sets you apart from other writers. It shows you’re serious about your career, and trust me when I say this, agents and editors see it that way too. When that rejection letter comes, kick a few cabinets, shed some tears, maybe down a pint of chocolate ice cream. Then give yourself a pat on the back and move on!

Grow from a rejection letter—it will make you a stronger writer.


Patty Smith-Hall is a multi-published, award-winning author with Love Inspired Historical/Heartsong and currently serves as president of the ACFW-Atlanta chapter. She currently lives in North Georgia with her husband of 30+ years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters and a future son-in-love. Her next release, New Hope Sweethearts will be available in July on Amazon.