Deadlines: A Writer’s Friend

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by Laurie Alice Eakes

Deadline. It’s an ominous word. It has dead in it. Cross that line and one is dead? Scary.

Most of us get that quaky, quivery feeling in our tummies when we hear that a deadline is looming-the deadline for the Genesis contest, the deadline for the Carol Award entries, the deadline for registering for the conference. We stress about it. It’s a pressure, something to remember and not miss or else our lives will not be going the way we want them to. the consequences could be devastating. Missing deadlines have been known to ruin writers careers.

Deadlines can also make a writers career, or at the least, nudge it along in the right direction.

How many times have we heard someone say, “I’d be a writer if only I had the time.” Once upon a time I read a statistic about how seventy-one per cent of Americans think they could write a book. A much smaller percentage actually does it, and I imagine a whole lot more have scribbled ideas or partial stories tucked away in a drawer, an attic, or a computer file waiting for that day when they have time.

If a writer is serious about her career, she will make that time. This is where deadlines are a writer’s friend.

If a writer has all the time in the world to get a manuscript finished, it lingers, it languishes, it goes out of print before it was ever in print. Let’s face it: writing is hard work. It is fun work, and it’s often difficult and frustrating, even disheartening at times.

What gives a writer a boost is knowing that someone is expecting that manuscript, or at least part of it, by a certain date. The local critique group meets once a week. Those pages need to be done by then. Deadline. An editor wants to see a proposal on a pitch. The sooner that proposal gets in, the sooner comes the call. Deadline. The contest closes on March 2, so the writer needs to whip that chapter into shape and submit it before it’s too late, or the opportunity to final, even win, and get the attention of an editor will pass. Deadline. Regardless of fatigue, laundry, the day job, or another episode of Downton Abbey not to miss, those deadlines must be met or opportunity is lost.

All of these deadlines push a writer along toward the ultimate goal of getting published. They prepare the writer for life after the contract comes when deadlines are inevitable, sometimes overlapping, and often nonnegotiable. Meeting deadlines won’t guarantee a sale, and not meeting deadlines will usually guarantee not making a sale.

So don’t let deadlines induce stress. Embrace them like an old friend.

Award-winning author Laurie Alice Eakes wanted to be a writer since knowing what one was. Her first book won the National Readers Choice Award in 2007, and her third book was a Carol Award finalist in 2010. Having her first book with Baker/Revell, Lady in the Mist, picked up by Crossings Book Club, and six of her books have been chosen for large print editions by Thorndike Press. She has been a public speaker for as long as she can remember; thus, only suffers enough stage fright to keep her sharp. In 2002, while in graduate school for writing fiction, she began to teach fiction in person and online. She lives in Virginia with her husband, two dogs, and probably too many cats.

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