Deadlines: How Writers Can Handle Them

Deadline time. Douglas Adams said, “I like deadlines, I like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by.” Now that may be fine for old Doug, but if you’re furiously sweating to make a tight deadline, then this post might help. I feel the pressure of deadlines like everyone else, and not just writing deadlines. We all have things we need to get done, and sometimes there doesn’t seem like there’s any room to maneuver. So here are my top five tips for beating deadlines.

1.  Plan ahead.

The easiest thing to do is to give yourself plenty of time to complete a task. Write down the date the task is due and plan how long you have to do it. This could mean a certain number of words to be written every week, or two books to read for research a month. However long you have, plan around it.

2. Accept that things change.

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we can’t manage to meet a deadline. In this case, it’s best to recognize it early. Realize that you won’t make it and see if there’s any room to negotiate. Perhaps you can take an extra day, or a week. It’s never ideal to miss a deadline, but if it has to happen, handling it maturely and confidently is the second best thing to do.

3.  Don’t take on too much.

This one comes from personal experience. I know that I’m guilty of taking on way too many projects and sometimes losing one along the way, so I try and limit myself to five at a time. For you, the magic number might be much higher. Learn to work within your limits.

4. Be dedicated.

In number 2 I explained that the best way to deal with not making a deadline is to renegotiate. This is definitely the case if you’re ill, or if you hit a sudden bump in the road that you know you can’t solve quickly. But sometimes the reason we threaten ourselves with missing that deadline is procrastination. If you’ve given yourself a month to do something and the night before it’s due you still have a blank page, then it’s time to suck it up. It won’t be your best work, but you’ll have come through on your promise.

5. Work regularly.

If you’re writing regularly for a set amount of time per day, the chances are that hitting a deadline will be much less stressful. If you exercise your writing muscles, pushing them to meet deadlines will be easier.

Deadlines are a part of life, and writing. But there’s no reason for them to be a constant source of unnecessary stress. Manage them, time them well, and your working life will run smoothly.


Helen Dring is a fiction writer from Liverpool, England. She is studying for an MA in Creative Writing and is currently writing her first novel. She likes fairy tales, ghost stories and modern history.

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