Showing posts with label deadlines. Show all posts
Showing posts with label deadlines. Show all posts

02 August 2022

Deadlines, Shmeadlines

One of the many attributes of successful writers and editors is the ability to meet deadlines, and the ability to meet deadlines is one of the ways I have managed to sustain a multi-decade writing and editing career. I try not to over-commit my available time, and I try to plan large projects with built-in buffers in case unexpected events—family emergencies, for example—demand my attention or a high-value project with a tight turn-around drops into my lap.

How do you keep track of projects
and meet deadlines?

On the rare occasions when it looks like I might miss a deadline, I work with my editor, publisher, or client to find a satisfactory solution. Not to be too cocky, but it’s been a long time since I missed a hard deadline.

Until three weeks ago.

Y’all were treated to one of Shifty’s animated adventures on July 12 because I whiffed the ball. I wish I had a great excuse—while on a humanitarian mission to rescue zoo animals from Ukraine, I resuscitated a penguin that had choked on a sardine, midwifed the birth of twin albino Siberian tigers, and taught a malformed baby porpoise to swim with a prosthetic tail I crafted from Mountain Dew bottles—but I don’t.

My excuse is far more mundane: I entered my SleuthSayers deadline on the wrong calendar date.

By the time the secret master of SleuthSayers emailed a reminder that my blog post was due that night, I had already shut down my computer and had shifted my attention elsewhere.


Meeting deadlines means learning to juggle. I edit a bi-monthly consumer magazine and a weekly newsletter, and I’m associate editor for a weekly magazine. These publications all have hard deadlines, as do the anthologies I edit. I also edit a quasi-quarterly mystery magazine, which has spongy deadlines, and I create marketing material (TV, radio, and print ads along with brochures, flyers, social media posts, and more) for a professional orchestra with constantly changing deadlines determined by concert dates and media requirements.

And in the nooks and crannies between all these deadlines I’m also writing new stories, some of which have hard deadlines (when I’m writing to invitation, for example) and some of which don’t.

Once upon a time I was able to keep all these deadlines in my head and remember what I ate for breakfast. No longer. I’ve grown older at the same time I’ve become busier, and I just can’t remember every deadline. I’m now relying on my computer’s calendar and a to-do list I keep next to my computer.

But when I fail to add something to the to-do list or I enter a deadline incorrectly into my computer calendar...well, that’s when I risk missing a deadline.


I have found ways to ensure that I (nearly always) meet my deadlines, but as an editor I find it difficult to ride herd on writers. Professional writers know that editors have deadlines. We can’t publish anthologies, magazines, and newsletters with blank pages. And, unless you’re George R.R. Martin writing the next volume of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, not many editors are willing to wait until you get around to putting words on paper. We’re going to press with you or without you.

But beginning and early career writers don’t always understand how important it is.

Get a reputation as someone who fails to deliver promised manuscripts on time, fails to approve copyedits and page proofs on time, fails to show up on time for a panel, or fails to meet any of dozens of other deadlines and commitments that are part and parcel of being a professional writer and the opportunities will slowly disappear.

And that once-promising career becomes nothing but memory dust.

I stumbled. I’ll recover. And I’ll turn in this post several days early.

But what about you? How do you keep track of your deadlines?

My story “Sparks” appears in the Summer 2022 issue of Vautrin.

My co-authors’ blog posts for AHMM and EQMM appeared the same week. Read Sandra Murphy’s “Add (Your) Life to Your Writing” at Something is Going to Happen and James A. Hearn’s “A Writer’s Tears” at Trace Evidence.

And I’m moderating a panel at Bouchercon next month. “Groovy Kind of Death: Murders Set in the 60s/70s” is scheduled for 1:45-2:30 p.m., Thursday, and panelists include Lou Berney, Wanda M. Morris, Richie Narvaez, Marcie Rendon, and Gabriel Valjan.

22 July 2017

Why Being a Writer is the Best Excuse Ever

(bad girl, back to her silly self)

There are all sorts of reasons for being a writer.  (Money isn’t one of them, in case you were wondering.  Unless, of course, you are a masochist.  Then again, many writers are.  We’d have to be, to put up with this biz.  But I digress.)

Many of us write because we can’t help it.  All sorts of demented characters have taken over our loopy minds.  If we don’t let them out to live their own lives on paper, all sorts of bad things will happen.  For instance, they may induce us writers to perform their fantasies in reality, on behalf of their little selves.  This might be fun if you are writing erotica.  Not so great, if you’re a crime writer, like me.

That aside, there are many reasons that being a writer can be great fun.  You get to kill people on paper.  (Okay, I’m just now realizing how twisted that sounds.) 

Moving on, being a writer gives you all sorts of excuses for bizarre and socially-inept behavior.  In social situations, friends can look over at you, shake their heads, and say confidentially to others, “It’s okay, really.  She’s a writer.”  Sort of how being an Australian explains things.

Here are some things that can really work to your advantage (reword: you can work to your advantage.)

The Research:  writing a book gives one all sorts of excuses to do research.  This can be as innocent as merely looking up things on the internet (exactly what is the distinction between hot romance and porn? Checking Yutube…hey, every writer knows Show Not Tell is best.)

The Bar:  all writers meet in bars, right?  Certainly all agents and editors do.  Especially those from out of town who don’t have offices in the vicinity.  “I have to meet my editor at The Drake,” you call out to all concerned.  And then you gather up your laptop, notebooks and cell phone.  The hard part is, you must remember to bring all those things back from the bar after your ‘meeting’. 

The Deadline:  your major excuse for getting out of any dull social obligations, including ant-infested picnics and relative-infested gatherings.  “I’m on deadline!” you cry frantically, even if your deadline is nine months from now.  (Nine months…nice metaphor.  Probably, I came up with it while in The Zone.  See below.)

In case you are still not convinced that being a writer is the best excuse ever, let me introduce you to The Zone.  This is the place your writer-mind travels to when it really doesn’t want to be where your body is. You can zone out at any time, in any social situation. 

Enjoy this.  Milk this.  Smile and look distracted .  Your boss, inlaws or editor will nod knowingly, as if they are a party to a big secret.  They will look upon you sympathetically and say to each other, “Oh.  He’s planning his next book.” 

Which can be really useful if what you are really planning is how to do away with your boss, inlaws, or editor.

10 February 2014

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

Jan Grape
The twenty-eighth of this month, February, I'll have a major birthday. I'll be celebrating my diamond jubilee as the royals say. Three-quarters of a century someone told me. I didn't need to hear that. Made me feel even older. I prefer to say I'm 60-fifteen. Where did time go? Seems like only a short time ago that I was a young mother and now I'm the mother of some fifty-years old adults. I just want to tell time to slow down, I have many more stories and books to write. Okay, I've just got to suck it up and get busy.
In regard to my title, time flies when you're having fun (and I must add) and even when you're not. I mean when you're writing something that you really enjoy and it's going well, then wham. You suddenly realize a scene isn't working and some weird character is trying to take over. Guess what? You stop, but time doesn't stop. Your deadline is still rushing ahead and you have no idea where to go or what to do. So dang it all, this is not fun, but time hasn't stopped flying by. What do you do?

Everyone who writes has their own method to get through those times. Take a walk, do some mundane chore, like laundry or mopping the kitchen floor, take a nap, meditate. I have no definite answer. I've done all those things and then some. Once in a while, print up what you've written and read and edit that. Actually, that usually works best for me. I'm old school and always can see things better if I have a hard copy in front of me.

If I'm not working on a deadline, then I usually close the computer for the day and start fresh the next day. If I'm on deadline then it depends on what time of day it is. I don't usually work until afternoon because I'm not a morning person. If it's late in the day, I still may close up for the day, but often can and will work at night. I'll admit that sometimes sleep helps by letting your sub-conscious work out your problem.

One thing I've noticed through the years is I really enjoy writing.  I love it when a scene works out or a chapter finishes up with a nice cliff-hanger or at least a great place to end. I can get a high that nothing else matches. Well, that I know. I've never tried drugs but when you're talking about good things happening to you, writing can be fantastic. But what is the weird thing about sitting down to write? I have put off writing for absolutely no reason. It's like I hate to start. I can find many, many reasons to not sit down and start writing.  All perfectly good reasons but none of them worth a darn.

The best writers I know all say about the same thing. Read what you wrote the day before or wherever you stopped and make some edits if necessary. Somehow that gets your muse to wake up  and you're ready to start your writing day. If you're on a deadline, it's easier. Because time does manage to fly when you're having fun and even when you're not.

 A good friend several years ago used to tell people she was eighty-four. At the time she was barely forty. She said her reasoning was that people would think she looked fantastic for eighty-four and when she got to that age, people wouldn't believe her and think she looked awesome.

Do all you can to keep those birthdays coming because the alternative is pushing up daises. And never worry about time getting away from you, because you can't stop it. You might as well keep writing and having fun. That's my goal even at my age.