Posted On August 5, 2013 by Print This Post

Writing When You’re Under The Gun with Handsome Hansel

If you’re a writer, you know all about deadlines, pantsing and getting your story in under the wire. Here’s  Handsome Hansel of Dance of Romance with his just (and I mean JUST) under the wire post on Writing When You’re Under the Gun. (bang)

It’s not easy being a writer. You have to make stuff up, make people up, and sit on your rump for just-enough-tipsy hours on end attempting to translate the scenes in your head to words on paper.

Some of us do it for pleasure. Some of us do it for pay. Some, even for egotistical reasons. While writing is writing, no matter the reason we do it, the process can be frustrating with its futility or it can be self-satisfying in its splendor. It’s not easy being a writer, yet we continue to subject ourselves to the process.

Almost inevitably there is a deadline to our writing. It could be because you are writing for a magazine and have a certain date to have your article submitted. It could be because there are too-numerous-to-mention writing contests with early-submission cutoffs and contest deadlines. If you have a book deal, you understand what it’s like having a publisher, editor, or agent breathing down your smart-phone neck, texting, emailing, and calling to ask when you’ll have the next X chapters in their hands.  Let’s face it, it’s bad enough sometimes to try to get our character’s voices out of our heads, even worse to deal with those around us demanding we “hurry it up”.

So how do we wrestle with the demands our life-long passion bestows upon us? Tell the rest of the world to bugger off. There, I’m done.



Okay! Okay! Geesh! Stop with the slapping already! (Carrie says I have to write more. See what I’m talking about?!)

Where was I? Oh yeah, so how do we tame our writing so that it behaves and does what it’s told within the time-frame it’s given? Planning. Personally this was something I really, really, really (did I say ‘really’?) struggled with when I made the leap to writing full-time.

I’ve admitted to anyone who will listen that I’m a Pantser. I don’t plan and I’ve almost never plotted. I simply get a writing bug up my mental a$$ and my reason for writing is to see where I take myself. For me, I enjoy the journey; the unknown. I want to be as surprised by a twist at the end of one of my books as are my readers. There is a certain romanticism in my Pantser approach to writing.

That all changed when I was given my first deadline. (Full disclosure, I purposefully waited until I had less than 12 hours to turn this in before writing it. Just to see if I could. Sorry Carrie!)  When I was given my first deadline, I didn’t really think anything of it. I typed the deadline into my calendar, watched as it synced up with my iPhone and iPad, and moved on to other things simply because all my electronic devices just confirmed I still had a month before my article was due.

I had always set my reminders for a week before my writing deadlines. There was no rhyme or reason for this; simply arbitrary. So when my reminder for my first deadline popped up, something inside me actually (perhaps arrogantly) believed I still had time. After-all, how hard is it to tap out 1,200 words? Well let me tell you…VERY hard when panic sets in. For reasons I’m not entirely clear of to this day, I procrastinated until the day before my article was due.

As writers, we second, third, and fourth guess ourselves over everything from plot, to dialogue, to punctuation. These insecurities and uncertainties are amplified to a decibel that shatters the thickest glass and makes the meanest dogs turn tail and run. For seasoned writers, this may seem a bit of an over-exaggeration but for those 24 hours before my deadline it wasn’t for me. I squeaked the article out, everyone claimed to be happy with it, and I swore I would NEVER do that again.

I’m still a pantser, but now I’m a pantser with a plan. I’ve discovered a few things that I have found help me and, whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, I hope they help you.


1. Write the first draft (chapter if it’s a book) within the first 24 hours.

Your motivation is high at this time and it’s usually when your attitude toward the project is at it’s freshest.

2. Revisit what you wrote within 48 hours.

While we’ve been lectured to “let it simmer”, I’ve found it to be very beneficial to do a solid read-through a day or two after, concentrating only on cleaning certain things up: grammar, punctuation, tense, etc.

3. Wait no longer than 10 days before your deadline before you knock out a second/third revision.

While there are certain exceptions here (you wouldn’t wait until 10 days before your book was due to hammer out a second draft) it’s important you commit to a date well before your deadline to begin the polishing process. Have people you trust read it and give you their thoughts. If you belong to a critique group, submit it to them well in advance and ask that their feedback get back to you in enough time to consider their suggestions well before your deadline.

4. Within 72 hours of when your writing is due, scour each and every line in an effort to make it the best it can be.

At this point, you can relax and read your work as your readers will. You can concentrate on whether it is fluid enough to make your point or if it needs further clarification. If you’re writing a book… does the plot flow? Are there inconsistencies between characters over the course of chapters?
Ask yourself, Did I enjoy what I wrote? Will my readers enjoy it? While we are our own worst critics, (well there was that one publisher that beat me hands down in the doubting-my-abilities department) it’s important to TRY and take a step back and read our writing as a first-timer.

5. And this one is fairly obvious… Keep a great calendar of when all of your writing is due.

What may not seem so obvious is to keep a calendar where each of the above dates are also due. In this day and age there is no excuse for not keeping a detailed calendar of deadlines. (Give us a moment while Carrie and I share a rather hysterical chuckle together.) Things move so fast in life sometimes that having your phone buzz in your pocket reminding you to revisit the article you prepped for publication a few weeks ago, takes all the excuses out of being an unprepared writer.

On a final note…stress does not a great writer make. In order to write at the height of our ability, we need to relax; let it flow. We are given deadlines because that’s how the other side of our writing world works. That doesn’t mean we can’t beat them at their own game.

Oh look! An e-mail from Carrie!

Subject: Where in the h*ll is…?!?!?!

Better hit ‘Send’ on this.



RU Writer’s…do you work best under pressure? Or do you finish up well ahead of your deadline?

Join us on Wednesday for Breaking the Seal with Amanda Usen


Bio: Like most of us, I’ve been around the block a time or two (or three) in the relationship world. I like to think of myself as having a pretty thick skin, however, that skin doesn’t surround the heart.

I’ve been in love; I’ve been in lust. I’ve been hurt and got up to do it all again, each time having learned more of myself as well as “wants” and “don’t wants” for my next relationship. Amazingly enough, I never gave up on that one true love wrapped in Romance. You can visit me here, at

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17 Responses to “Writing When You’re Under The Gun with Handsome Hansel”

  1. Happy Monday HH!

    I also once believed myself to be a pure pantser, but had no completed manuscripts to show for it. Once I started doing some planning, I was able to finish several mss. I consider it the hybrid approach to writing.

    Unfortunately, I still tend to procrastinate–as I did with writing guest posts for my recent blog tour. Heck, I’m doing it right now, since I’m participating in BIAW.

    Posted by Reese Ryan | August 5, 2013, 7:44 am
    • Good Morning, Reese!

      I have to agree that being a Pantser lends itself to procrastination. Sometimes, the plan simply needs to be: “I’ll put 1000 words on paper today.” When I commit to that plan, I almost always end up with way more than that accomplished!

      Have a great week!


      Posted by HH | August 5, 2013, 10:29 am
  2. Hi HH,

    I live by my schedule. Too many distractions, I prefer order. Except when I’m writing. A bit of chaos seems to help.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | August 5, 2013, 8:29 am
  3. Morning HH…

    I’m a total procrastinator and pantser. A P&P. I’ve downloaded a little program for my computer that keeps track of my hair appts and birthdays etc, but otherwise I do live in chaos. I so want to organize…but I always think I’ll do it later….


    The past few years I have finished some mss, simply because of some classes I’ve taken force me to walk through it step by step (thank you Laurie Schnebly Campbell!). I definitely need to be pushed!

    Great having you here again HH. Even if you were a tad bit late.


    (PS – You deliberately waited to send me your post just to see if you could do it? )



    Posted by Carrie Spencer | August 5, 2013, 8:40 am
    • Oh, Carrie, Carrie, Carrie! (Think Jan on The Brady Bunch)

      I think that the greatest irony here is that I had put that my post for RU was due NEXT Monday. I should have put a caveat in my above post stating it’s also very important to have your dates correct!


      Posted by HH | August 5, 2013, 11:26 am
  4. I have another problem: notes. I can’t take my computer everywhere, so I collect notes. I have a mountain of them. To go through them all and file on my computer takes a lot of time. It’s drowning me. I need to go through five thousand words of notes to see what I’ll add to my file that has already twenty five thousands words. I don’t know if every story will be written the same way. I’m huge on plotting for the current novel I’m writing. It might not be the same way with the next one. But I admit I need to know where my story is heading.

    Posted by Anna Labno | August 5, 2013, 10:16 am
    • Good Morning, Anna,

      It’s funny you mention notes. I have a habit of carrying a Sharpie with me and writing on the inside of my forearms when motivation strikes. I almost always have my iPad and iPhone with me with a number of note taking type apps between them but I always go to the forearm. 🙂

      Thanks for taking the time, A.


      Posted by HH | August 5, 2013, 11:30 am
  5. Very funny – and very true. I’m a converted pantser. Actually, I call myself a hybrid. For my books, I’ve learned to do an outline, then I (mostly) stick to it. It helps with deadlines.

    Posted by Willa Blair | August 5, 2013, 11:03 am
    • Willa,

      There is something comforting with Pantsing. I’m not entirely sure what it is but it has the feeling of ‘Home’ when you do it.

      I think expectations are bestowed upon us every hour of every day. So, if we are Pantsers, and refuse to subscribe to the wills of others, affords us a certain freedom.


      I can’t agree more; you have to plan to write.

      Willa, I SO appreciate you taking the time from our Twitter exchanges to respond here. Means a lot to me. 🙂


      Posted by HH | August 5, 2013, 6:39 pm
  6. “Tell the rest of the world to bugger off.”

    I have days when I REALLY want to do this. My schedule is actually not as crazy as it used to be, but I have a tendency, at times, to take on more than I can chew.

    I’m trying to prioritize my schedule so my writing takes precedence, but I haven’t quite figured out how to do that yet.

    Thanks for the suggestions!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | August 5, 2013, 7:20 pm
  7. Great post, with some really good advice.

    Great job Handsome. 🙂

    Posted by MaryAnn Kempher | August 5, 2013, 8:15 pm
  8. Even though I don’t write for a living, I can readily identify with deadlines. I learned long ago in nursing school that a moderate amount of stress can sharpen the senses and help us to think and respond clearly. Adversely, a high amount of stress sends that ability right out the window. I’ve experienced both, and these days try to be just a bit more focused. It makes life so much sweeter. 🙂

    Excellent points HH!

    Posted by Cathy | August 6, 2013, 10:54 am
  9. Well, HH, congratulations on another thoughtful post.
    I am finishing up my 18th book and already planning the 19th and 20th. And what works for me is to write the first draft without going back to previous chapters until I am 3/4 of the way through and heading into the climactic scenes.
    Then I start at the beginning and flesh out the scenes, edit heavily, and move through it without getting bogged down… Until I reach the end of what I’d written, and then I complete the book.
    I then edit it a 2nd and 3rd time before it goes to the editors. They make suggestions and changes and I will edit it again a 4th and 5th time.
    All of this – from the first page of the first draft to the final page of editing – takes place within 4 months time. There is something about having a book announced to the public with a set publication date and the cover already publicized that can get my a$$ in gear in a heartbeat.
    But I’ve been writing for nearly 30 years – 12 years full-time – and it does get easier. You’ll hit your rhythm. Can’t wait to read your first novel!

    Posted by p.m.terrell | August 8, 2013, 3:24 pm
  10. Deadlines. That reminds me of school and homework. I never had any issues with that.

    Yes, this is for once a very short response.

    Posted by Soraya E. | August 16, 2013, 12:37 pm


  1. […] Writing When You’re Under The Gun Handsome Hansel on the Romance University blog about how to write when the deadline is Terrifyingly Close. […]

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