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Deadline Diva: the Pain and the Pleasure by Tessa Shapcott

Welcome Tessa Shapcott [1] (who met her deadline for the RU post with NO problem). Today we’re going to take a strong look at deadlines, love ’em or hate ’em, all writers work with them.

Tessa ShapcottDeadlines.  If you work in the book publishing industry, either as a writer or an editor, you can’t avoid them.   If you’re contracted to write by an imprint, you’ll have delivery dates that you’re legally obliged to meet; if you’re self-published, you’ll most likely set yourself a goal to meet the most advantageous sales window.  If you’re an editor, you’ll be juggling a number of authors and titles, and therefore different production schedules and publication dates.  Yup, deadlines are things you just can’t avoid.

Having worked on both sides of the fence as an editor and a romance writer, I’ve experienced both the pain and pleasure of having to meet deadlines.  I put pain before pleasure here, because as someone who by nature would be late for her own funeral, I’ve always found it hard to meet them. I’m sure you’ll know what I mean about the pain.  For writers, delivery dates can feel like an oppressive form of bondage made to kill creativity and even one’s muse.  For editors, they can be a kind of torture, because there are always a complex set of deliveries and dates to be met on an ongoing basis, like the endless unravelling of a never-ending ball of wool or string.

The pleasure?  Is there any? I’d like to hope so. However much we moan and chaff at the restrictions of deadlines, they also provide a welcome framework.  They make us plan and pace ourselves, and drive ourselves to do just that little bit more when perhaps otherwise we would have shut our laptops.  And there’s nothing like the feeling of joy when a deadline is met and that’s one more piece finished and behind you. (Perhaps I need to get out more!)

Does it really matter if an author doesn’t meet publisher’s agreed delivery date? They build wriggle-room into publishing production schedules, don’t they?  Well, it matters more than you might think and while there is a little bit of leeway on a production path, there’s often not a lot.  I think it helps to remember that your editor’s life is a carefully-constructed network of deadlines and when you don’t deliver on time, she can be quite seriously impacted.  Other projects are thrown out of whack, other people down the publishing food chain are affected and time may have to be bought and paid for in order to get the book out on target.  In the end this comes off the publisher’s bottom line and means less money in the pot for paying things like royalties.  Also, being continually late can come to affect your professional standing as a writer; publishers and editors like writers who deliver on time, and you run the likelihood of missing out on being commissioned for prestigious and headline future projects, and prime publication slots, because you are considered as unreliable.

What about self-publishing? One of the best things about doing it yourself is that you can follow your own schedule and it doesn’t matter if you don’t make targets, right?  But not having a set of deadlines to meet can actually be very damaging.  No doubt you will have thought about getting your book up there to meet an optimum period marketing-wise—the holiday or vacation seasons, for instance, or have plans for publishing linked titles in quick succession—and by letting things slip you could be missing out on sales.  Or you could just end up in that no-man’s land of never actually getting your novel finished and published because you haven’t the incentive of a deadline.

At the moment, I’m straddling both sides of the fence and am in deadline hell.  I’m working for Tule Publishing’s Montana Born digital imprint, both writing for and editing their Spring Brides novella mini-series.  My own novella, The Unexpected Bride by Joanne Walsh, will available at the beginning of May, so I am frantically finishing it up now and cursing the delivery date that I must meet (of course I can’t edit my own book, so another editor will be working with me).  Meantime, I am editing and guiding the other authors in the Spring Brides series, so that’s another seven deadlines to be met in quick succession.  It’s a balancing act and there have been some hairy moments, but just as I am helping the other writers to keep to the agreed timelines, I have to reluctantly admit that my own editor and schedule for The Unexpected Bride are keeping me on the straight and narrow.   And I know that there are a team of publishing professionals waiting on me to bring my own and the other authors’ projects in on time, so that we can meet the publication plan and maximise the books’ sales potential.

Seeing both sides of the coin have led me to collect a short list of tips for meeting writing deadlines and not becoming a deadline diva, which I would like to share with you here.


Do you have any tips for managing and arriving on time? Please do share them in the comment section below.

Join us on Monday for Hazel Gaynor!


Bio: Tessa Shapcott is a freelancer editor, specializing in genre and women’s fiction and also helping authors to self-publish. She also writes category romance novels. A life-long fan of romantic fiction, she spent many years working for the publisher Harlequin Mills & Boon, first leading the Harlequin Presents line and then the editorial department. She can be contacted via her website: tessashapcott.com [2]; or via email: tessashapcott @gmail.com.

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6 Comments To "Deadline Diva: the Pain and the Pleasure by Tessa Shapcott"

#1 Comment By Traci Krites On April 11, 2014 @ 12:20 pm

I don’t have any deadlines yet. This advice is much appreciated for the day that I do.

#2 Comment By Carrie Spencer On April 11, 2014 @ 3:13 pm

Great post Tessa!

I guess I never thought how far back missing a deadline could go…putting everyone else in a tight spot. Not good!

I admit to being a huge procrastinator as well…I always tell myself that once I get all the “important” stuff out of the way, then I can write. I think I need to change that!



#3 Comment By Adrienne Giordano On April 11, 2014 @ 4:00 pm

Hi, Tessa. Great post!

My tip falls along the lines of avoiding procrastination. I print out a blank calendar and figure out (based on my other commitments) week by week how many words I can write during those weeks. I handwrite on the calendar how many words I will do each day. There’s something about handwriting it on the calendar that clicks for me.

Once I figure out how long it will take to write a rough draft, I give myself 4-6 weeks editing time. I typically find I can turn a book in a couple of weeks early because I’ve been so cautious with my word count estimates. It’s a nice thing!

#4 Comment By Jennifer Tanner On April 11, 2014 @ 4:25 pm

Hi Tessa,

Self-editing is my Achilles’ heel. I can pound out the words on one day and spend the next day editing. But I’m learning to impose deadlines for myself.

I like your method of writing for 30 minutes and then walking away because sometimes, inspiration doesn’t happen when I’m staring at the screen.

Thanks for another inspiring post!

#5 Comment By Becke Martin Davis On April 11, 2014 @ 7:31 pm

I’ve been a non-fiction writer for 20 years, so I’m used to writing to deadlines. It’s a whole different thing writing FICTION to deadline, at least it is for me. Of course, I’m still learning so maybe if I ever figure out what I’m doing, deadlines will come easier. As it is, I’m seriously impressed with all of you who meet and master the Deadline Demons!

#6 Comment By Mariam Kobras On April 15, 2014 @ 5:07 am

I’ve just finished my 6th. novel for my publisher Buddhapuss Ink, and I have to say that I LOVE deadlines. A couple of times I made my publisher set me a deadline, just so I know my time frame.
On another note, having deadlines means that you’re expected to deliver. It’s a kind of security that I value very much. I know why I’m writing. I know there’s a real goal to what I’m doing. That’s what I love about deadlines. 🙂