How to survive a deadline

Hey friends! So my writing deadline was Monday. I’ll confess: this was one of the best deadlines I’ve had (aka: I was on track and finished most of the things that needed to be finished) and yet one of the worst because I was literally counting the hours until I could get the book out. of. my. hands.

I don’t think I would have taken an extension even if it was offered to me. I needed to let it go. I needed a break. And I’ve been floating on air ever since pressing the “send” button. Granted, I’ll be diving into the next set of edits in a couple weeks but until then….I’M FREE!

Now don’t get me wrong. I love writing. I love creating. But I’m totally jiving with that “God rested on the seventh day” thing. So I thought I’d share some of the survival tips I learned during this bout of deadline:

1. PLAN. IT. OUT.

This is a huge one. Make a list of all the things you need to do and schedule it in–whether you’re a scheduler or procrastinator, you have to have a clear idea of the amount of work ahead of you. And then you can get a realistic idea of how long it will take you. If you don’t, then you’ll end up two days from the deadline pulling all-nighter after all-nighter and probably eating your pencaps thinking it’s popcorn.

2. REWARD THYSELF

Never under-estimate the power of rewards. Whether it’s going out to eat, or a pint of ice cream (“It comes in pints?”) or a third chai latte….wait. All of my rewards are food. Um…it could be a new book, or time spent rearranging your bookshelf, or an M&M (…aaaaand we’re back to food.)

For me, it was doing dishes. I. Kid. You. Not. I was writing so much I missed doing dishes. And dishes-time is when I listen to podcasts and audiobooks. So really, I missed reading…auditorily. (Totally a word.)

3. TAKE. BREAKS.

Not just the stretch-your-arms-and-go-on-a-walk breaks. But like…a day off. I know it goes against everything inside you that’s screaming to EDIT THE THING! But your brain will not be capable of editing the thing if you don’t let it breathe. (Tweet this)

I find that I can only work for three straight days before I need a break.

4. READ OTHER BOOKS

Sometimes you just need to step away and read someone else’s words. I did this. I set aside my book and read a contemporary fluffy diverse YA romance (When Dimple Met Rishi) and then two weeks later I read a heavy political contemporary (The Hate U Give). It helped give my brain a break from my story, allowing it to breathe.

 

 

5. BE OKAY NEGLECTING OTHER THINGS

Okay, the word “neglect” can sound a bit scary and I see you raising your eyebrow at me. But you have to be okay prioritizing. Remember my blog post two weeks ago about how Sometimes Your Book Deadline Murders Your Blog Schedule? Yup. And you guys were all totally supportive and encouraging!

In fact, if you noticed, this very blog post is a day late. And I didn’t let it stress me out! (Okay, so I panicked a teensy bit at 10pm when I realized I was about to pull a Sometimes Your Book Deadline Murders Your Blog Part Two). But instead, I decided not to kill my little brain by pulling an all-nighter for my blog. Because I knew you’d survive if my blog post was a day late. Often times we make up the expectations we think other people put on us.

Be okay stepping away from some self-set commitments to meet other ones. It’s all about prioritizing (as nasty as that word looks and sounds) and realizing that the world will be okay. And so will you.

6. TRUST YOUR EDITOR

If your editor says your story is good, then TRUST them. You are too close to it to be able to tell yourself that. But you have to let go at some point and trust that your editor sees what you don’t, and that it’s okay to publish. (Unless your editor is your mom. Then maybe hire out for a new one. 😉 )

You need to let it go to the editors and the copyeditors and the proofreaders and the typesetters. They will help it grow up into a nice healthy adult book.

7. HIDE THE SOCIAL MEDIA

You would not believe (or maybe you would) how hard it was for me to stay focused with this deadline. The closer and closer I got to the deadline, the more and more Instagram called. Usually this isn’t a struggle for me. I’m pretty good at setting boundaries and time limits and making sure I don’t get sucked into “the scroll”. But on deadline it was a different story. MENTAL WEAKNESS, PEOPLE. My poor strained brain couldn’t resist the pull! So I literally started hiding my phone in my sock drawer and running away from it like Joseph from Potiphar’s wife. (Couldn’t help myself.) 

If something is making it harder for you to stay focused–flee from it! (Or hide it. Or ask your hubby, kids, friend, dog to hide it for you.) Being a writer (or any type of creative pursuit…and pretty much everything else in life) requires self-discipline and practice in self-monitoring. You. Can. Do. It!

8. SEEK OUT PEP-TALKS

Seriously. You know who those friends are. Limit it, so you’re not going to them every other day. Instead, share your fears and doubts about your current WIP and then WRITE DOWN THEIR PEP-TALKS. And then, when you swing back to the depressed moment of writing, read those things.

9. LET IT GO

This is very similar to #6. But seriously…let that baby go. And I don’t just mean hit the “send” button. I mean that you need to let it go from your mind, too. This is far easier said than done, I know. But it’s healthy to focus on the next project or on something else once you let that book go. See my post about You Can’t Be a Perfectionist and an Author for my soap box on this.

 

 

10. UNDERSTAND THAT YOU ARE A PENDULUM

This is a big one–and I know it’s not just limited to authors. One day I love my story, the next day I hate it. It even got to the point where I swung from love to hate to love to hate by the hour. My husband and friends kept reminding me, “Two hours ago you loved your story. You’re not allowed to hate it.”

And it’s true. You have to realize that you’re a pendulum. And when you’re in that spot where you hate your story, you need to stop all the other voices in your head telling you what’s terrible about it. You need to understand that this is the struggle you’ve been called to. By choosing to be a writer, you are entering a battlefield of the mind. (Tweet this)

And once you understand that, you can fight it.

11. PRAY, PRAY, PRAY.

Seriously…the only thing that kept me from going completely insane was prayer and offering up this novel to God. Sometimes during the writing process He brings incredible peace. Other times, you hear nothing and you feel very alone. But that doesn’t mean He’s not there and He’s not hearing. He just wants to create with you and inviting Him into your stress and writing and deadline will help you push through those pendulum swings, those exhausting all-nighters, those doubts and fears…and come out victorious.


That’s my advice for now. And I had to put each of these into practice with this current book. I know that with the next round I’ll probably learn a lot more. And maybe this is all stuff you’ve heard before–not just applicable to writing deadlines but to deadlines of any creative pursuit.

What is your biggest struggle when you’re trying to meet a deadline or get something done?

What helps you stay focused or what helps you recharge?

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About Nadine Brandes

Nadine Brandes is an adventurer, fusing authentic faith with bold imagination. She never received her Hogwarts letter, but rest assured she’s no Muggle (and would have been in Ravenclaw House, thank you very much.) This Harry Potter super-nerd has been known to eat an entire package of Oreos (family size) by herself, and watches Fiddler on the Roof at least once a year. She writes about brave living, finding purpose, and other worlds soaked in imagination. Her dystopian trilogy (The Out of Time Series) challenged her to pursue shalom, which is now her favorite word (followed closely by bumbershoot.) When Nadine’s not taste-testing a new chai or editing fantasy novels, she and her knight-in-shining armor (nickname: “hubby”) are out pursuing adventures.
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10 Comments

  1. Eating your pencaps thinking it’s popcorn? Sounds like a story there? 😉
    Congrats on finishing, though!
    Popping on headphones and playing music is the best thing for helping me tune out the world and focus on what’s in front of me.

  2. congrats on finishing, Nadine!
    i like to listen to music to unplug too! (especially bluegrass *hides face*)

  3. In the past, the only deadlines I’ve had were for a contest deadline, and for NaNo. I liked doing NaNo because of that deadline, because it forced me to finish something I’d only half finished

    So now I’m officially experiencing my first real publishing deadline. WHAT YES ‘woohoo’ and so the thing that I have been doing to keep myself motivated, is setting aside 2 hrs a day to work on 2 chapters a day. And the main reason is because I have literally read and edited this MS so many times by myself It’s hard to keep going lol. So I do it in tiny pieces. I also do struggle with social media. I blink and an entire hour goes by. Ugh lol. I shut down every browser but my MS to prevent this from happening. I also do the editing before bed so I know that I have to stop and go to bed…most of the time lol. So far I’ve been sticking to it.

    • It’s amazing the amount of motivation that deadlines bring. 🙂 I love NaNo for that same reason.

      Woohoo on your first real publishing deadline!! It sounds like you have a good plan and I’m praying for you! Those tiny pieces will really add up! I find that I have to set a 30-minute timer for myself with social media. And then I hide my phone, LOL.

  4. Awesome advice! I seriously need to put this up on my wall and memorize it. “Battlefield of the mind”? Yeah. Every day. 🙂

    AND CONGRATULATIONS! *sends pizza and Oreos your way . . . lots of Oreos*

  5. Excellent advice–I will do my best to remember all this. Number 11 is so huuuugely important and it seems like it should be obvious, but I forget to pray so so often. I need reminding all. the. time.

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