Neglecting to Make My Deadline

By Elaine Viets

When the first day of June rolled around, I realized my next Angela Richman, death investigator mystery was due at my London publisher on August 1.
AUGUST 1! A day I was sure would never arrive when I signed that contract two years ago. But here it was, rushing toward me like a runaway freight train.
I had eight weeks to finish my novel. Eight weeks. And I was on Chapter 10 – a long way from the end. If I wanted to finish on time, I’d have to write 4,500 words a week.
I could do that. If I switched to extreme writing mode. In other words, “neglect everything else.”

Good-bye to my social life. No parties, no leisurely lunches, no long phone chats or Zoom visits. My friends know they’ll see me in August.

No conferences and drinks at the bar with other writers.
So long doom scrolling. The nation will have to take care of itself for the next eight weeks.
Adios, cute cat videos.

I can no longer afford these luxuries.
No binge-watching TV. No shopping, no matter how good the sales.

My husband Don has promised to run errands for me. Any other essentials can be ordered online. For the next two months, my emails will pile up. All doctor and hair appointments are cancelled. I have to finish this book on time.
The decks were cleared, and I’ve been pounding the keys. I’ve just finished Chapter 25 and need to get a good start on Chapter 26. Another five hundred words today and I’ll be up to speed.
Ben Franklin’s warning is glaring at me. “You may delay, but time will not.”

I’m lucky. Unlike many writers, I have a helpful husband, and the luxury of an office in my home. I don’t have children or relatives to care for. I’m a full-time author and don’t have to go to a job.
So what do writers with serious responsibilities do?
Parents certainly can’t neglect their children or quit their day job. Some have to write at the kitchen table. They don’t have a room of their own.
These writers are a tough breed. One of the toughest is author Joan Johnston. A number of years ago, she was a mom with two young kids. She wanted to write romances – and succeed.
There was nothing romantic about how she achieved her success.
Joan told me she got up at four o’clock in the morning and wrote until she had to get the kids ready for school and go to her job.
Joan’s hard work at that ungodly hour paid off. Today, she is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than sixty historical and contemporary romance novels, and she’s won a slew of awards.
I’m not sure I could have done what she did.
So, writers, how do you carve out writing time for yourself when you’re down to the wire?


The Dead of Night, my new Angela Richman, death investigator mystery, is available in book stores and online:
Buy from, and your purchase will help support local bookstores
Barnes & Noble:
PLEASE NOTE: Prices for e-books and hardcovers vary. Please check that you have the lowest.


14 thoughts on “Neglecting to Make My Deadline

  1. My only deadlines have been for 3rd party computer manuals for TAB/McGraw-Hill. I was working full time, writing on weekends and at night. The computer and the TV were at opposite ends of an open-plan house, but I have the ability to tune out noise.
    Much of the writing was taken care of by two competent co-authors. We never experienced deadline pressure. I didn’t measure my words-per-day, since much of the content was drawings.
    My largest non-fiction project was a 4,000 page refinery operating manual. I oversaw re-keying the original into electronic format, and I edited the output. My typist was a 200 wpm guy, Rob Knight, whom MicroPro said took their software beyond what it was intended to do. The project took about 3 weeks, IIRR.

    My maximum fiction output is 10,000 words in one weekend. No deadline involved.

  2. As an indie I have SIDs (self-imposed deadlines). These are crucial, because it’s too easy to let yourself off the hook. So I write down a date and put it on the door of my office. If I don’t do this I fall into the Douglas Adams effect:

    “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

  3. I’m indie, too, and when I have a handle on how the book is going–usually when I’m well past the midpoint, I get with my editor and we decide on a due date that works for both of us. It’s more of an “on or about” in case life intervenes for either of us, but I always do my best to keep up my end of our agreed upon date.
    I’m also retired, empty nest, work at home, and have an understanding Hubster.

    • Your deadlines sound far more reasonable, Terry. And hooray for those understanding husbands. I couldn’t write without help from mine.

  4. I find that even though I write better under deadlines, I still get behind. I have a daily word count and at the beginning of the story I let myself slide sometimes, knowing what it’s going to cost. And I have no excuse. I live alone, don’t work other than to write and rarely have lunch with friends.

    I feel your pain!

    • Thanks, Patricia. I got used to deadline pressure when I was a newspaper reporter. But planning for an eight-month deadline is a different animal.

  5. Another indie here. I don’t make deadlines per se for a book. Too often, plots and/or life go sideways on me. I just show up for work each morning and put in the hours. Somehow the words get written. In six years, I’ve published eight books. Not remarkable but enough that I’m satisfied.

    I also write nonfiction articles on deadline for various publications. Sometimes I commit to too many assignments and get frazzled. When that happens, I have to work until 3 a.m. but always met the deadline.

    Every day, I’m grateful to live the dream of doing what I love–writing.

  6. I’m an indie, and so far, I *do* make deadlines for my books, including setting a long pre-order. If/when crunch time happens, and it’s usually when, not if, then I do similarly to you—lock myself in my writing office and my wife runs interference for me. She’s retired, but is plenty busy nonetheless, so I appreciate the assisting.

    I have a pre-order deadline for December 30 (actually more like December 26 in order to get the book uploaded before the pre-order becomes “locked.” This might be the last time I do a long pre-order. It’s motivating, but can also be super stressful.

    Here’s to you making your deadline!

  7. A teaching colleague put up a sign in her gifted classroom, “Deadlines Amuse Me.” 😉
    She worked well under pressure. I preferred to self-impose earlier deadlines, to avoid the stress of last-minute glitches. Now happily anticipating your next book, at which time it will be top priority in my life. <3

  8. “I’d have to write 4,500 words a week.
    I could do that. If I switched to extreme writing mode. In other words, “neglect everything else.”
    This has to be a typo surely?
    A week?

Comments are closed.