Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

storm moving across a field
August 5, 2013


Laura here. I just wanted to squee a moment. The very first book I wrote (and edited 3,457 times,) Her Road Home releases tomorrow!  It earned a RT 4 star review! You can learn more about it on my website.It's available at Amazon, B&N, and other stores. Thanks for your indulgence - now here's Shannon with her monthly wisdom:

By Shannon Donnelly




A looming date is enough to kill any writer's ability to get words on a page. Two weeks to finish two hundred pages—if that doesn't freeze you, add in that they have to be two hundred great pages. Polished, perfect prose.

Anne Lamont's wonderful book, Bird by Bird, deals with this--a whole book about deadlines and writing. That's how tough they can be. But why?

Because we want the work to be perfect? Because we said we'd be done on a date and we want to keep that promise? Because we're insecure and think we MUST or we’re just not a real writer?

A deadline taught me to learn to ask for an extension. A deadline taught me to let the writing flow and edit later. A deadline taught me that if I'm writing regularly, I can do fifty good pages in a weekend. A deadline also taught me how good I can be at procrastinating.

If you haven’t sold yet, you still need deadlines—that’s where contests are great, since they force you to get something done. I love the Golden Heart because you must finish the book to enter.

Deadlines can be a friend. They can make you finish that book, even if you have to drag yourself to the keyboard to do it. And, trust me, you don’t ever know if the writing is good or bad—you can never judge your own work, so it’s very often a good idea to write and worry about everything else later. But a deadline can end up being something you beat yourself with—and it kills the writing.

So how about giving up the word “deadline,” and make it something a little friendlier?

How about targets, goals, due dates, motivational milestones? Or maybe set a celebration date—about a week after you really have to get something done. Put down on the calendar a spa day, or a shopping spree, or dinner with a friend, or a movie binge day. For me, carrots always work better than sticks for motivation. Or break the deadline into smaller bits—a chapter done, to the half way point, a first draft finished. Chop it up.

But the best motivation for me is to make sure that book gets out there to start earning some money. So why not pay yourself for your writing, even if it’s only a few bucks for that spurge—that new shirt, or dinner out, or a chocolate cake?

The trick is to figure out what gets you to a computer to get a book done.

Shannon Donnelly

Shannon Donnelly

Shannon Donnelly Bio

Shannon Donnelly’s writing has won numerous awards, including a RITA nomination for Best Regency, the Grand Prize in the "Minute Maid Sensational Romance Writer" contest, judged by Nora Roberts, RWA's Golden Heart, and others. Her writing has repeatedly earned 4½ Star Top Pick reviews from Romantic Times magazine, as well as praise from Booklist and other reviewers, who note: "simply superb"..."wonderfully uplifting"....and "beautifully written."

Her Regency romances can be found as ebooks on all formats, and with Cool Gus Publishing, and include a series of four novellas.

BurningTire_finalShe also has out the Mackenzie Solomon, Demon/Warders Urban Fantasy series, Burn Baby Burn and Riding in on a Burning Tire, and the Urban Fantasy, Edge Walkers. Her work has been on the top seller list of Amazon.com and includes Paths of Desire, a Historical Regency romance.

She is the author of several young adult horror stories, and computer games. She lives in New Mexico with two horses, two donkeys, two dogs, and only one love of her life. Shannon can be found online at sd-writer.com, facebook.com/sdwriter, and twitter/sdwriter.

34 comments on “Deadlines”

  1. Wow! Talk about diverse genres, Shannon. Congratulations on your success and hitting those deadlines.

    They're my nemesis. Say Dead. Line., and I search for something, anything as a diversion. I've even steam cleaned bathroom floors. Pathetic.

    When I worked in Corporate America, I rarely missed deadlines. Same goes for when I was in school. I could seemingly pull projects out of my [bleep!] when I was accountable to someone else.

    I need to fire my new boss, and the person she manages.

    Lest you think I'm stuck in this spot, I began calling my daily goals TA-DA lists. And, requests from agents/editors at Nationals are a huge incentive to step away from the steam cleaner.

    NOTE TO LAURA: EEEE! on your next release. My Ta-Da's took a hit for the reader within when I began reading The Sweet Spot. Yes. I went over my allotted daily reading allowance. No. I'm not sorry. I'll be posting your reviews as soon as I hit word count for the day.

    1. I know--sometimes I go alphabetize the spice rack (it's usually when I need to get my brain to a different, more creative place). And I like the TA-DA list!

  2. Thank you Gloria! And Shannon. Since I sold 4 books and 3 were written, that last book was my first real, looming, terrifying deadline.

    I'm a good girl (okay, so I rebelled in the 80's.) I draw inside the lines, finished homework, and never ran with pencils. So the thought of the possibility of letting down someone who paid me to do something was major for me. It froze me, all right. If it hadn't been for my crit group, and especially Fae, I would have had an epic meltdown (as it was, it was a 6-Richter scale meltdown.)

    My goal on this next book (and deadline) is to learn to live with it, without freaking out. So far, so good, but it's in the comfortable future. For now.

    Thanks for the tips from a pro, Shannon!

    1. Whoot ... you go Biker Chick. I've already ordered my copy from amazon ... although if memory serves, I was one of the first to read her a dog's age ago 🙂 Doesn't matter. I am looking forward to another good read 🙂

    2. The best thing I ever did was to go away and get a huge chunk of a book done (I need to do that again). It makes things much easier when you can breathe and not sweat things, but you'll probably always freak (I do--keeps you sharp in on way).

    3. Laura -

      I committed a crime 4 days ago....yup I did. While Scout and I were pet-sitting for my mom, my duties are watering plants, feeding the dog...and getting her mail. Teehee!

      There was a small white BOOK SHAPED package in that mail box with your name in the return address slot. That was all the permission i needed to rip that thing open and read!!!

      Woot woot! I am so proud!

      1. Aww, thanks Tiffany! I'd love for you to read it, but I know if Scout's napping, you'd better be! Hurry up and come back to the internet - we miss you!

  3. Deadlines are the only way I get things done, Shannon. I spent the bulk of my career in the publishing and public relations agency business. Client deadlines structured my life. If it didn't have a deadline, it didn't happen. Since I've turned to creative writing, deadlines are my friend. My writing buddy and I keep each other on track by meeting every two weeks. We won't let each other or ourselves down, so we both arrive at those meetings with work to share.

    I have learned over the past five years working on my novel that deadlines don't work quite the same way in creative writing as they did in the business realm. The work progresses at its own pace. So what I intended to bring to writing group may not be exactly that. But it's always something to move the project forward.

    Great post. Congratulations on your latest book!

    1. Yes, deadlines can be great motivators--I do think that so many writers don't finish a book just because there's no compelling reason.

  4. Best Beloved and I operate 3 businesses in addition to my writing, and we reserve the word "deadline" for when something will actually die. Probably not a person, but an opportunity, a mission, something worthwhile. If there's potential death, it's a deadline.

    But if you're allowed to ask for an extension, if you're using the date as motivation, if it's supposed to help you, then it's a goal, a target, a celebration. We use the words goal and target all the time.

    We almost never use the word deadline, because of all the connotations you mention in the article.

  5. Shannon, this is a great post and talks to the Virgo in me. The gal who thrives on pressure and meets all dead lines ... head on ... Flip the coin (since I am a conflicted "cusp" baby) and my Libra says ... Well it's not really all that important. I mean is it more important than cleaning out the hall closet? Thanks to the balance of the scales and I greet each goal with a smile and move toward my target with determination. I am the type who falls apart AFTER the job is done 🙂

    1. Yeah, we have to watch that fall apart time (I've done the up all night stuff and I just don't do that anymore--too hard on me and the family).

  6. Congrats on the book, Laura! Wow, I don't think I can fix the first one. I'd like to, because the story is so good, but I knew zilch about craft back then. I rewrote the 3rd one. It has possibilities. 4th one Vermont Escape is out there two weeks now. And about ready to send of # 5.
    Shannon, I can't live without deadlines. Think it's my theatre background. When is performance? you back up 6-8 weeks. When would you have to have ordered the materials? Maybe 4-6 months before given the intracasies of school district ordering. LOL (I also learned if you miss a deadline in schools, they'll ask again for the whatever.)
    When one of my editors didn't give me a deadline, I set one for myself. I knew without it, I'd piddle the time away. The term "deadline" doen't offend me. If "target" or whatever works for you, go for it. Whatever works is the bottom line. LIke the chocolate cake reward. LOL I'll have to remember that. Great post as always WITS. Shannon, always glad to hear what you have to say.

      1. I couldn't open it either, Laura. I save most of y'all's posts, so if you send the date or title, I can possibly find it that way. 🙂

        1. Oh duh. Sorry guys. If you look down the right side of the blog, you'll see a 'search' box. Type in 'Dust Bunny Books' and it'll come up. Joel, you crack me up, too.

          1. So funny, Laura. I even read the comments. I'll probably leave my book of the heart under the bed, but I'd never delete it from the computer. My stars and garters! That would be like cutting off the first born. It may not be too pretty, but it's mine! LOL
            I just sent my 5th book off and will pull up the 6th to see what it looks like after at least 6 months while I was getting VERMONT ESCAPE out the door an pubbed. It follows up with a character in VE and then there's kind of a series thing with the next several. Or at leas that's the plan for now. So The Risk will just have to wait. I'd pull up # 3 before I'd go back to one. It needs some good Margiezing, but it's form is more solid.
            Thanks for sharing. I do love blogs!

  7. For some reason it's hard to set my own deadlines but a publisher deadline motivates me because I always want to at least "appear professional. 🙂 Also, with me, it becomes a point of pride and I even found that my writing becomes more immediate and often times better written because every word has to count!

    1. That's why an accountability mentor is the single most important partner an author can have. If you don't finish the book, you'll never need an editor, cover designer, or marketing help.

        1. I'm clearly not doing my job marketing (although that's one of my other businesses, teaching marketing.)

          Most of my writing clients know how to write. They know what to say (I work with more non-fiction authors right now, but want to help more fiction authors.)

          My job is to use what I know about psychology, change, motivation, and the fears we foist on ourselves, and help authors feel the positive motivation that comes from holding ourselves accountable.

          When we do something because we're extrinsically motivated, that is, we have to (to meet a deadline, for instance) researchers like Teresa Amabile have proven time and again that the quality of our work diminishes. And yet, we can produce wonders in even less time if we're intrinsically motivated; in other words, we're working hard and fast because we choose to for ourselves, not for others.

          When I can help an author remember their "why" and maintain their priorities, writing gets done that never would have seen the light of day. (What's rare is that I can do this for myself, too; I've published 10 books, released 6 of them on the same day, 11/11/11.)

        2. Shannon, there are a ton of book coaches out there and they are golden for making sure that you have to report to someone who will push you. I worked with Nina Amir for a while but no one pushes any of us better than Laura. She's an accountability tiger. 🙂

          1. Thanks, Jen, that's a nice way to say it - Alpha Dog's term for it would probably be 'nag,' but either way, I'm good with it - as long as there's a book at the end of it all!

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