What’s with the Deadlines!

Welcome to the first Pitchwarriors Prep post!

I’m going to assume you got here via the main page, or from a link on social media and have at least some idea what this is about. If not, please check out the landing page. So, I’m gonna dive right in.

Pitch Wars 2019 is just around the corner! And there’s plenty of time to prepare… And the first topic? Let’s go with something easy. Deadlines.

We’ve all had them—in school, at work, hell, the bills that come in every month. They’re all deadlines. But… working creatively to a deadline is a new experience for many. And it can be difficult.

Sure, there’s that lead up to the submission window, where you have to get your manuscript done in time… but that’s not the end of the deadlines in PW (or publishing). You’re going to have more. And they’re just going to keep coming. And the stakes of missing a deadline keep getting bigger.

And if that paragraph made you uncomfortable, or stressed… that’s exactly what I’m talking about!

Here’s the fun part… that’s fixable! But it takes practice. Note I didn’t say it was easy?

If you get into PW, you’re going to get an edit letter from your mentor(s). And it’s going to be full of little notes from grammar to pacing to characterization to story arc to plot changes and, and, and… Some of it you’ll agree with. Some of it you’ll hate at first, and then come to love. Some of it you may never like.

And it comes with a deadline.

It’s on you to make those changes. Or reject them. Or communicate with your mentor about how to fix them. By the deadline.

Because after that, there’s more coming. In 2018, PW included two rounds of manuscript notes—the first edit letter, and a second round of edits based on those revisions.

That alone is a Herculean task! And many mentors went above and beyond.

Wanna get ready for that? Start practicing now.

Create a deadline for your MS and stick to it!

No cheating. No changing it or extending it. Pretend it cannot be moved. Life happens. And it’s going to keep happening, whether you’re writing or not.

Obviously, if something massive comes up in your life, ditch this plan—because all things can be changed!

But for normal, day-to-day stuff? Get used to writing through it. When you’re working to a deadline, gone are the days of writing when you have the time. You need to make the time.

If your own deadline stresses you out, someone else’s is going to be worse. So practice!

Create incremental deadlines

Create a series of deadlines rather than one big “have my entire MS finished and polished and shiny by…”

Are you drafting now? Create deadlines for your next chapter, or a word count goal. I’ll complete 5,000 words by this date.

Doing first round revisions? Create chapter deadlines. Or break your revision list into chunks and assign a deadline to each chunk or task.

Working on deep edits or proofreading? Hey congrats! You’ve got lots of time. This one is going to be different based on the type of changes you need to do and how you work.

My approach: Proofreading and going through for filter words and other uglies is just a start at the top and work your way through, so I set page number goals.

I do deep edit passes for each character—looking at character arc, continuity, etc. That can get broken down scene by scene.

Set deadlines for getting your MS to crit partners and beta readers. And give yourself enough time to process their feedback. And yes, that means working with crit partners and beta readers who can and will get your MS back to you in a timely manner. More on that topic in a later post!

Start small

Similar to the incremental deadline idea, if working creatively to a deadline is new to you, start with small, easy to achieve deadlines.

Give yourself a week to complete the research on that new location you’re using. Take a weekend to write up your character’s back story. Pick up your favorite or newest craft book and give yourself a month to get through it in depth, with notes.

Just create that deadline and stick to it. Get used to the idea of it. Get used to working creatively under that pressure. Train yourself so that a deadline is just part of the process.

I’m not saying that will eliminate the stress… but it will help ease it quite a bit. Google working creatively to a deadline and there’s tons of info out there (including those who think deadlines kill creativity… and that’s a valid opinion… however, deadlines are a fact of life in publishing, so…)

The world is full of artists who say they work best at the eleventh hour. That may be true. And if that is you, by all means, have at. But if you’re going into publishing, you still need to get used to deadlines—even if you’ll be doing the work at five minutes ‘till.

Bottom line here—you do you. But take the time to practice working creatively to a deadline, and sticking to it.

You can do this!

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