Monday, June 27, 2011

Writing Under a Deadline

Earlier this month, I took on the challenge of writing a short story/ novella for an upcoming romance publisher’s call for submissions. The theme is Angels and Demons. The subgenre is erotic romance.

Oh, did I mention that I haven’t written about either angels or demons before? And that I’ve never written an erotic romance story?

Yes, sir, that’s why it’s a challenge.


Think. Plan. Schedule.

This may seem counter-intuitive. Time’s a-wasting and you should just do something that’s not writing! Please.

Taking these steps ahead of jumping into the writing may save a lot of time down the road. If you’re writing in a new area, for instance, as I am, it will be important to remind yourself of the criteria set out in this new genre. Without such reminders, you may find your writing veering off onto the tried-and-true tracks.

Thinking means brainstorming. Get a few ideas on the page and see how far you can plot them. If the idea peters out early, this may not be the one for you. Not in these circumstances, with a deadline looming. File the idea away for another, more leisurely day.

Planning means running with the idea you’ve chosen. Jot down the important plot points, character traits, interesting tidbits of dialogue that have tickled your fancy. You’re building a file on this piece and quickly. Throw nothing out. If you don’t use it, that’s fine.

Scheduling means blocking out some parts of your day and the days to come until the deadline for writing and revising. Don’t forget revising. That’s just as important a process.


Write. Don’t interrupt, edit or research. You can do that later.

You spent the time making a schedule for your writing. Stick as closely as you can to this schedule. Time’s ticking and you can’t afford to slack off.

When you have free time and if you are as anal about this stuff as I am, you might want to crank out the figures every once in a while during your writing journey. Say you’re aiming for 50 pages for a short story, divide up those pages by the available days you have left to accomplish your task. Make sure you hit that number each day or even exceed it.


Revise, revise, revise. You’ve given yourself time in your schedule for this very necessary part of the writing process (and you’ve also given yourself the permission to make a fast-and-dirty first draft) so make sure you use your revision time now.

If you are seriously running out of time before your deadline, try multitasking. Print your manuscript out and go over the story with a pen while you’re on your lunch or riding the train home. Send your story to someone who’s willing to look at it for you within a short timeline and give you some constructive criticism (ask first!).

Make the corrections and changes to your manuscript during a good block of time as a change in one portion of the story may necessitate minor edits throughout.

Keeping in mind your short timeline, you may not be able to rewrite the entire story but you can fix the glaring errors. This should be the stage at which the pre-writing planning pays off.

Read over the last draft of your manuscript before you send it out. Do this word by word, line by line. You’d be surprised at how many gaffes make it through spelling and grammar check.

Cross your fingers, attach that file, and hit send.

Good luck!

Photo courtesy of Suat Eman at

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