Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tips to Help Meet Your Writing Deadlines

By Lucinda Secrest McDowell @LucindaSMcDowel

This week I submitted the manuscript for my twelfth book. On time. Whew!

Because it was contracted late in the season, and I had already made several travel plans that could not be cancelled, I wondered if I could do it. 

Through God’s grace, prayer support, diligent hard work, good health, and a strategy I will share, I made it!

In fact, I have never missed a writing deadline.

This is not to brag, just to say that as a professional writer, I take contracts seriously and my writing even more seriously. But I don’t take myself too seriously.

When I commit to write a book, an article or guest blog, I am plugging into the intricate scheduling of someone else – a publishing house, a magazine or a website. They are counting on receiving my work and they, too, have committed to me that it will be published.

If I fail to follow through in a timely and appropriate manner, my actions could set in motion unfortunate consequences that might reflect poorly on my integrity and their house.

This is the part of a writer’s life that you don’t want to hear. You may be thinking that I am haughty, judgmental or lacking grace. I assure you, this is not the truth. I live every day dependent on God’s grace in my life and I offer it freely to others.

One day I may need to ask a publisher for an extension of a deadline, due to an emergency or illness or crisis. And, believe me, I will do so! There are many circumstances in life that are simply beyond our control. And my professional exception is that “family trumps everything.” So, yes, sometimes we have to negotiate a new deadline.

A few years ago, a publisher invited me to write another Bible Study for them and I was so honored that they had liked the first three I had written, that I immediately said “Yes!” After outlining the new book, but before I had actually signed the contract, I realized my decision had been precipitous. My two daughters were getting married within six months of each other and I wanted to be totally free to focus on our family. So I contacted the publisher, who was most understanding, and suggested several other suitable authors for that study. In fact, the one who ended up writing it was brilliant. I felt a tinge of embarrassment, but knew I had chosen rightly.

However, running late due to my own choices is something altogether different.

Here is my strategy for meeting deadlines:
  • Think carefully and prayerfully about the deadline date which has been proposed. For this book, I had to ask for a date change in the contract, but one that would still enable the publisher to get the book out on schedule. To compromise, I told them I would submit the first half of the book halfway through so they could begin editing. It worked.
  • Pray. I cannot emphasize this enough. Write down your prayer for this project, your concerns, your hopes and dreams. The names of the people you know that will take your words and make them into a book, or help it get into readers’ hands. Pray for those who must live with you at this time. Enlist your family, friends or Bible Study group to pray for you and keep them informed on your progress.
  • Construct a dedicated calendar for the project, starting now and ending on the due date. First write in everything that is non-negotiable – work times, trips scheduled that cannot be changed, children’s recitals etc. I also marked down one night a week as a date with my husband, and one night weekly with my special needs adult son. Now look at the spaces of writing time. This is what you have to work with, so plan wisely.
  • Divide your project into chapters or sections and begin filling in those spaces. Do not neglect the early time of research which often takes longer than you expect. Also, give yourself ‘recovery’ spaces after a trip or event because you will need to settle back in and gear up for the project. Every day try to meet your goal. If you don’t meet your goal that day, try to catch up or redo your calendar.
  • Research. Outline. Write the book. Rewrite the book. Edit. Rewrite the book. Confirm details on all the footnotes (this book had 284 citations). Write the back pages. Read over and Submit!
There will be more –much more –before your words become a book. The editor at your publishing house will send you edits and you may be crushed by what they deleted or added. But you will confer with them and together you will produce a better read. The graphic designers will create a cover and inside design which I hope you will love, or at least choose to embrace graciously. 

But you will have done your part. Writing is work. It is not a hobby. I loved writing my book this summer – “Dwelling Places – Words to Live in Every Season” – because I delight in exploring the words from God’s Word. And because I have a passion to share how to live in God’s presence and peace.

It was a joy to write. But it was work. Please know I write this blog with all humility, utterly grateful to God’s grace and mercy that I met my deadline. It seems to be a miracle each time I do. May my suggestions help you as well.

Tips to Help Meet Your #Writing Deadline - @LucindaSMcDowel on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Meeting #writing deadlines is about more than just calendar considerations - @LucindaSMcDowel (Click to Tweet)

Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is the author of 11 books, contributing author to 25 books, and has published in more than 50 magazines. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, she studied at the Wheaton Graduate School of Communication and served as Communications Specialist for the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (Thailand) and Editor for Billy Graham’s International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists (Netherlands). A member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA), she has received “Writer of the Year” awards from both Mt. Hermon and Blue Ridge Writers Conferences. Cindy speaks internationally through her ministry “Encouraging Words” and co-directs the New England Christian Writers Retreat. Known for her ability to convey deep truth in practical and winsome ways, she writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England. Visit her online at www.EncouragingWords.net 


  1. Cindy, Your blog has helped me. I have not been praying about every aspect of my book nor giving my concerns to God. The book has an entire chapter dedicated to Prayer. Duh! Thank you so much. I am praying for you as you get ready to speak at Iron sharpen Iron.

  2. Thanks Cherrilyn. Actually I have three speaking engagements before ISI. And yes, prayer is an integral part of our writing.

  3. Thank you for your helpful tips! I really appreciate them!


  4. My ability to deliver when I promised is a statement of my character as much as my writing ability. What do you want your character to say?