Thursday, June 4, 2020

Deadline Writing Tips in Quarantine

by Lynn H. Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

I am endlessly fascinated with the way other writers write. 

Are they plotters? Pantsers?

Do they write every day or are they weekend warriors? 

Do they rise before dawn, or write into the wee hours of the morning?

If you’d asked me a few months ago what my writing life looked like, I would have told you the following:
During the school year I try to write at least four days a week, usually in the evenings, with big chunks of time on Saturdays utilized to keep my word count on track. I have a lovely office at home, but I also have kiddos who also love my office, so my most effective writing occurs away from home. My favorite locations to write are my local coffee shop, my local library, the closest Starbucks, and Panera, where I have a favorite table. 

During the summer, I try to get a huge jump on my word count while my kids are at camp. I also typically begin new stories during the summer when I can carve out entire days to devote to the work. 

Now, if you were reading closely, you may have noticed a few issues. For example, during the school year I particularly like to write away from home. Yeah. That hasn’t really happened since March. And those camps scheduled for this summer? Those aren’t happening, either. 

So, maybe you’re like me and what had been working isn’t working at the moment. 

Even if you live in a part of the country where things are reopening, nothing is back to “normal” and some of you are staring into a summer with things still locked down tight.

But …

What if you’re on deadline? I get that! My deadlines don’t care that my writing routines have been demolished. They don’t care that I’m missing my table at Panera or my favorite corner of Starbucks, or the way last summer I was able to go to Java Bistro, my local coffee shop, at least once a week, order my coffee and loaded grits for breakfast and work until they closed at 2:30. 

Perhaps you can relate? 

If so, let me share the following tips for figuring out a way to get the work done that has to be done:

1. Spend some time thinking over what used to work and see if you can pinpoint specifically what makes it effective. Then see if there’s some way you can replicate that. In my case, I crave uninterrupted time with as few distractions as possible. So that means getting up to write early, or writing late after everyone’s gone to bed, or maybe doing something weird. See Item #2.

2. Don’t be afraid to look weird. I know, we’re all writers so we’re used to weird, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we make a habit of flaunting our strangeness. But these days, you might have to risk it. Some of the best writing I’ve had in the last few months was the day I took my laptop and parked behind a grocery store to write. I’m not making this up. There was shade, it was daylight, I was in a safe place, and I was alone. Away from the internet and away from distractions. Ironically, this location put me between my Starbucks and my library, so maybe the good writerly vibes were floating around? Who knows? The bottom line is it worked, and I really didn’t care if I looked weird.

3. Lower your expectations.  Please note I didn’t say lower your quality of work. We should always seek to be effective communicators and to do our best. But guess what? I’m not expecting to hit my word count goals every day. I’m not expecting that things will go perfectly every time I sit down to write. That’s okay. 

4. Consider revisiting a method that you’ve previously tried and discarded. I’m not a morning person and I’m not a fan of trying to write early, but I’ve decided to give it another try. It hasn’t worked well for me in the past, but things aren’t the way they have ever been before. Maybe this time it will work. If it doesn’t, see Number 5. 

5. If at first you don’t succeed . . . I know you know the rest. It may take several tries to find something that will work. As an example, my kids are old enough to help out, so I asked them to give me some time to write last Friday and honestly, it was a disaster. But this afternoon, I told them I needed to focus and that when I was done (at a specified time) we would go get ice cream and come home and play a favorite game. Y’all. It’s working great. They are being so quiet, and I am getting tons of work done. :) I’m not above bribery, folks. You do what you gotta do! :) 

Now, it’s your turn. If you’re still churning out words, or working on revisions, I’d love to know what’s working for you. How has your routine changed, and have you found new ways of getting work done? Share it with us in the comments so we can all learn from each other!

Grace and peace,


Lynn H. Blackburn loves writing suspense because her childhood fantasy was to become a spy, but her grown-up reality is that she's a huge chicken and would have been caught on her first mission. She prefers to live vicariously through her characters and loves putting them into all kinds of terrifying situations while she's sitting at home safe and sound in her pajamas! 

Her Dive Team Investigations series kicked off in 2018 with Beneath the Surface and In Too Deep (A SIBA Okra pick and Selah Award Finalist). The 3rd book in the series, One Final Breath, released September 2019 and is a 2020 Selah Award and a 2020 Faith Hope, and Love Reader’s Choice Award finalist. She is also the author of Hidden Legacy and Covert Justice, which won the 2016 Carol Award for Short Novel and the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery and Suspense. Lynn lives in South Carolina with her true love and their three children. You can follow her real life happily ever after at and @LynnHBlackburn on BookbubFacebookTwitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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