Thursday, April 7, 2022

Managing Writing Deadlines: How to Get Them Right and How to Get Them Wrong!

by Lynn H. Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

Deadlines are a painful reality for authors. If you do an internet search for how to handle a writing deadline, you’ll find lots of fabulous advice. While the specifics vary, they will inevitably include some common suggestions

How to Manage Writing Deadlines

1. Don’t panic. Stay positive. 

2. Stay focused. No social media. No Netflix. No reading. Keep your mind on the story you’re writing. 

3. Leave the laundry for later. Or get someone else to do it. Same with housework. Those dust bunnies aren’t hurting anybody. Feed your family takeout and pizza. They can have healthy meals next month.

4. Take plenty of breaks and be sure you’re getting enough sleep. You can’t create if you’re exhausted. 

5. Say no to everything you can possibly say no to. You don’t have time for anything extra in your life.

6. Set word count goals and stick to them. 

7. BICHOK - Butt in Chair; Hands on Keyboard. This your life until you’re done.

8. Go for a walk or take a shower when you get stuck. You may get some of your best ideas this way.

9. Make time to do other things that will fuel your creativity. Spend time with family and friends, bake a cake, knit, plant a garden, photograph some birds. You have a life other than writing. You’ll be a better writer if you don’t forget that.

10. Drink plenty of water. Hydrated writers are happy writers. 

Now, friends, there’s nothing wrong with any of that advice. It’s solid. 

But as someone who survived not one but three deadlines in March, I’m afraid that’s just not how it works. At least not for me. So today, I give you some of the ways I handle a deadline.

*** Please note that this list is descriptive not prescriptive. I’m not recommending any of this. In fact, I would say don’t do it. Just. Don’t.***

Lynn’s approach to deadlines:

1. Panic. Just go ahead and freak out. Cry. Pray. Moan. Rock back and forth in your chair as you stare at the blank pages of your manuscript. Trying to avoid this step is futile. 

2. Scroll through FB and Instagram every 10-15 minutes. When you finish, google ways to handle writing deadlines. Who knows? This article might show up. If that’s what brought you here, um, yeah, I’m sorry about that. 

3. Sleep is for people who’ve turned in their books on time. Until then, get by on the bare minimum to keep you functional. When you do sleep, don’t be surprised when you have alarmingly detailed dreams. Your subconscious is doing the best it can. You’ve stressed your brain to the max. When you finally sleep, it’s processing everything from the meaning of peach roses to the use of strychnine as a modern poison option. Accept the bizarre and move on.

4. Don’t bother cleaning your office/writing space. If you get to the end of your manuscript with a clean desk, you did it wrong. But do give in to the compulsion to clean everything else in your house. This includes closets and drawers that haven’t been touched since your last deadline. And go ahead and do all the laundry. You know you want to.

5. Allow mom/friend guilt to convince you that you do have time to bake a bazillion cookies or throw a party. You can write when you’re done…right?

6. Set word counts goals which would require you to write eight hours a day. Be shocked when you aren’t successful. Adjust goals daily. Never meet them.

7. Sit down to write, but then spend several hours brainstorming your next book. This could include searching out cool names, professions, hobbies, and the tropes you want to use or avoid. Be sure to leave the notes you make all over your desk so they’ll taunt you every time you sit down to finish the book that is due, but which you no longer want to write. 

8. Pause several times a day to send pitiful text/voxer/direct messages to your writing friends. Pro tip: Do not send these types of messages to non-writers. They won’t get it. They will try to help, but their suggestions will just tick you off because they’re ridiculous or because they imply that perhaps you didn’t use your time wisely in October and that’s why you’re in this mess. Your writer friends will understand and may even send you Starbucks gift cards via text message. At the very least they’ll send encouraging memes.

9. Send a group text to your friends and family telling them that you love them, you miss them, and you’ll see them after you turn in your book. Sigh as you walk past the stack of new releases you want to read. Forget how to knit. Order cake online—you don’t have time to bake one. (But you definitely have time to eat one). 

10. Coffee is life. If tea’s your thing, that’s fine too. I hear there are these unicorn writers who do not consume caffeine of any kind. If that’s you, then I have no idea how to help you power through. You’re on your own. 

Again, I can’t recommend the above methods. But even with this ridiculous approach, I survived. It’s been a week since I turned in my book. My family still loves me, my dreams are still bonkers, my office is still trashed, my body is still sleep deprived, and I’m still panicked because now my editor has my novel. 

But I no longer feel compelled to do laundry. 

Grace and peace,


Lynn H. Blackburn loves writing romantic 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! 

Unknown Threat, the first book in her Defend and Protect series, was a 2021 Christy Award finalist and her previous titles have won the Carol Award, the Selah Award, and the Faith, Hope, and Love Reader’s Choice Award. Malicious Intent, the second book in the series, released March 2022.

She is a frequent conference speaker and has taught writers all over the country. Lynn lives in South Carolina with her true love and their three children. You can follow her real life happily ever after by signing up for her newsletter at and @LynnHBlackburn on Bookbub, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Featured Image: Photo by Fábio Lucas on Unsplash


  1. Exactly!! Notice I'm commenting on your terrific article when I have a piece due at 1:00 p.m. today. And I'm thinking of all my friends I'm gonna share this with.

  2. That makes perfect sense to me! LOL! Good luck!

  3. Love this, as I’m reading this during the time I set aside to work on finishing my talks for an upcoming retreat.

  4. As deadlines loom, I’m so happy to know how much I have in common with successful authors!

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  6. Gotta love your sense of humor. Thanks for letting us know it's okay to be human.