In this ninth episode of the Gracewriters Podcast, Belinda Pollard, Alison Young and Donita Bundy discuss how to meet publishing deadlines, including self-publishing deadlines. What are the practicalities, the psychology, and the spirituality of getting our writing finished on time?
Scroll down for audio, video, and a full transcript, or find the podcast on Apple Podcasts here: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/gracewriters-podcast/id1519376330
In conversation in this episode:
- Belinda Pollard, author of mainstream crime novels, accredited editor, and Gracewriters founder
- Alison Joy, author of sweet romance
- Donita Bundy, author of young adult urban fantasy
Topics covered in this episode:
- The practicalities of organising a publishing project
- The psychology of meeting deadlines, including self-imposed deadlines
- The spiritual aspects and how we can honour God.
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Belinda Pollard: Welcome to the Gracewriters podcast – Christian writers changing popular culture. Connect with us at Gracewriters.com.
Welcome to episode 9, meeting publishing deadlines. I’m Belinda Pollard. I’m an author, editor, blogger and speaker, and I’ve been helping people write and publish books for over 20 years. You can find more about me at belindapollard.com. And Alison Joy, today, has an interesting garment on that she’s going to model for us. If you’d like to just bob up a bit Alison and show us.
Alison Joy: Look, isn’t it cool!
Belinda Pollard: It’s a tee-shirt.
Alison Joy: A dear friend of mine, a Christian friend of mine, has been doing custom tee-shirts and I thought, “Woohoo, I think I’ll get one!” It says Gracewriter.
Belinda Pollard: And it’s beautiful. It’s excellent. Thank you, Alison, and please introduce yourself.
Alison Joy: Hi, I’m Alison Joy, and I write sweet romance, I live in Brisbane in Queensland and you can find me on alisonjoywriter.com.
Donita Bundy: Hi, I’m Donita Bundy. I’m a writer, a blogger and creative writing teacher, and you can find out about me at donitabundy.com.
Belinda Pollard: Thank you, Alison and Donita. Our topic today: meeting publishing deadlines. Even self-publishing deadlines, even deadlines that you set for yourself. We’re going to talk about the practicalities, the psychology of it and the spiritual aspects of meeting deadlines.
In terms of the practicalities, I’m a publishing consultant among other things, so I’ve been using deadlines and project management for many years and basically a publishing deadline is like any project deadline. And one of the main ways to work out your publishing deadlines is, if you have an end date, so for instance, your publisher has given you a deadline by which you must submit your manuscript, then you can take that deadline and work back from there, to work out how many phases are involved in getting to that point, what the components of the process are, what order those components need to go in, and how long each component should take. And that can help you to figure out how far you’ve got to go until you get to that publishing deadline.
When we’re doing self-publishing, often we do it in reverse. So, we’re not picking a date out of the air and then working back from that, we’re starting from where we are and working out how long it will take us to do all the various phases.
And this is the same with various other types of writing that we do. Gracewriters, as we know, are not just authors, they’re copywriters, songwriters, bloggers, speakers. There’s a whole group of people who use the written word to shed gracenotes from God into popular culture. So, that’s what we’re doing as Gracewriters.
So, deadlines, some are going to be short and tight, some are going to be longer, some are going to be waffly. Some are going to get lost, some are going to slide, that is the nature of deadlines, sometimes they slide. Particularly publishing deadlines, isn’t it just one of those absolute tropes in movies and various other forms, where we see the writer, who has missed their deadline again and is hiding from their publisher, because they have not submitted their manuscript on time.
Has this type of thing affected either of you before?
Alison Joy: I’m just thinking, you’re right. I have read so many books where the writer is supposed to have met a deadline and he hasn’t, and he or she is hiding from their publisher and they’re waiting for the muse, the inspiration to strike. And I’m thinking, this is all well and good in a work of fiction, but how accurate is this in real life? Really, unless you’re a top selling author, what are the chances that your publishing house are going to be gracious with you if you miss your deadline?
Belinda Pollard: And did you do some research on this, Alison?
Alison Joy: I had a look to see what various publishing houses, or agents, had said, and they said, well, unless you are worth a lot of money to the publishing house, it’s not going to go down too well, and you could even put your deal at risk. The publishing house might end up cancelling because they just think it’s not worth it because you can’t keep your word. And if they’ve given you an advance they might want it back, and if you’ve already spent it, whoops, that’s going to be a problem. If it comes down to a couple of books – and let’s face it, getting published, there’s a lot of competition out there – and if it comes down to, maybe between a couple of books that are similar and you’re tardy with your deadlines, well, they might just decide to go with the person who is turning their work in on time.
You’ve got to be reliable with your work and it reflects badly on the agent as well. The lead time can be quite long for a publishing house, so if you don’t meet your deadlines then you throw everything else out at their end. They’ve got people waiting on you to turn your book in, so they can do their jobs, and if you don’t turn it in, then they can’t do their jobs and it has a knock-on effect. If it’s something that, maybe they’ve spent money on promoting, and then they can’t produce the book in the time, that’s not going to go down very well. Okay, stuff’s going to happen, circumstances can change, and things can crop up, but if you’re going to do what they do in the books and hide from your editor or your publisher then that’s not going to go down too well.
I think you’ve got to be open with the communication, if something happens then you’ve got to be honest and say, “Hey, look.” And I think they’ll be more open to helping you if you’re honest in communicating with them and keeping them up to date with what’s going on, rather than doing what they do in the books and just ignoring and hiding. I think, one of the things, if you’re signing a deal and you’ve got an end date, I think you should actually have a look at it and go, “Okay, realistically am I going to do this?” and maybe you shouldn’t, (a) sign the contract or (b) negotiate for different deadline.
Belinda Pollard: That’s very hard to do, isn’t it? Particularly if you’re a new writer and you’re so excited about having a contract.
Alison Joy: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: Sometimes we say yes to things that we may not have done in different circumstances, and then we find that life gets in the way and it gets extremely exciting, to say the least. I used to work for a small publishing house, specialist publishing house in Sydney, and we only had a small list of about 12 books a year in the area of the publishing house that I worked in. So, you can see how 12 books a year, 12 months of the year – if you mess up the schedule you’re going to throw out the other books. But some of the Big 5 publishers, they’ve got just so many books coming through, you don’t want to miss your slot. You don’t want to be pushed to the back of the queue.
So, there can be a lot of stress, can’t there, in the whole deadline issue. What’s your experience with deadlines, Donita? You’re a self-published author, what’s your experience in working towards your deadlines.
Donita Bundy: Well, my first book, Belinda, was just a miracle it actually happened. And like most people writing their first book, I just stumbled along until eventually it was ready and then I released it into the wild. So, my deadline was just a hope. I just thought one day I would get there, and I did. But the other deadlines that I have in my life, are around my blog and my teaching, the classes that I teach with lesson planning and marking and writing for those kids. And the books that we publish at the end of the year, all the work I collate work from the students’ year, and we produce a book at the end.
So, some of my deadlines are self-imposed, as you said, and they are more fluid, and I can have more flexibility with those. But the deadlines that I’m working with for others, like the school, there is no flexibility, especially with the end of the year book. We need to get that book out to those kids and those families before school finishes. And in regards to the other things – with lessons, in an emergency of course there’s always flexibility, but normally that is a priority. I find that my week works around those deadlines, those things come first. When I’m preaching or talking in church, that’s a deadline that has to be met. So, I find that those things take priority and the other things get pushed to the back because they’re flexible.
Like we said last time in the podcast, stepping out and making full-time writing your life, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get more time to write. As writers, we need to diversify. I don’t know many people, or of many people, who can start out and be a full-time writer just writing books. So, my experience has been I’ve been able to take up teaching writing, I’ve taken up, as we’ve been advised, you need to have website and a blog and all the other things that I’ve taken on, so I can be a writer at home. I end up spending most of my time doing all the other things that I need to do to be a writer apart from writing. So, that’s part of the balance of meeting these deadlines that are immediate, and they are for other people, but also being flexible with my own deadlines that are self-imposed. I can tend to push my writing, my book deadline, further away, because I’m trying to do everything that I need to do to be a writer. But it’s part of the life that we live as writers, I think.
Belinda Pollard: We do need to allow for the interruptions and chaos of daily life, when we’re sorting out our deadlines. And we do, I think sometimes, need to be kind to ourselves regarding the deadlines that are hard and fast and must be met, and those that we can slide when we need to. I have found, for myself, during this pandemic time, I have a work in progress that was due at the editor a couple of weeks ago. It’s a novel that I’m self-publishing and with the problems in life over the pandemic I have found that I needed to pull back from forcing myself into that deadline.
But as I’ve mentioned before in the podcast, my fiction is something that I write for fun and it is not any major part of my income, I don’t have any responsibility towards a publisher or any other thing. So, I decided, I made a decision, that I would pull back from it, just at the moment, and allow it to continue to breathe and to be my enjoyment time, because I’m working on a major rewrite. And I’ve been in touch with my editor, I have missed my timeslot and that is just the way that it goes, and so we will sort it out.
But there are other things that must be done on time. I used to be a radio journalist and then I was a television journalist, and I can tell you that if you have a story for the 7am news ready at 7.03, nobody’s interested. It’s too late! It has to be ready.
So, there is a psychology, isn’t there, to deadlines. Some of us are built for deadlines and some of us run screaming from them. We have different minds, different personalities, different ways of working towards these. Some of us are highly motivated by deadlines, some of us are paralysed by them. For me, I can be both. I am highly motivated for deadlines when it is non-fiction, let’s get it done, let’s get it out there. With my fiction that I write for fun, where I just want to relax into it, I find deadlines almost seem to shut me down.
What’s your experience? Are deadlines your kryptonite or are they your caffeine?
Alison Joy: Writing deadlines, I’m still new at all this, so I’m still figuring it all out. And I’m self-published so my deadlines are movable, somewhat. And I think I’ve realised that, why put myself through all this angst to meet a deadline that I’m the only one basically that knows about it. What difference is it going to make if I change or move the goal posts a little? Obviously, once I’m further down the track and then I’ve got to submit to my editor and that sort of thing, that’s different, but when it’s just an arbitrary thing at the moment, why beat myself up about it because I haven’t achieved it when I thought I should have achieved it.
Belinda Pollard: Yes. Donita, is a deadline kryptonite or caffeine for you?
Donita Bundy: I’m at the other end of the spectrum from you, Alison. I’m very task orientated and it’s a failing, it’s not something I’m proud of, but give me a task and I will just go until that task is done. You said earlier about the pandemic and how it changed things in your life, Belinda, when I started out this year, I was just teaching writing and I was writing my books, and I also, occasionally, had my slot at sharing and preaching at church. And then as the pandemic came, I took on more tasks, so I just kept slotting things aside and making room, and more tasks and more tasks and more deadlines, until I got to the point where I was turning myself inside out to meet all of these deadlines that mostly were self-imposed.
And then I had to realise I needed to let go, and that was a painful, painful process. Keeping loyal to those deadlines that involved other people and being more relaxed and lenient and gracious with myself and accepting I could not do everything. I had to release some of those deadlines for things like my blog and my book, and things like that. But, I get a deadline and I march, and I just keep marching, but I’ll just pick things up as well and just keep carrying the load. Not wise at all. I need to be more like you, Alison, I think.
Alison Joy: It’s the other way. I think I probably need to be more like you, it’s got to be, find a balance in there somewhere.
Belinda Pollard: We all need to be more like each other! I’ve been the deadline queen forever, kind of, and the deadline, the approaching deadline, which was kind of like the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train. That would be what would be my trigger to actually get started, and I was often running-screaming into that final deadline. I used to write Bible devotionals for Scripture Union, which is in the UK, I am in Australia, so close of business in the UK was 3am here. I cannot tell you how many times I submitted at 2.59am, my latest piece for the Scripture Union publications.
So, I find that as I get older, I find that less enjoyable, and I’m finding that I want – I think maybe my adrenal glands are just exhausted – and I want to have a bit of a quieter life now as I’m heading into, sort of, middle age, and I want a little bit more calmness in my life. But I find that a deadline still does help to focus my mind.
So, I still find that even if we are self-publishing or even if we’re in the earlier stages of writing our work, where we don’t even know if we’re going to get a publisher or whether we’re going to be self-published, or whether it’s going to sit in a bottom drawer forever – if we do set some kind of deadline it can help to focus the mind.
A deadline helps to make a thing real, so that we know that this is a product that we do eventually want. We want the work product of what we are writing, whatever the piece is that we’re writing.
So, I think they can be useful things. I certainly found contest deadlines were helpful for me when I was working on my first novel. Having been the deadline queen in the past, having a contest deadline helped me to get past all of the questions I asked myself, “Is this a worthy thing to do? Should I be going to prayer meetings instead of writing my novel about people who go out in the wilderness and start killing one another?” Do you know what I mean? I was often weighing these up.
Having a contest deadline was like, “Well, I’ve got to have 30,000 words written for this developmental contest, so I have to get it done by such and such a date.” And it helped me to get past all of those questions, it helped me to work towards a goal. So, it worked for me and I actually entered multiple times when I was working on that particular manuscript, and it helped me to keep moving.
But I think we need to, if we’re using self-established deadlines, we need to make sure they’re not crazy deadlines and we need to think about what the purpose of the deadline is.
What about the spiritual aspects of meeting deadlines? For example, if we have a publisher relying on us, if we have signed a contract of some description, what is the spiritual implications? Donita, have you got any thoughts about that?
Donita Bundy: Yes, I think it comes back to our witness. It doesn’t matter what we do, we can just step out of being a writer for a moment, and whether we’re a mum, a sister, a father, a worker, whether we work in a café or we’re electrical engineers, whatever we do, we are witnessing about God and we are followers of Christ. So, we want to do the best we can in all that we do.
So, when we step back into our writing shoes, when we are writing for somebody else, or meeting a deadline, we want to meet that deadline because we are respecting the people that we’re working with. They have asked something of us, or they have offered us an opportunity to publish with them or write something for them. As a sign of respect, we want to show up on time with the work complete to the best of our ability.
So, I think it’s part of our testimony of who we follow and whose name we bear, that if we’ve said we’re going to do something to the best of our ability, we do that. And like Alison said earlier, sometimes life happens and we all know that, we all have that human experience. So, again as Alison said, open communication, do the best you can but when those situations happen, be honest and just say, “This has happened. I do want to do the work, or I’ve done this much, I’m this far along but this has happened.” So, that open, honest, genuine, humble communication, but behind that is a bunch of work that you’ve done to the best of your ability to honour that deadline.
But on the flipside of that, as we’ve been talking about, those self-imposed deadlines which are healthy to have. Back to where I was talking before, I had so many things going on that I was literally going crazy and pushing away family and friends because of all of these self-imposed deadlines. And yet, what kind of witness was that to my family and friends saying, “Hey she is doing this writing and she’s writing Christian this and Christian that, but her life witness is a mess.” And I was grumpy, and I was, “Don’t, no, I can’t come and meet with you. I can’t come and socialise, I can’t do any of these things.” And telling my kids, “No, I can’t read to you right now, I’ve got these deadlines.”
So, it’s a matter of balance so, I’m still living in the world, I still need to pray about balance and priorities and if I can step back and look at the big picture, is this what God really wants, for me to turn into a crazy woman who’s pushing everyone away to produce semi-quality work because I can’t do the best at everything?
So, I think, it’s about always coming back to God. Is this a good thing to do or is this a God thing to do? How do I go about this? What are my priorities? So, I think it’s about honouring God with what you do, but remembering relationships are key. Our relationship with God and our relationship with other people can’t be pushed aside, because it’s part of our witness to who we follow and whose name we bear.
Belinda Pollard: And I think, too, the way that we treat ourselves, as well. Just thinking about that issue of me submitting Bible devotionals at 2.59am in the small dark hours of the morning, one of the things that I encounter a lot among writers is the idea, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead. I’ll write now, and I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” And I’m thinking, “Well, you might get to do that sooner than you anticipated, if you keep along with that program.”
Because we do actually need sleep, we’re designed to sleep, there is Psalm 127, “In vain do you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil, for he gives to his beloved, sleep.” Sleep is a beautiful gift from God, so we do need to be looking after our sleep and our relationships and our health. If you’d like to know any more about sleep, just google the psychological and physical impacts of lack of sleep, to find out what we might be doing to ourselves over time, if we persistently substitute writing and meeting deadlines, for sleep. There are no simple answers to this stuff, but I think we do need to be kind to ourselves and to each other.
Do you have other thoughts or questions, Alison?
Alison Joy: I think, going back to your traditional publishing, I think that if you are Christian, you should let your yes be yes and your no be no, from Matthew 5:37, I think it is. They are going to be watching you and they’re going to be looking for an excuse to be down on you because you’re a Christian. And if your word can’t be trusted, then they probably think you can’t be trusted in other areas, as well.
Belinda Pollard: I think it’s an opportunity too, for us to pray about these things. To pray about our deadlines and about our ability to meet them.
Alison Joy: Definitely.
Belinda Pollard: Donita, any final thoughts?
Donita Bundy: I just think it’s healthy to make time to step back and look at the big picture.
Alison Joy: Yes.
Donita Bundy: There will be times in life where we need to be busy, and we do need to put other things aside to get that deadline met, but that shouldn’t be the regular, every week, practice. It’s a season, but again coming to prayer, seeking balance, seeking God’s wisdom. Allowing those times to come and go and be gracious with ourselves as we seek to be gracious with those around us as we follow Christ.
Belinda Pollard: How about I quickly pray for the Gracewriters.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the Gracewriters out there who are listening to this podcast and we thank for us three, as well, and the things we have learnt of you during our time as writers, as Gracewriters. We pray, Lord, that you might give us all wisdom and peace as we plan our writing schedules, as we work towards our deadlines, as we seek to honour you and to show integrity in the way that we do these things. And please forgive us and encourage us when we fail. We commit it all to you Lord, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Thank you, Donita Bundy and Alison Joy. I’m Belinda Pollard and we will see you next time on the next Gracewriters podcast.
Thank you for joining us today at the Gracewriters podcast – Christian writers changing popular culture. Subscribe to the blog to receive an invitation to our monthly catch-up on Zoom and to our free private online forum where members discuss topics that effect Christian writers. Connect with us at gracewriters.com. We’d love to see you there.