Writing with a Deadline

A little shout out to all of the Fiction bloggers that I follow: You all really, really, REALLY know what you’re talking about when it comes to the craft of writing. I’ve read so many great writing tips, strategies and ideas in the past few months that I wonder how I managed to even get words on paper back in the day (you know, last Spring) before I entered the blogosphere.

When I got my book deal last February, I was, well, let’s just call it naive when it came to writing a book. I had spent five years working as a writer and editor for Nickelodoen (I recently moved on to work for WeAreTeachers, a career move that I’m really excited about), so I had lots of web writing experience. But, web writing and book writing are very different animals. I had absolutely no clue how to actually write a book.

Of course, I had to figure it out really quickly. I told you a few weeks ago that I had a little over two months between the day I got my book deal and the day I had to turn in a draft of my manuscript to my publisher. That wasn’t a lot of time. I didn’t have time to order writing books on Amazon or even search through the aforementioned writing blogs that have been so helpful to me lately. I didn’t have time to spend a few weeks getting my thoughts together or brainstorm or ask a critique group for suggestions. I had to write.

My best tips for writing when you have a deadline:

1. Force yourself to write. Even if your dog chewed up your favorite shoes and your kid is throwing major temper tantrums and your husband is stressed at work– you need to put everything out of your mind for a certain amount of time each day and just write. For me, my goal was to write ten pages every day. Those pages didn’t have to be edited or perfect or funny or anything…just written. I made a rule that I couldn’t go to bed until I had ten pages on paper. I admit it, there were days that I was up until 1 am getting those ten pages on paper. There were mornings I woke up and tossed all ten pages in the trash because they were worthless. But, I wrote ten pages every day.

2. Get out of the house. I canNOT write at home. Okay, I can, but I find myself writing for fifteen minutes, then getting up to fold a load of laundry. Then writing for ten more, then making myself a cup of coffee. Then writing some more, then running upstairs “just to check on something.” And that’s when the kids aren’t home. When my kids are home, there is absolutely no way I can manage to get a thought on paper. So, if you have a deadline, get away from the house. I spend many Saturday mornings camped out at the coffee shop down the road. I let my husband (thanks Cam!) take care of the Saturday morning waffles and spend two or three hours writing. It’s wonderful. And, perhaps the ultimate writer’s indulgence: When I was getting down the the wire on my book, my husband booked me a room for an entire weekend at the local Holiday Inn. I hung out in my sweats for two days– just me and my computer and the weak motel coffee– and wrote and wrote and wrote.

3. Give yourself a sugar high. I try to eat pretty healthy most of the time (okay, aside from the occasional Dove chocolate and an all-too-powerful addiction to caffeine)– but when I’m writing under a deadline, I allow myself some treats. Why? Because I’m so much wittier on paper when I have a sugar high. I swear. Any drink that involves a combination of coffee and sugar is a guaranteed tonic for writer’s block or (worse!) boring writing.

4. Exercise. Let me get one thing straight right away: I am not a sporty girl. I rarely (if ever) exercise– unless my friend Hildi drags me to the gym and entices me with dinner out afterwards. However, when I’m writing and at a loss for ideas, sometimes the best anecdote is a brisk walk. For some reason, once I get outside and get moving, the ideas start flowing and I get back home and can start writing. (Note: If you tend to forget the ideas before you get home, bring a tape recorder.)

Question for you: What are your best writing with a deadline tips?


  1. I love these ideas. I noticed too that a caffeine boost helps my writing stamina and speed. What a great guy your husband is to get you a hotel room. That is the ultimate!

  2. Excellent tips. For me, I can't leave my house. My kids need me and my husband is at work. But I can put on a movie for them, and then I put on my headphones and crank Pandora. It's *almost* like leaving. Almost. And I get a lot done that way.

    Congrats on your book deal!

  3. Not sure about deadline tips, but I agree with you that the blogosphere has a ton of helpful writing advice!

  4. I write in the wee hours of the morning when everyone else except me and the Pomeranian have the good sense to be sleeping. I drink my coffee and write in the dark.

    I need a prolonged stretch of silence and non-distractions to write. I can write anyhwere, anytime, so long as it is ~quiet~.

    The television is my arch enemy. Next to that is anyone who interrupts me… šŸ˜‰

    I've done the hotel-weekend getaway thing, too. I haven't done it for a while, but it was a powerful vacation, and I wrote quite a few short stories (very short, as in < 500wds as I was experimenting with metaphorical prose a.k.a. fables).

    – Eric

  5. I have a hard time writing at home too. That darn laundry always seems like a quick thing, but it turns into five other things. :) Love the new look of your site, by the way!

  6. That's some good advice!
    I would be very happy if I could just write with no interruptions.
    The walk works too, when I can force myself to do it. :)

  7. Hi Erin,

    I agree–a walk always increases my creativity levels. So does interacting with people. Basically, anything non-writing helps. LOL

    I do best when I have some form of deadline, otherwise I just can't seem to force myself to do much. Vague just doesn't cut it with me!

  8. How exciting – I made the blog!!!

  9. These are great tips. Now get busy! :)

  10. Thanks for these great ideas. I find a dedicated day writing at the library helps a lot.

  11. Great post! I totally agree on the sugar/caffeine making you (me) funnier. I dream of writing away from home but it rarely happens. I do my best writing on my bed.

    And I love Hildi's comment. Cute. :)

  12. Nice! I was wondering how you did it that quick.

    For me not stopping once I'm on a roll is really helpful. Okay, I'm a SAHW, and we don't have kids yet and my husband is UBER-supportive (I know how blessed I am!) but starting is really the hardest part – there are days when I didn't stop I've gotten in 5-digit word counts. Those are fun days.

  13. Great tips. I can't get out the house either. (Kids) But I am quite good at writing through the chaos. I can completely zone out. Not always good if I am the one who should be watching them! But great if my husband is home :)

    I think I actually write better when there is something else going on in the house. Werid, cause I usually like quiet.

    I agree about the exercise though. I box and run (so I guess I do get out a bit :) And I am always refreshed and ready to work when I get back.

  14. Did my comment disappear?

    Then here it is again:

    Setting specific goals is a good plan. I no longer have any kids living at home and have my own home office space, so writing at home works well for me unless I start looking for distractions.

    Tossing It Out

  15. Girl, I'm write there with ya. Mine's 11/15.
    Lord willing, I'll continue on all those habits!!

    Praise God, they're working!
    Oh, did I mention the OTHER deadline? Um, next week?


  16. Love this! I think we all have to figure out what works and what doesn't. I'm tough on myself and force a word count each day. It isn't the same word count each day, but it's based on my schedule. If I have an appointment or am helping out at school, I will lower the word count, but I'll raise it the next day when I have no commitments.

    I can relate to everything on this list!

  17. I'm afraid I haven't reached the point yet where I have to worry about a deadline. I should enjoy it while it lasts. :)
    Thanks for visiting my blog. See you around!

  18. Good tips, thanks. I have found warm cinnamon and honey is good for my focus and stamina. A Cypriot friend told me about it. That, coffee and a chocolate keeps the ink flowing. :)

  19. LOL I have just seen a typo that makes me a story teller 200%…a chocolate.

    Try a chocolate bar, a box of chocolates or a ton of chocolate. I do not think I have EVER eaten a chocolate. *giggle*

  20. These are perfect. I'm with Elana. I can't leave my house re: the child/hubs, but my biggest motivator is a punishment if I don't do it. Like I have to excercise if I don't do it.

  21. Thank you for your kind comment on my blog!

  22. I can't believe you holed up in a hotel room!!:) Too funny but glad it worked for you. I see you are determined!

  23. Very good suggestions. I follow a 5-minute rule – force myself to write for at least 5 minutes. Of course, it usually turns into more.