How to Conquer the Looming Deadline by J.B. Miller

How To Conquer The Looming Deadline

By J.B. Miller

Writing is the most amazing, fulfilling and frustrating process in the world, especially when you have a looming deadline. How do we deal with the ticking DUE DATE when it seems to scream at us from every click of the keyboard or twirl of the pen? It really doesn’t matter whether you are getting paid in advance for your writing, are under contract or simply want to see your project through to completion. If you are going to be successful, you cannot ignore the deadline.

Do your palms get sweaty each time you look at the calendar? Are you losing sleep because you swear that you have writer’s block and won’t ever finish? I am going to share with you the three things you must do in order to rid yourself once and for all of the pressure associated with the impending deadline.

When I told my cousin, a NYT Best Selling Author, that I was going to write my first novel, I asked him for his advice. After all, he had already written at least 10 best sellers, so I figured that he knew a thing or two.

“Write with your heart and then with your head,” he told me. That was it. That was the summation of his guidance. I thought about his words for several months as I researched my topic, jotted down my characters and their personality traits and started my outline. I still wasn’t sure what his instruction summed up to, yet I decided that I would finish my book in a year and then find a publisher. My deadline was self-imposed, but it was a deadline nevertheless.

Unfortunately, I did not finish my book that initial year. I abandoned my deadline. I justified my decision by telling myself that, after all, I wasn’t getting paid, and so how important was my deadline anyway? My intentions were noble and I did write several chapters, but then I got distracted with the daily demands of life and put my manuscript down - for a whole year! My goal should have been that I would NOT finish my novel in a year. Maybe a little reverse psychology would have helped.

As my novel sat on a dusty shelf in my office, I became quite successful in my career and continued to raise my family. Yet it was the nagging thought of not finishing my story under my self-imposed deadline that continued to disrupt my evening rest. My cousin’s persistent words continued to call out in my head, but what I later realized was that I wasn’t listening to them with my heart.

One foggy, wet autumn morning, I put a fire in the fireplace and summoned up the draft of my manuscript on my laptop. I turned off all timepieces within eyesight, set the timer on my kitchen oven to two hours hence, and began to write. I wrote with total abandon. I laughed and cried and wrote some more. When the two hours were up, I was annoyed. I was really getting into it. Yet I put my book away for the next day and spent some more time researching my story line. I did this every day for two hours, which became three, four and finally five hours a day, until I finished my novel. I had written with my heart and I was happy.

I then started the write with my head process, convincing myself that I was an editor from the largest publisher in the world, and that I had to be ruthless. That part was easy, as like most writers, I tend to be my own worst critic.

I was so excited that I had met my daily deadline, that when I completed the process, it did not take me long to find a publisher. I wrote my query letter with my heart and my head and was able to convince a small press publisher to take me on as a new author. I finally understood my cousin’s advice and remain grateful.


1.     Set a daily deadline. Commit to a specific amount of manageable, uninterrupted time each day to write. Write in a place that makes you happy and where you will not be distracted.
2.     Write with your heart.  Write non-stop. Do not worry about grammar, spell check or flow. Just write until the timer goes off somewhere in the distance.
3.     Once you have finished your draft, go back and act as your own editor. Be brutal. Cut anything out that is not advancing your story foreword. Do not get attached to your words. Be harsh.
4.     Bonus Tip: Believe in yourself. See yourself with your finished manuscript. Relish in your impending success!

You will discover that once you start a daily routine, you will actually be annoyed when the timer turns off. Soon deadlines will be a thing of the past. In fact, you will find yourself finishing ahead of schedule!


J.B. Miller is the Author of No Time For Love, a novel.

Twitter: @jbmiller2

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