Thomas Jefferson once said: “The sun has not caught me in bed in fifty years.” Okay, so there’s clearly no chance I am related to him in any way. I am often snoozing when the sun rises. But the one time I am hyper aware of the day and time is when I have a looming deadline, whether as a writer or editor. Writers’ deadlines can be challenging. I used to freelance for a company that had deadlines ranging from 90 minutes to seven days. Here’s how to handle them worry-free.
After you calm down from the high of receiving an article assignment, make sure you take note of the deadline. Even if you think you’ll have plenty of time to write your piece, pretend that you don’t. When I have an article due, or when I have an editing project due, I put it on my whiteboard in big, black letters with a due date at least one week earlier than the actual due date. This tricks me into thinking I have more time than I do to write or edit. Nothing pleases editors more than handing in a piece on time, or better yet, early. The same goes for my editing clients. I enjoy surprising them with a fully edited manuscript well before the due date.
Get It Done Early
Magazine editors are thinking about fact-checking, editing. copyediting, proofreading, and production. If anything gets held up during one of these stages, but you’ve handed in your article on time, or early, you will earn tremendous favor with that editor, and that can mean another assignment.
So, do your research early. Set up those interviews early. Write your first draft early. And note the publication’s time zone, in case you are getting it in just in time. If you’re in Los Angeles and the magazine you’re writing for is in New York, and your deadline is midnight, that’s 9 p.m. to you.
Make a Timeline
Many writers find it helpful to make a timeline or outline for their project. This might include ideas, resources, interview subjects, sidebars, photos, and links. Knowing in advance what you’ll need to produce a great article can help you approach your deadline with a sense of calm.
Keep Your Editor Informed
If an emergency prevents you from meeting your deadline, let your editor know as soon as possible. Life happens, they get it. Let them know how much you’ve already written (if any); any research you’ve conducted; sources you’ve gathered (including names, emails, and phone numbers, in case they need to reassign the project); photos you might have collected; and when (or if) you think you will be able to complete the writing assignment. The editor will appreciate your professionalism.
If you prepare well for your writers’ deadline, the writing will be what it should be … fun!