Meeting Deadlines


As writers, deadlines are a part of life, whether you churn out copy daily for a blog or newspaper column, or you are working on your next best seller.

In addition to other writing work, I cover trends in technology for Via Satellite, a monthly satellite industry publication published by Access Intelligence Satellite Group. Today, after quote checking some details with a source, I made my submission deadline for an in-depth feature I’d been researching for weeks on the small satellite market.

Everyone knows the relief and sense of satisfaction of beating the time crunch – especially if the editorial project poses challenges – as this assignment did — in terms of topic complexity, hard-to-reach sources and other unexpected delays.  As they say, life often gets in the way of the best laid plans.

Via Satellite Managing Editor Debbie Richards juggles two monthly print magazines (with weekly and daily editions). She told me that writers meeting deadlines are critical to the many publication production schedules she manages. Richards, an editor for the last five years, encourages writers to always keep the lines of communication open.

“Keep your editor advised – if you tell me a week ahead of time I’m having trouble getting this interview then I know you will be a day or two late and I can budget for that. But if you don’t call me at all, then I’m going to hunt you down. It’s much easier if I know ahead of time something is going wrong than having it sprung on me at the last minute,” she says.

In his Nov. 10, 2010 post, “Deadlines keep the paper alive,” writing coach Don Fry estimated that 5 percent of the papers he deals with don’t have deadlines, and all of those come out late. He writes that absent or unmet deadlines further undermine the copy desk, which is under heavy strain with shrinking newsroom staffs.

“A lack of deadlines, or a culture of not meeting them, leads to ‘shoveling’ copy, the norm in most newsrooms after about 9 p.m.” In contrast, properly met deadlines keep the gears meshing. He advises newspaper editors have deadlines, and “that everybody agrees on what they mean, and everybody meets them, including you.”

So, what can you do to meet your deadlines? Start by trying these four steps:

1. Set your own internal deadlines and give yourself cushion to meet your client’s external deadlines.

2. Communicate regularly with your editor or corporate client – let them know if you need more time and why. Two-way dialogue can go a long way.

3. Think twice before taking on a project with unreasonable turnaround times. It will hurt you in the long run from a stress perspective. Also, the final product won’t reflect your best work.

4. Read freelance writer and blogger Leo Babauta’s post, “14 Essential Steps for Meeting a Deadline.”