Made My Deadline: Here's How

I mostly use this blog to talk about aspects of Julia Wilbur's life and times. However, many people have asked me about meeting the deadline for my book (forthcoming from Potomac Books, an imprint of University of Nebraska Press.)

The deadline for my book came and went on July 1. I turned in the manuscript on June 27.

For many months, especially this past winter, I fretted about the deadline constantly. I literally lost sleep as I juggled in my head how I would get a particular chapter completed.

There will be revisions to come (with their own sets of deadlines), but here's what worked for me this past year.

I signed a contract. As I told several colleagues, nothing is more clarifying than a firm deadline on a legally binding document. I had to finish it, thus I would. (I realize some authors extend their deadlines for months, if not years, but I suspect they are not first-time authors who want to make a good impression with their publisher.)

I worked backwards. I figured I needed a month to put all the pieces together, so I wanted to have a full draft by June 1. In late summer 2015, I put together a schedule of what I wanted to accomplish at different stages: by the end of 2015 and then each month in the first half of 2016.

I ignored negative stuff. If someone talked to me about missing a deadline, not meeting a goal, etc., I tuned them out.

I said no. I squelched my usual guilt when I turned down semi-related volunteer requests, professional events, and the like. A wise person told me that while each demand in itself might not take much time, the cumulative effect could be deadly.

I allowed lots of time for reviewers to get good feedback. Even as I pushed myself, I realized I could not do that with my reviewers, who read all or part of my manuscript out of the goodness of their hearts. I had to build in the time. As much as I could, I sent them pieces as polished as I could and gave them 4 to 6 weeks to get back to me. While I waited, I worked on the next piece.

I stopped. I learned new things about my subject and her era that I wanted to include in the manuscript up until the end. I still do. I always will. One author told me he learns great bits of information while out on book talks, bits he wished he had in his book. Another great quote--"My book is publishable, but it is not done." It's probably never done.

So, gentle readers, I pushed "send" and off it went.

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