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Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Time Management and the Dreaded Deadline

By Normandie Fischer

Time slithers through my fingers like noodles slide off chopsticks. I try to make both work, but life gets in the way of time and those chopsticks get in the way of a full stomach.

And if time shrinks (or slides on by when we’re not looking), what happens to our dreaded deadlines? What do you do when one looms while you’re tackling life issues?

Of course, the super-organized among us will tut-tut and suggest that we ought to have taken delays into account and been ahead of the game. Once upon a time, I was that person: researching early to finish the paper before its due date or studying early to ace the test. When a task loomed, my motto was “Get up, get it done, and relax later.”

Then I took my perfectionism into the writing life, but I left my organizational skills on the floor of my editing job. It was easy—it is easy—for me to edit, pare, revise, and organize others’ tomes or even my own fully realized story. It is painstakingly difficult for me to plot my way through a first draft in a way that doesn’t require cut and paste and flip and toss during the rewrite phase.

Take the novella I started last summer while Two from Isaac’s House was in the hands of its editor. I only needed to write 100+ pages. That’s nothing, right?

It’s nothing for some, perhaps for the gifted writer of short prose.

I write poetry. Short; concise; full of meaning, sound, and fury—or delight. Shouldn’t a poet be good at short?

Obviously, this poet wasn’t. Or at least I wasn’t good at it without a lot of work over a long time. Without a kick from one of my critique partners. A rewrite. A missed deadline—happily, though, merely a self-imposed one. (If I’d been under the chopping block, my old habits would have reasserted themselves, surely, and kept me up nights or roused me at daybreak.)

Thus a story that was supposed to be released in December of last year will move into the hands of my editor soon. It is now March.

I’m going to blame time. Busyness. Life. And I do have excuses: a new grandbaby and time dedicated to him, his mother, and his sister. Travel, illness, chores. Stuff. But I could have written during the evenings or early mornings or any time at all that wasn’t offered up to the pleasure of being with my babies.

I am without excuse. The noodles fall off, life intervenes, but I had choices in each case. A fork, for instance. Or time management.

The push that propelled that novella into completion had nothing to do with a deadline and everything to do with the tug of another book. The characters of my next story whispered their worries in my thoughts and in my dreams. But I couldn’t allow myself to return to them until this one had The End typed on its final page.

What about you? What do you do with the deadlines in your life? Do you outline your day, your month, your writing? Do you use a flow chart? Are you faithful in following through with expectations, either self- or other-imposed? And what propels you to finish something that’s no longer fun?

I’d love to know how you work, and what tricks you use to keep focused.

Time Management & the Dreaded #Writing Deadline - @WritingOnBoard on @NovelRocket  (Click to Tweet)

Normandie studied sculpture in Italy before receiving her BA, summa cum laude with special honors in English. Known for her women’s fiction—Becalmed (2013), Sailing out of Darkness (2013), and Heavy Weather(2015)—she ventured into the realm of romantic suspense with the release of Two from Isaac’s House. In early 2016, a novella, From Fire into Fire, will continue the Isaac House saga. Normandie and her husband spent a number of years on board their 50-foot ketch, Sea Venture, sailing in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. They now live in coastal North Carolina, where she takes care of her aging mother.
Normandie's Website


  1. Since I'm not under deadline, I prefer time-related goals to word-related goals. So I set a goal every week to write for at least two hours a day. Some days, that two hours bleeds into three or more, depending on the editing projects beckoning from my inbox. Sometimes, I have to cut it short and make it up another day. There have been days I've written 2,500 words, days I've written fewer than a thousand, thanks to trips to Google to do research or visits to the outline to try to figure out where I'm supposed to take my characters next.

    I do have a self-imposed deadline of March 31 for this current novel, which will mean, if I make it, that I'll have written about 100k words in 3 months. I do need to make that, because I have a novella under contract, and it's due June 1. So I probably need to get started on it. I might be upping my daily hours to three, if I feel I might miss that deadline. But right now, what I' doing feels very manageable.

    Oh, and one other thing. I don't allow myself to do anything else, including check my emails and social media, until I've finished those two hours. That's helped immensely.

    Thanks for the post, Normandie. I can't wait to see the new novella!

  2. I write at least two hours a day (minus days when family obligations keep me from my computer and then I make up for that on other days of longer hours), but my output has been inconsistent with this recent endeavor. I may need to return to word-count goals as I did the year I participated in NanoWriMo. Of course, we were living on the boat and thus had fewer distractions other than sailing and swimming. (Poor us!)

    Thanks for sharing your time management secrets. Can you actually put together a novella in two months? I know you have plenty of experience writing them, so I'm curious about your process.


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