As writers, dealing with and meeting deadlines is just a part of the business. But I’m afraid that often we tend to treat them too casually. In reality, we should regard each of those deadlines as a commitment.
Over the years I’ve only missed a few deadlines—and always because of circumstances beyond my control. The first one was a book deadline that coincided with my mother’s death. Although I knew there was a good reason for missing the deadline—and that my editor would surely understand—I also knew that I had a responsibility to inform my editor as soon as I knew I was going to miss it. It’s best not to wait until the deadline is upon you, or already past, which puts the editor in a position where they have to scramble to make the resulting adjustments.
I was reminded of all this when my husband fell off a ladder a few years ago and came away with 9 rib fractures and 6 pelvic fractures. Although being there and caring for his needs during the next several weeks meant I was going to be hard pressed to meet upcoming deadlines, I never totally abandoned my concern for meeting them as soon as it was at all possible. I felt strongly the responsibility to meet that commitment and let my editor know I would be late—asking when the latest I could submit and still not put her behind schedule.
I’d like to remind all of us how important it is to meet those deadlines. The wheels of publication—both with books and periodicals—run like a train. If even one writer misses a deadline it throws the whole train off the tracks. With magazines it may mean that the publication will have to substitute another piece for the one you didn’t produce in time—and may give the editor pause before giving you another assignment. With books, it is even more serious. Because all the steps of the publishing process are based on you meeting your deadline, being late often means that your project goes to the end of the line (often meaning they won’t meet your projected publication date), and you may even lose the interest and attention of the editor who has championed your book from the beginning. The writer who doesn’t pay close attention to deadlines is destined to lose the interest and respect of the editors.