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Editorial – April 2016: The necessity of deadlines.

Hello everyone

Editorial ideas come from all over the place. Oddly, this one came from a discussion with someone I know who although retired and despite having all the time in the world was finding it difficult to complete anything, especially on the creative front. My comment back was the necessity of setting deadlines to complete things. Any and everything. Not just in the creative field, although I will be using that as my example. After all, it sets targets and boosts the self-confidence when something is completed because you can do the same again. That made it a good topic for an editorial because age is immaterial and targetable deadlines are common for everyone and everything.

Deadlines can apply to all kinds of things and of variable times. After all, take something like a novel, that can take anything up to 18 months to complete. That’s a long time and I doubt many first-timers complete their books, let alone have a second attempt because of the time needed to do it. Logistically, as I’ve commented in the past, it makes more sense to start off with short stories, progress to novella length and then, when you’ve proved you can get it done, move up to novel length because you’ll know you’ll complete it. You might think you have a novel in you but it isn’t likely to come out the first time. There are little bonuses along the way, like finding your writer’s voice, sorting out your ideas and any nagging problems like grammar and such along the way. If nothing else, you might well reduce the number of novel re-writes along the way which only adds to the time taken. Deadlines have to be realistic and often learnt, especially if you’re also after quality in the time limit you set yourself.

More Pulp

A short story can take a couple weeks and then as the pressure of a release deadline comes, the final polish can be done in less than a week. Something I proved to myself with last month’s ‘Psi-Kicks’ story as ‘A Solar Flare For Work’ was written in a three week intense period as I normally take much longer writing a ‘Psi-Kicks’ story. Mind you, I did work out from a strong idea but then totally flipped it upside down to change what it was in the final week about because it looked too plain otherwise. A real trick in not giving what is expected and still make it work. Confident and experienced writing can do that. A similar thing happened with this month’s story come to that.

A novella can take anything up to a couple months in comparison. With a novel, although its assumed to be 18 months, that also depends on rewrites and such and when you start doing them. After the first draft of any of them, you do need to take a break to let you mind rest before looking over the material with a fresh eye because the errors should then start pointing themselves at you and you should then start learning not to repeat them because then it will allow other mistakes to make themselves known to you. All of this is even before you let someone else look at the material and its all preparation for the time when you have to work to a deadline should you be lucky enough to get a publishing contract and, oh yes, they want the sequel in a year’s time which means you have to work even faster. That’s when you learn the importance of disciplined writing technique and how to achieve to a deadline with, hopefully, decent ideas as well as writing.

Being creative to a deadline is actually good for you because it prevents your mind wandering from what is essentially a lot of hard work. As the deadline approaches, your brain becomes extremely focused on getting things done correctly. I’ve seen myself go into super-drive doing it and at the same time, knowing that giving myself a little distance from the work as well, actually helps as well. The early drafts often look slightly out of focus and polishing them just sharpens them up to what you want to achieve.

Just so you don’t think it’s all about writing, for those with an artistic bent, you will be forever tweaking a sketch or painting but there is going to be a time when you think to do any more is likely to have gone too far. Having a deadline therefore ensures you speed things up a little and knowing when to stop and let the work speak for you. All creative endeavours can be polished forever but then no one or maybe a few beta readers will see your work which defeats the objective. All you can really do is the best for that particular time and the desire for a new project. Without a deadline, that would be harder to do.

As I opened with, deadlines is more of a discipline to getting a completion date. That can apply to anything and, whether you like it or not, you’ve probably been doing them all your life and especially in your normal jobs so it’s hardly like you don’t have any experience at them. It’s just that you probably don’t think you do them in your leisure time, mostly because you don’t see them as deadlines, especially with creative projects.

It doesn’t always follow that you complete on a particular day but you do learn to get completed nearer the time means you still prove you can achieve something and that’s really important. You learn to get it right. With creativity, I sometimes find it’s easier to have two deadlines if I’m doing it for someone else, as my reviewing team discovered. I set my own deadline a little earlier so I should finish in time for the main deadline. The worse thing is thinking that you can’t complete to a deadline when it is the deadline that makes everything possible. It ensures things are completed. Saying that, if you do over-run, you don’t necessarily have to bust a gut over it, just learn from it so you improve the next time. If you’re writing for someone else’s deadline, you learn quickly not to be late.

However, there are other sorts of deadlines just to reassure yourself you can complete something. Getting into the habit with everything just means you achieve them with everything. The worse thing to avoid is complacency.

Even the uncaring universe has its own deadlines. There’s the start with the Big Bang and somewhere in the distant future, there will be an end as well. Just proving that everything has a deadline, especially if you think of the length of your lives. We have birth and death and a lot to put in within that time. People who know they have a rather limited life-span because of terminal illness put up a bucket list of things they want to do yet no one thinks of doing such a thing for those with a normal life-span. The fact that many of them achieve this list is because they are aware of the limited time they have and that focuses them on deadlines. Clearly, at the top of said list would be keep going as long as possible. Without that, nothing else is possible. However, just because we think we have much longer life-times ultimately means we don’t always achieve what we set out to do and why so many people look back on their lives and realise how much they haven’t done as they’d hoped. If you work at it, there is always time to complete everything, just don’t give yourself too much of it to do it in.

So look at your ambition list and work out how you can do some of them. Some of them might be short term. Many will certainly be long term. Some might even feel impossible. Whatever, see them as targets to achieve and you might discover once done, other goals will be there to achieve. Working out from such a framework, you’ll discover all deadlines are possible, do-able and achievements will reduce the number of regrets in your lives.


Thank you, take care, good night and may all your goals be achievable.

Geoff Willmetts

editor: SFCrowsnest.org.uk


A Zen thought: The shortness of anyone’s life is only determined by the length you can put into it.


Observation: With the various multi-parter magazines doing parts of cars, ships and planes, I wonder how long before SF icons are going to be done that way?


Observation: Having watched ‘Apoclypto’ recently, I can assume Inca revival parties aren’t going to be popular any time soon. [All right, it’s been out 10 years but I only just watched it recently but the statement fits.]


Observation: When you consider how many adverts feature sentient sweets these days and that they are shown to be eaten, do any of you getting a little creeped out by it? I mean, what kind of person would eat a sweet that talks back at you? Hmmm, maybe that’s why people turn vegetarian but aren’t turned off by talking sweets.






Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

2 thoughts on “Editorial – April 2016: The necessity of deadlines.

  • Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin was once Story Editor for a TV fantasy series called Beauty and the Beast. Most of that job was writing scripts. He talked about the valuable lessons it imposed. When he got up in the morning, he didn’t have the luxury of saying “Do I feel like writing today?”. He had a hundred cast and crew waiting for something to film, and he sat down and wrote a script.

    Robert A. Heinlein once gave five rules for writers:

    1) You must *write*.
    2) You must *finish* what you write.
    3) Having finished it, you must *submit* it to a paying market that publishes that sort of thing.
    4) You must *continue* submitting until the work either sells or has been bounced by every possible market.
    5) You must not make *changes* to what you wrote unless an editor commits to buying it if you make those changes.

    Most folks stall out on 1 or 2 above. Deadlines, external or self-imposed, are required to avoid stalling out.

    The key difference between an amateur and a pro is likely that a pro does the job whether they feel like it or not, because it is their job.

  • Agreed on all points. As a writer I find that when I’m between official deadlines I have to set goals or I’d never finish a story. I have word count goals, story end goals, editing goals. I list them in my journal and tick each one off, or move it forward as needed. It’s part of my organisation.


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