Deadlines

Recently, one of my Facebook friends sent me a message asking for thoughts on meeting deadlines for anthologies, special issues of magazines, etc.  As I’m sure several of the editors I’ve worked with over the years would tell you, I’m probably the last person who should be commenting on such matters.  That said, here are a couple of things I’ve learned:

1.  The deadline is not the deadline.  This is especially true when that date is a long ways off.  Yes, the project’s editor sets an end date for submissions, and yes, it’s six months from now, or a year, or whatever, but the fact is, most if not all of the contents of the book will have been decided long before that date.  If an editor receives a brilliant submission the day after the submission period opens, s/he is likely going to accept it, in order to insure it’s part of the completed book.  If that’s your story, congratulations, you’re in!  If it isn’t, then that means there’s one less slot open for you.  Can you submit a story at the last moment and have it accepted?  Yes, and yes, I have done so.  But it’s better if you can have your piece in in plenty of time.  This leads to point number two:

2.  Don’t dally.  If there’s a project you desperately want to be part of, then get going on your story for it.  If there are several such projects, then you’ll need to prioritize them, deciding which you don’t want to miss out on and which you’d be willing to pass on.  Once you’ve made your choice(s), start writing a manageable amount every day.  (I define manageable as a number of words or pages you can be reasonably certain you’ll complete each day.  I advise modest goals to start with.)  If you’re overly-critical of your writing, then you may find it helpful to write either early in the morning or late at night, when the internal critic tends to be groggy.  Once your story’s done, leave it a day or two before giving it a final pass, then submit it.

3.  Start the next story.

Speaking personally, I have yet to be able to make the deadlines for all the projects I’m invited to/would like to be part of.  That’s okay.  If there’s an idea I can’t get in time, I figure I’ll find a use for it somewhere down the road.

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4 thoughts on “Deadlines

  1. zacharycparkerfiction says:

    Thanks for the info, John. Much appreciated. Looking forward to more posts like this one.

  2. Gordon says:

    Out of curiosity, John: Do you look to anthos to place stories that you’ve already written, or do you write towards specific anthology topics? Your advice certainly gives guidance towards the latter, but I’m just curious as to what your process is. Thanks!

    • John says:

      Hi Gordon,

      By and large, when I started out publishing my fiction, I was writing whatever story struck my fancy, and then sending it out once I thought it was ready (which is to say, when I was fed-up with it; who’s the writer who says that no story is ever finished, only abandoned? s/he’s right, I think). In the last few years, though, I’ve been fortunate enough to receive invitations to enough anthologies to have to learn something about meeting deadlines. These days, I still think about stories I’d like to write; when and if I can, I try to find a way to fit them to the invitations I have outstanding.

      Hope this helps!

      John

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