In Praise of Deadlines

As you all know, given how loudly I shouted it from the rooftops, I recently signed a contract for my first book. This week I received a flurry of emails from the publisher and my editor, with tons of business-related stuff, marketing tips, and–ta da!–my first round of edits.

I have been told by published writer friends that the moment you sign that first contract you’re no longer writing on your own timeline. You can’t just write whenever you feel like it any more. Once you sign, you have–cue dramatic music–deadlines.

I have to admit I actually like deadlines, since I am fundamentally lazy. If I know that someone is waiting on me to do something, I will do it. If no one particularly cares when I do something, I will often put it off–especially if it’s icky or hard–until someone does care. This is not, perhaps, my finest trait.

So when my editor gave me a deadline, I was very happy. First, because it was a reasonable one–she doesn’t want my edits next week, she wants them next month. Second, because it will motivate me to do what needs to be done, in a timely fashion. Hopefully I will not wait until the night before the deadline to finish…

The other good thing about deadlines is they make me do things I don’t particularly want to do, inevitably allowing me to discover they weren’t as bad as I feared (most of the time, anyway). I was terrified to open that document with the edits. What if she hated my book? What if she wants me to change everything? The more rational side of my brain told me she didn’t hate it–if she had, she would have rejected it and I would not be writing this post–and that she wouldn’t want to change everything. But I was nervous, so I waited hours before I opened it. But once I did, of course, I discovered her changes only made the book better.

What do you think about deadlines? Do they motivate you? Annoy you? Tell us your best (or worst) deadline story!