Deadlines, Dreadlines


The deadline fast approaches....

The deadline fast approaches….

There’s a great quote from Douglas Adams on the Ayr Writers’ Club website:

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

I love deadlines too but for different reasons; I need them. I do very little writing unless I have a deadline of sorts. It can be a date for a competition entry, an editor’s request (whoopee do!), something to finish before we go off on holiday/go into hospital/start a different piece of writing or whatever. If I have a date which I know I have to finish the piece by, then I will make sure I do.

But the deadline can’t be too far ahead. Too far and I leave it till it comes looming nearer. There comes a point in the calendar when I know that if I don’t start the piece almost immediately then I won’t do it well or get it finished to my satisfaction. I have to wait till then before I start though I will be thinking about it as I go about dealing with weeds or making a meal. (That is not to be recommended; too many burnt offerings and odd flavourings.)

I’ve had two deadlines recently, one for a local competition which I always try to support by putting in an entry, and one from an editor giving me the go-ahead for a pitch I submitted a while ago.

Deadlines scare me too. I don’t like being late for anything and I don’t like sending off pieces at the last minute. I always try to get them in well ahead of that date circled on the calendar, so the two pieces have been sent off in plenty of time.

Being ahead of a deadline has given me some nice extras – editors don’t like last-minute, unreliable contributors. They like writers who can produce the goods well within the time frame and  matching what they asked for. So if there’s a rush job (usually because one of their less reliable writers has failed to complete the remit), who do they turn to? Someone they know who can do it.

I’ve been asked to write scripts and articles with a very short deadline simply because the editor knows they can rely on me to do it.

Many years ago, I was asked to try out for a children’s comic for which I had been contributing stories. They were looking for someone to take over writing the Postman Pat stories as John Cunliffe, the originator of the character, wanted to concentrate on the TV work. I had to write two trial scripts and submit them by a deadline. I sent three well before the due date and got the job. That resulted in five years of a weekly income and over 300 stories about Postman Pat in the weekly comic, the holiday specials and the annuals.

And what did I write about? What my family, including my two young sons got up to. So if we went to the library or planted seeds in the garden, so did Postman Pat and his friends. My husband shaving off his beard was the stimulus for one of Pat’s friends to do the same! I have actually a record of our day-to-day activities when my sons were in primary school.

However, I learned one salutary lesson from it all. Obviously I was excited about getting the job of writing Postman Pat stories, so when my eldest came home from primary school, I told him the news. His face fell. I realised then that he believed in Postman Pat the same way as he believed in Santa and I had just disillusioned him. He never read any Postman Pat stories again, dismissing them as ‘just Mum’s stuff.’

And as for that children’s story I was drafting several blog posts ago….. well you see, there isn’t a deadline for that……

Excuses! Excuses!

Must do better. Somebody set me a deadline, please!


Scuttling Sideways to Move Forward


I’m not one to believe in astrology though I confess to always reading my horoscope when I see one (in a waiting room or the hairdresser’s) and usually dismissing what it says if I don’t like it, while keeping a pleasing one in the back of my mind for future reference. My sign is Cancer the Crab and I have to admit I do have very crab-like tendencies; I disappear into my shell at the hint of any unpleasant situations as well as when I  need to get away from people and parties. Half an hour is usually my limit, after that nothing tempts me more than a quiet room, a nice cup of green tea and a good book.

My partner would claim I am crabby at times, even crabbit, that lovely Scots word that describes feeling bad-tempered, tired and at the end of your tether.

But I have noticed another crab-like tendency in relation to my writing. Take my last blog – there I was waxing forth about children’s books and writing for children; I wrote down all the ideas that came to mind, looked up the rhyming dictionary for words to rhyme with kangaroo  and sloth (rhymed text seems to be the in thing at the moment) and prepared to produce my children’s picture book.

So what did I actually write? A woman’s story, in fact, two of them. I seem to have stepped sideways away from writing for children and into the world of women’s short stories. Admittedly, the one I finished does have its roots in some of the notes I made for my children’s book but the other one, (which is not going satisfactorily and whose voice I haven’t quite got) came from nowhere. No, I tell a lie; it came from a funny story I read on Facebook when I was supposed to be writing my children’s story.

Does this happen to other writers? Do poets suddenly find themselves writing articles? Novelists writing limericks? Journalists for the broadsheets bursting into the purple prose of romances? Do other writers also take a step along a different avenue, not much travelled, and find themselves in terra incognita?

Or is it just me?

One of the woman’s stories is now sitting on an editor’s desk awaiting judgement while the other is on my desk ready for a hatchet job or a complete rewrite.  And the children’s book? Er… let’s just say it’s still at the draft stage.

As for astrology, the story on the editor’s desk was set around  a certain musical, one song  of which contains the line ‘….this is the dawning of the age of Aquarius….’

Maybe I’ll have a look at today’s horoscope, just in case.