Thursday, June 14, 2012

Deadlines and Word Count

“I love deadlines. I especially like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by.” Douglas Adams (English author and dramatist)
I enjoy snappy little quotes, so I’m glad you all indulge me in sharing them. If you’ve not visited my blog on Thursdays, it’s a day set aside to encourage writers. 
So if you’re new, welcome to Writers’ Corner!
Do numbers matter? I suppose to a statistician they matter a great deal. To an artist or creative person? Not so much. The exception to this is when writers’ guidelines state a specific word count to adhere to or an editor gives a deadline for an assignment. 
If writers’ guidelines state 1,000 words, this is what they mean, not 1,100. Exceeding word count is a good way to get your manuscript tossed before it’s even read. Once you’ve developed a relationship with the editor, you might be able to ask for leniency in future articles. 
Case in point, six years ago I wrote a serial for my local newspaper. When I wrote the final installment, I asked for an extra 300-400 words to finish the story. The editor agreed. However, I never submit an article to a magazine over the limit. 
Even when you stay within the word count limit, you might be asked to cut words depending on the editorial needs of a specific magazine issue. 
My first published magazine article started as a 500-word Bible study on Proverbs 2:1-5.  The editor returned my submission with suggestions and said if I could cut it to 350 words, she’d take another look. Apparently, that was the available space in the particular issue she wanted to run the article. Cutting 150 words was difficult, but I did it, and she published the article. 
Not meeting a deadline is worse than exceeding word count. The editor/publisher has spent valuable time reading your submission and accepted it. Now they’re invested in you. They’ve given you a deadline because they have a deadline
Sometimes you hit a snag. Life happens. I spent this morning in the ophthalmologist’s office because my son got a metal speck lodged in his eye. He’s fine now. Fortunately, I had no deadlines looming today. 
In all relationships, communication is key. As soon as you become aware of a problem, contact the editor to see if there’s any flexibility. If not, then find a way to finish the assignment by the deadline.
Do you have an anecdote about getting published you’d like to share? Please leave it in the comments below so everyone can enjoy reading it. 
I want to take a moment to give a shout out to Wisdom of a Fool blogger who interviewed me for her inaugural newsletter. Click here to read it. It’s chock-full of interesting information and insight. 
Meanwhile, if you have writing questions or a suggestion for a future blog you’d like me to consider, please let me know. 
God bless,
Laura

16 comments:

  1. http://www.sanctuaryofhope.usJune 15, 2012 at 12:57 AM

    I like your emphasis on deadline. My personal rule is to get my assignment before the deadline to build a good relationship with the editor. It is just a matter of making that decision to do it. For seven devotions I usually have a two-three month window. If my deadline is June 10th...I set in my head to get it done by June 3rd (about a week early). What if I get the flu or have a family emergency? Why not give myself the edge of being on time by being early. Of course, this is just my way of functioning. I feel relieved when I can send it in early.

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    1. You're absolutely right. I do the same thing. However, on occasion, I find myself close to the actual deadline, if I'm working on multiple projects. In the event someone has an extreme emergency that throws their schedule off by a few weeks, that's when it's time to contact the editor and see if there is any leeway in the deadline. I've never had to do it, but I'm sure someone else probably has. Thanks for stopping by and sharing! I look forward to hearing from you again.

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  2. Hope your son's eye is feeling better! I agree with Sanctuary of Hope: setting yourself an earlier deadline to make way for hiccups/emergencies seems like the sensible thing to do.

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    1. Thanks, Catherine. I agree. I never wait until the last day to submit, although I've come close when I've had multiple projects. The key is communication if something extreme happens to throw your schedule off and it's apparent you can't make deadline. Thanks for joining the conversation!

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  3. Thank you so much for doing the interview for my Newsletter- you're a tough act to follow!

    Communication is so important and building a relationship that fosters communication is essential. While I have no real experience in the writing/publishing world, I can see how you must develop trust and follow the rules before you can ask to break them.

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    1. You're welcome! I enjoyed doing it. You're right about communication and trust. It's important in establishing good relationships both inside and outside of the writing industry.

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  4. This is good stuff, as always, from you, Laura. My editing is pretty small-time for WOW, but I'm a stickler for word count, and I've had people submit things 200 words over at times. One time when I asked a writer to cut 50 words, she told me that was the way God has given it to her and she wouldn't cut it. I told her that God must have wanted it published somewhere else. : )
    Thanks for linking up to Bless and Be Blessed Each week and thanks for displaying the button on your sidebar. I pray you have a blessed and fruitful week and that your son's eye heals completely.

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    1. Thanks, Gail. I've heard other editors say the same. If a Christian writer wants to be published, they have to learn to convey God's message within the word count given. As I illustrated in my story above, cutting from 500 to 350 was a challenge, but I did it. The message was the same, just delivered in a tighter format. I appreciate you letting me participate in B&BB each week. You've been such a blessing in my life.

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  5. Thanks for visiting Redemptions Beauty this week, I've enjoyed looking around here. I agree with all you say in this post. I have been very fortunate to work with wonderful editors thus far.

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    1. I'm glad you stopped by and enjoyed the post. I look forward to hearing from you again. God bless.

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  6. Thank you for visiting ECTaS and leaving an encouraging comment. I hope the wee fellow's eye heals quickly.

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    1. You're welcome. Thanks for stopping by. I always enjoy hearing from you. My son's eye is much better.

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  7. Good word! I need to be better about this... thanks for the GENTLE reminder!

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  8. Since I am a wordy person, this is good advice:) I love this series on Thursdays. Blessings!

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    1. Thanks, Christina. I'm glad you're finding Writers' Corner helpful. Let me know if you have a writing topic you'd like me to cover. God bless you.

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