Self-Imposed Deadlines and Other Tricks for Getting Your Writing Done

by Suzanne Lieurance

If you’re a freelance writer, you probably have editors and clients who set deadlines for you.

time is running out

But if you’re a writer who is trying to write a novel or just get some articles posted to your blog on a regular basis, or submit queries to magazine markets every week, you probably need some tricks to help you stay on track.

Here are a few that work for me and other writers I coach:

1. Set Self-Imposed Deadlines.
If you set deadlines for everything you want to do, chances are you’ll be more likely to finish each of these tasks. That’s because anything we choose to do tends to take as much time to complete as we allow it. That means if you don’t set a deadline for finishing that next chapter of your novel, you could be working on that chapter for weeks, months, or even (gulp) years! Set a tight deadline for that next chapter instead. Then make a point to meet that deadline.

2. Find a writing buddy or accountability partner.
You’ll be more likely to meet your self-imposed deadlines if you have someone to be accountable to for these deadlines. A writing buddy or accountability partner is perfect for this. Tell this person the date of your next deadline, then check in with him when that deadline rolls around and report your progress. After doing this a few times, you’ll start to feel like a real slug if you aren’t meeting your deadlines, especially if your partner is always meeting his.

3. Set up short chunks of time for each project.
Generally, you’ll get more writing done when you don’t have all day to write. If you have all day, you’ll waste time because, well, you’ve got all day, so what’s the rush? But if you set aside specific chunks of time to get your writing done, you’ll know you don’t have all day and you’ll be more likely to get right to work and get something done.

4. Pare Down Your Daily To-Do List
When your to-do list for the day is too long, you’ll feel so stressed and overwhelmed, you may decide, “I can’t possibly get all this stuff done today” and, guess what? You’ll probably just sit there and do nothing! Sounds weird, I know. But I’ve seen it happen. Heck. I’ve even been guilty of this myself.

5. Write in a Relaxed State
Before you sit down to write, take a few moments to just sit and relax. Close your eyes, take deep breaths. Let go of thoughts of everything else in your life, so you can just concentrate on the writing you need to do. If you've followed Tip 3 – by setting up short chunks of time for each project – you should be able to relax and focus once you sit down to write because there isn't anything else you should be doing at this time.

Following these tips should help you get and stay focused on your writing so you get some work done each week. But first, DECIDE that you will be a productive writer. Whether you realize it or not, when you waste time or allow yourself to lose focus on your writing, you're DECIDING to let this happen. Now simply choose to be a focused, productive writer instead.

Try it!

suzanne-cover 016-2Suzanne Lieurance is an author, freelance writer, certified professional life coach and writing coach, speaker and workshop presenter. She is a former classroom teacher and was an instructor for the Institute of Children's Literature for over 8 years.

Lieurance has written over two dozen published books and hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and other publications. She lives and writes by the sea in Jensen Beach, Florida. Visit her blog at or find out about her coaching for writers at


Karen Cioffi said...

Suzanne, great tips on getting freelance writing projects done. I'm continually working on paring down my 'to do' list. LOL

And, #5 is an important one too. I'm always listening to or reading about how your surroundings are an reflection of your inner world and how it can affect you. Uncluttered and clean surroundings matter in writing and in your life.

Karen Cioffi said...

Oops. That should read "are a reflection of . . ."

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Suzanne, all my deadlines these days are self-imposed. But my agent tells me I need to take it a bit easier on myself. Still, I wouldn't get much done without them!

Also, thank you again for inviting me to work with you on your teleseminar. Maybe mention that in this stream? (-:


Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Loving helping writers get read with my HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers including the multi award-winning second edition of The Frugal Book Promoter ( .

Suzanne Lieurance said...

Hey, Karen and Carolyn,

Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

Carolyn - I'm getting my new book, The Morning Nudge, ready for release, so I've been using your book - The Frugal Book Promoter - as my guide for what I need to do each step of the way. I'd encourage every author to get it and read it AND to listen to my interview with you that they'l find at

Happy writing, ladies!

Magdalena Ball said...

Perfect tips, Suzanne. I've employed all of these to keep me working on the next novel with its longer timeframe and they've been very effective, but I seem to have to wait until I'm floundering each time before I remember to do them.

T. Forehand said...

Great tips Suzanne and Carolyn's book is a huge help and much needed resource. Thanks for sharing.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Great tips Suzanne. A writing buddy works as long as you hold each other accountable for your deadline. Sometimes its too easy to give the buddy a pass or the deadlines that are being set aren't realistic. That's when a writing coach can be useful.

Heidiwriter said...

Yes, indeed! It's hard to develop discipline when you're on your own. My critique groups have helped impose a weekly deadline for me in the past.

Suzanne Lieurance said...

Hi, Heidi, Mary Jo, Terri, and Magdalena,

Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Let's hope we all use these tips this week so we can get a little writing done!

Best of luck!

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