It approacheth at light speed. The deadline. Or, as Kate Walker calls it, the dreadline. I like that. Because you do start to dread it, knowing you somehow have to wrap up this latest story into a neat and tidy bow and ship it off to your editor. Who will then unwrap it and either shriek with horror, shake her head sadly, or jump up and down with glee.

I’m banking on the first two, truthfully. There are rumors of authors who send in books with no revisions, but I’ve yet to experience it, so I always expect them. I just hope my editor doesn’t shriek. 🙂

But as I type my merry way along toward that day that is oh-so-close, it makes me think of when I was still unpublished and wanting to cross that sacred line to being published so much. When you’re unpublished, time is on your side. (Or so it seems, but more about that in a moment.) Life creeps in, other tasks take precedence, and it’s easy to shove your little hobby manuscript to the back of the burner while you attend to everything else.

And yet, I say to you, that is a mistake. Because time is not on your side, not really. As you push your manuscript aside to do fall cleaning, drag out the pumpkin carving kit and autumn leaf table cloth with matching napkins, someone else is writing. Someone else is finishing a book, which they will then send to an editor. They might sell that book, and be contracted for another.

Publishing is not a zero sum game, as the amazing Linda Howard says. Just because someone else sells a book doesn’t mean you won’t. But you have to figure out how to complete those books, regularly, and how to submit them in a timely manner. Taking a year to write a category romance is not good practice. Depending on the line you sell to, they might want 3 or 4 a year.

Now of course you shouldn’t ignore your family and hide in your writing cave every minute of every day, but you really have to find the time to write regularly. Because it’s good practice, a good habit, and will benefit you in the end both in work completed and lessons learned while writing.

The best writing teacher is writing itself. You have to write a lot to learn how to write. The anonymous “they” say you should write about a million words before you’re good enough to be publishable. Malcom Gladwell, in his book Outliers, says that it takes about ten years of practice to get really good at a thing.

And you know what, both are true for me. I easily wrote a million words (probably about 250K on my first book alone), and though I quit trying to publish and went back to school for several years, I studied writing and I read a lot of romance during that time. My total time as a writer of fiction thus far? Sixteen years.

So figure out how to give yourself a deadline, and then meet it. It’s good practice, and it’ll be expected once you do sell.