September 6, 2019

Racing the Deadline

By KAREN BARNETT, author of the Vintage National Parks novels

In a perfect world, we’d have unlimited time to let the creative juices flow with our writing, but sometimes the clock is ticking. How do you get great words on the page when you’re facing a tight deadline? Here are six tips to help you meet your goal.

  1. Write wherever 
    Most of us like to be at our quiet desk with a fragrant candle burning, but we don’t always have that luxury. So, take your work with you. Waiting at the doctor’s office? Mechanic? School pick up? Use the time. I’ve worked through all of these, plus dance competitions, the playground, and sitting in the back of workshops. It’s challenging to write in these situations, but it’s possible when you try. Set a small goal for yourself: 100 words, 50 words, two sentences. Every little bit counts.
  2. Write whenever
    Are you a morning writer, or do you prefer the dead of night? When you’re on a deadline, you might have to push yourself to write at other times. Force yourself to do a 30-minute writing sprint in the morning before your shower or a quick fifteen minutes as your kids tackle the dishes. They might not be your most productive sessions, but sometimes you must wring out your clock like a sponge.
  3. Write on whatever
    Don’t own a laptop—how about a pencil? J. K. Rowling wrote most of her first drafts on scraps of paper, including airsick bags. You might discover that writing longhand opens a different part of the creative mind. I’ve met at least two authors who have written novels on their phones. Their PHONES. No excuses!
  4. Get away 
    I’ve heard from many authors who find it hard to write in public spaces (see #1), but some of us struggle to write at home. Projects are calling out: laundry, dishes, e-mails. I sometimes find it easier to head to the library or coffee. Noise cancelling headphones can deaden nearby conversations and signal to others that you’re busy.
  5. Set a timer.
    There is something about knowing that I have four hours to write that encourages my brain to daydream. How do I fix this? Set a timer for 30 minutes and focus only on writing for this period. Race the clock. No snacks, no bathroom breaks, no phone calls, and especially no social media. At the end, take a five-minute break, get up, and move around. Then repeat. Try it!
  6. Turn off your internet. When I’m struggling with a scene, I’ll often dart over to FB to “clear my head.” BIG mistake. Forty-five minutes later, I’m watching videos about baby giraffes. I solve this by manually turning off the wi-fi on my computer and making sure my phone isn’t within arm’s reach. No distractions.

These are some of my methods of squeezing out a few more words while on deadline. What works best for you?
KAREN BARNETT, author of the Vintage National Parks novels, is a former park ranger. She worked as a ranger naturalist and outdoor educator at Mount Rainier National Park, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, and Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park. When not writing, Karen enjoys photography, hiking, and public speaking. She lives in Oregon with her family. Her newest novel, Ever Faithful, releases June 18, 2019. Learn more at Social Meda Links: Website/Blog:

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