Rita Mae Brown, Starting From Scratch: A Different Kind of Writer's Manual (Bantam, 1988).


In composition, the latest time by which a writing project may be submitted to an editor or instructor for review or publication.

Though deadlines are commonly imposed by others, writers sometimes set and work toward their own deadlines as a motivational strategy.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "I am one of those people who thrive on deadlines. Nothing brings on inspiration more readily than desperation."
    (attributed to American humorist Harry Shearer)
  • "It is not dishonorable to write for a daily deadline."
    (Roger Ebert, "All Stars, or Is There a Cure for Criticism of Film Criticism?" Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert. University of Chicago Press, 2006)
  • "Be able to meet any deadline, even if your work is done less well than it would be if you had all the time you would have preferred."
    (attributed to American columnist Marilyn vos Savant)
  • The Value of Deadlines
    "I have a deadline. I'm glad. I think that will help me get it done."
    (attributed to American author Michael Chabon)

    "I would suggest that things like deadlines are incredibly helpful. One British granting agency used to have two deadlines for professors to submit grant applications. When this system was in place, everybody was rushing to submit papers and proposals in time for those grant deadlines. Then the agency let people submit proposals whenever they wished, with decisions on grants made twice a year. No more rushing! But the number of proposals submitted dropped dramatically. Why? Because deadlines allow us to clarify our thoughts and create an action plan. They are good at getting people to perform a particular act, like submitting a grant proposal."
    (Dan Ariely, "For Quick Decisions, Depend on Deadlines." The Wall Street Journal, August 3-4, 2013)

    "Where am I going? When must I get there? and How will I get there? How can you start rewriting until you know your objective? To know what you want your reader to know or do is to answer the question Where am I going? You can't determine how much work you can put into a rewrite without knowing your deadline. So once you answer the second question, When must I get there?, you can . . . [answer] the third question, How will I get there?"
    (Philip Vassallo, How to Write Fast Under Pressure. Amacom, 2010)
  • Donald Murray's Tips on Writing to Deadline
    "Writers write and they get the writing done because they have deadlines. I am told that the term comes from an actual line drawn outside of a prison's walls. When prisoners crossed the deadline they were shot. Dead. And that's the way I feel about deadlines. They must be met or I will face professional death. . . .

    "Here are some tips on writing to deadline.

    "Know the Limits.
    And accept them. When you are on deadline you need to know the prescribed length. . . . Besides length, you need to know as much as you can about the purpose, the context, the audience.

    The most important writing is done away from the writing desk when your unconscious and subconscious are playing with the subject. When you have an assignment to deliver on deadline, take some time to sit back and think about the subject. . . .

    . . . The writer must find a way to bring all the elements in the story to be written together. . . .

    "Select and Develop
    . . . The writer must write from an abundance of specific, interesting, significant information but the writer must also select the single point, perhaps two, . . . [and then] that point--or those few points--can be developed and documented within the limits of length.

    . . . Once you know the lead and the end you may want [to] scratch down a series of three to five details or points that will carry the reader from beginning to end.

    "Write Fast
    . . . Fast writing . . . allows the writer to escape the censor that is always within us, and to write what we do not expect. Writing on deadline is thinking on deadline.

    "Write Out Loud
    When writing on deadline it is especially important to listen to the voice of what is being written, the music that will reveal and support the meaning of what is being written.

    Allow time to stand back and be your own first editor, answering the reader's questions, clarifying, cutting, correcting, and polishing the writing."
    (Donald M. Murray, Writing to Deadline: The Journalist at Work. Heinemann, 2000)
  • Deadlines As Lifelines
    "One huge aid to the writing-rewriting dynamic is the deadline. It forces savage action. Like form or design, the deadline is not a prison to creation. It offers a promised release from the self-created prison of indolence, of not writing. . . .

    "A deadline is like a supervisor who tells you impolitely to get on with it. The deadline pays heed to your writing; it does not pay heed to your life. The deadline set for the submission of a student's portfolio of writing pays little heed to the different ways that students write, learn and live. The date is the same for everybody, and only illness or accident can provide excuses. . . .

    "In the writing business, deadlines are a fact. Writers working in the media, especially, write against them daily, even hourly, and the practice of journalism provides outstanding training not only in punctuality and brinkmanship, but also in economy and clarity. . . .

    "By setting your own deadline (it must be earlier than the official deadline), you take control of the process psychologically. You will also learn to appreciate how your deadline then gives form to the way you write and even to how you conduct your life around that . . .."
    (David Morley, The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing. Cambridge University Press, 2007)
  • Avoiding Deadlines
    "I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by."
    (Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy One Last Time. Macmillan, 2002)

    "From an early age, I wanted to write, but I always hated--and still hate--beginning to write. . . [E]ven if I had a week in which to write an article, I should find it difficult to begin writing till the last hours of the last day of the week. Expected to deliver my article by the first post on Thursday morning, I still found myself late on Wednesday night doing my utmost to dodge the necessity of work. . . . The only compensation for such a miserable state of things is that it raises our opinion of human nature by revealing to us the incomparable patience of editors."
    (Robert Lynd, "A Thousand and One 'Middles.'" The New Statesman, April 14, 1934)