Wednesday, January 19, 2011


By Debby Giusti

Suspense writers love ticking time bombs. Put the hero and heroine in danger and give them a limited amount of time before something terrible happens, like they'll die or someone they love will die.


The vicarious adrenalin rush, the sweaty palms and elevated pulse that go along with a countdown keep readers turning pages and ready to buy the next book.

But what about real life ticking time bombs, AKA deadlines?


I just completed THE CAPTAIN’S MISSION, book two in my Military Investigations series from Love Inspired Suspense.

My January deadline meant I’d be working during the Christmas season, but I had four months from contract to completion, which seemed adequate. In reality, shopping, gift wrapping, decorating the house and preparing for the influx of family took time, and something had to be pushed aside. This year, I didn’t send cards or my usual holiday newsletter, but everything else got done, including the book.

Of course, I did turn down a few holiday parties and stayed home New Year’s Eve, but the manuscript arrived in New York ahead of schedule.

Usually the last few weeks before the book is due, I concentrate totally on the story and cancel most of my other activities. Going to church and prayer remain front and center, but everything else is put on hold. If I’m really down to the wire, I stop cooking and my daughter takes over the kitchen duties.

Since my entire focus is getting the story ready for submission, I usually stay up late and rise early. My goal is to get five hours of sleep each night so I can remain alert throughout the next day, although the fear of failure usually takes care of that concern. No need to set my alarm at night. My internal clock wakes me before dawn.

Often I stand at my kitchen counter and work on my laptop in the early morning hours. By 10 A.M., I’m at my desk where I stay until I go to bed. I try to be ergonomically correct while at my computer, but long hours of sitting are hard on my back and wrists so I get up and stretch at regular intervals. Also, I take a walk every day, time and weather permitting.

I love Diet Coke, but I watch my intake when I'm on deadline. Instead, I attempt to stay hydrated with water. Usually, I don’t drink enough liquids while I'm at the computer and have to catch up by gulping down a glass or two of water during my breaks.

With this last book, I had trouble with eye fatigue. I switched to wearing glasses for longer periods and shortened the number of hours I wore my contacts. I also increased the zoom function on my monitor to 150% to help ease the strain on my eyes. I kept thinking about the Post-It note a friend keeps on her monitor: BLINK!

Even when the writing is done, getting the work into the final format is time consuming. Self-editing and rereading the pages in a hard copy or in a different font to pick out typos takes time, as well. My husband and eldest daughter read my final copy before I send the book off to the editor. If they find any glaring errors, those corrections also need to be made.

Printers always act up when a book is due! I try to keep extra print cartridges and reams of paper on hand so I don’t have to run to Staples at the last minute. Luckily, I have a backup printer if my old faithful decides to crash.

Mailing options vary and impact whether the book arrives on time. I’ve had problems with USPS Priority Mail so I usually send my manuscripts UPS. Brown provides a great on-line tracking system, and I follow my manuscript’s progress as it leaves my small town, heads first to Atlanta and then on to New York City. Regular delivery gets it to Love Inspired Books in two working days. Overnight delivery is more expensive but is sometimes a necessity when time is short. I email my editor to let her know the manuscript is on the way and attach the document file electronically along with the message.

When you're under a deadline--whether contest entry or full-length manuscript for publication--and the clock is ticking, how do you handle the stress and complete the work on time?

Happy writing!

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti


Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Debby, I haven't much experience with deadlines except for contest ones and for that, I have to stop almost everything. This means no web surfing, especially blogs. It's not the blogs that take time, but the answering them.

Great post.

Anita Mae.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Anita!

I agree! Blogs take time, especially when I'm under a deadline...or need to get something in the mail.

Good seeing you!

Love your pic!

PamelaTracy said...

Very insightful. Thanks for sharing.

Terri Reed said...

Five hours of sleep?! I need six bare minimum or I can't function. And if I go too many nights without a solid six, I'm a mess and get a migraine.
Exercise is a high priority for me when I'm on deadline. Even if its just ten minutes of hulahoop or running up and down my stairs, and doing a few reps of hand held weights.