Full Circle Communications
July 2016
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past issues
Scan past issues on such topics as design tips for writers and speechwriting.

ease in writing?
"Ease in writing" comes from a poem by Alexander Pope, the British poet:

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.

Note he (and I) didn't say "easy writing." But just as dance lessons can help get your around the floor more gracefully, the goal for this newsletter is to share a tip or two to improve your writing.

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Made My Deadline: Here's How 

numeralsThe deadline for my book, a biography about abolitionist and women's right activist Julia Wilbur, came and went on July 1.

I turned in the manuscript on June 27.

For many months, especially this past winter, I fretted about the deadline constantly. I literally lost sleep as I juggled in my head how I would get a particular chapter completed.

There will be revisions to come (with their own sets of deadlines), but here's what worked for me this past year.  

I signed a contract. As I told several colleagues, nothing is more clarifying than a firm deadline on a legally binding document. I had to finish it, thus I would. (I realize some authors extend their deadlines for months, if not years, but I suspect they are not first-time authors who want to make a good impression with their publisher.)   
I worked backwards. I figured I needed a month to put all the pieces together, so I wanted to have a full draft by June 1. In late summer 2015, I put together a schedule of what I wanted to accomplish at different stages: by the end of 2015 and then each month in the first half of 2016
I ignored negative stuff. If someone talked to me about missing a deadline, not meeting a goal, etc., I tuned them out.

I said no. I squelched my usual guilt when I turned down semi-related volunteer requests, professional events, and the like. A wise person told me that while each demand in itself might not take much time, the cumulative effect could be deadly. 

I allowed lots of time for reviewers to get good feedback. Even as I pushed myself, I realized I could not do that with my reviewers, who read all or part of my manuscript out of the goodness of their hearts. I had to build in the time. As much as I could, I sent them pieces as polished as I could and gave them 4 to 6 weeks to get back to me. While I waited, I worked on the next piece.  

I stopped. I learned new things about my subject and her era that I wanted to include in the manuscript up until the end. I still do. I always will. One author told me he learns great bits of information while out on book talks, bits he wished he had in his book. Another great quote--"My book is publishable, but it is not done."

So, gentle readers, I pushed "send" and off it went.

Below, a additional tips about meeting deadlines for other types of projects. 
TipsMore Tips on Meeting Deadlines  

A deadline is useful, especially for those projects that would otherwise never wrap up. But it can also turn the most stalwart of us into quivering jelly, whether the deadline looms in an hour, a day, or a week.  

Breathe! Here are five tips--maybe six--for managing a deadline when you are given an assignment for a report, an article, a memo, or the like.  

Understand the assignment before you start. Don't bolt like a horse leaving the starting gate. Yes, every minute is precious, but do you really understand what is required--the topic, the length, the tone, and other elements? Taking the extra time to clarify up front may save you hours in the long term.


Divide the time into pieces. In Writing with Power, Peter Elbow describes two stages of every writing project: first, a creative stage when you throw ideas on paper and second, a critical stage when you tighten up and revise. Divide the time allotted--whether it's two hours or two days--so you have time for both stages.


Have "boilerplate" at hand, ready to plug in. Many workplace projects are composed of at least some repetitive pieces, such as the template and explanation about your organization in a press release, the criteria for the award presented at every year's conference, or the CEO's bio. Have these pieces written and in an easy-to-retrieve place on your computer, for quick insertions.


Parcel out the details. Your colleague observes your frazzled state and asks if she can help. "Nothing, I'm fried!" you cry. But wait, what about doing some of the fact-checking for you? Finding out full names or affiliations or URLs? Maybe you can delegate a few time-consuming tasks without compromising overall flow.


Solve one small problem at a time. At some point, you need to get a cup of coffee, go to the bathroom, get some sleep. As you leave your computer, think of one small piece of the assignment that is giving you a hard time. Not the whole thing. Swirl it inside your head as you take a walk. No guarantee, but chances are you'll have a solution when you return to your computer.


And the possible last one--Ask for an extension? An extension is only occasionally the answer. Many deadlines are fixed. Even if they're not, you don't want to gain a reputation as a deadline-shirker. But if the deadline is artificial, and the need for more time to complete the assignment well is real, you may want to ask for a fixed amount of extra time.

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