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Freelance Deadlines

February 2nd, 2018

I find that freelance writing is a sort of balancing act between the stuff you have to do and the stuff you want to do. My main source of income as a writer is ghostwriting – I write about a book a month, so the deadlines can be pretty tight. I also write and present a weekly web-series called Dark Corners, which doesn’t pay as well but is always building and is a useful shop window, but the deadlines for that are even tighter. These are the things I have to do on a week by week basis if I want to make rent etc.

Then there is stuff with ‘created deadline’. Last year I wrote a book called The Mummy’s Quest which I published via Amazon. In the past I’ve always gone the route of sending books to agents and have absolutely nothing to show for it so I thought I’d try this and it is selling, not excessively but steadily. I’m now working on the follow-up, which I want to come out in April. I’ve tentatively announced it and am blogging on the writing process to try to build anticipation for its arrival. The thing is, we’re almost three weeks into the New Year and I have written about four thousand words, because if I don’t hit that deadline nothing bad happens – I’ll just publish in May instead. Or June. You can give yourself a deadline, but it will never have the force of one imposed on you by someone else, and so you sideline the work in favour of more urgent stuff.

Most terrifying are ‘non-deadline deadlines’. The most important thing I’m working on at the moment is a film idea. Screenplays have always seemed completely out of my reach and the occasional forays I’ve made into the medium have gone nowhere, but last year, really from nothing, I pitched an idea to the right person and now this is a realistic possibility. It’s very exciting but it currently has two major issues. Firstly, I’m completely blocked on it. Secondly, it’s open-ended, I can take my time and get it right, and when you are blocked then the temptation is to take a lot of time. The secret third problem is that of course it’s not open-ended; the time will come when this opportunity vanishes but I don’t know when that will be. And so the tendency is to force myself into panicked, and increasingly frustrated, work. I imagine that with each passing day, my contact’s interest in the project is waning incrementally while I struggle with the final act which refuses to resolve. At least with a hard deadline I would know the time frame, and could maybe take a week off without worrying.

The irony of all this is that we fight to be successful enough that no one can inflict a deadline on us, but without them, I wonder if I would achieve anything.


Robin Bailes is a freelance writer and ghost-writer with various credits on stage, page, screen and radio, including 7 stage shows and short stories in 3 anthologies. For the last 7 years he has written and presented Dark Corners, a weekly web-series taking a comic look at cult films (Follow on Twitter @DarkCorners3). He also wrote and directed a 6-part comedy/drama web-series called Coping. Both shows are available on YouTube. Most recently he published his first book, The Mummy’s Quest, on Amazon.

His website is www.robinbailes.com   and he has recently started a blog on writing at https://universallibraryrbailes.blogspot.co.uk


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