SACRAMENTO, Calif. - When teaching magazine writing, one of the hardest concepts to get across is that of the need to make deadlines.
By deadlines, I mean that when something is due by a certain time, in a certain format, and with certain information, it's due at that time, in that format and with the needed (or agreed-upon) information.
Throughout most of college, students learn the very unreal lesson that it's ok to be late, ok to simply skip assignments, especially if they can plead being busy.
It gets reinforced by instructors who allow work to be turned in past a deadline, usually assessing some small penalty - perhaps lowering the grade on that particular piece of work by 10 percent.
In the publishing world, there is no 10 percent penalty - it's 100 percent. You make the deadline or else it doesn't get published. Period.
But the larger penalty is that if a writer flakes on an editor - and doesn't get the assignment in on time - that writer is finished working with that magazine. Equally bad is turning in a story that is poorly researched and/or not the story the editor asked for.
On the bright side, I have worked with many editors who are more than willing to help when problems pop up - a story turns out to be more complicated than initially envisioned, sources dry up, news events overtake the timeliness of the proposed story.
But only if they believe I have already moved heaven and earth several times before asking for assistance.