Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.
Sometime in your writing career, you’re going to be faced with a deadline you can’t meet. The best advice for dealing with this, of course, is to build up a decades-long reputation of professionalism and reliability ahead of time, proving that one missed deadline is a mere anomaly, like a Bigfoot sighting. That’s all well and good for smug pros who worry about things like reputation and getting paid, but we flakes and hacks need something more immediate that doesn’t require a time machine or a work ethic. That’s why I’ve put together this list of excuses guaranteed to get you out of a jam.
These excuses are pretty much guaranteed to work, but don’t go nuts with them. Even the most gullible marks (henceforth referred to as “clients”) will get suspicious if you’re blowing deadlines week after week.
Each person is born with an allotment of fifteen minutes of fame, and every writer begins their career with 100 reputation points. This point balance will go up (supposedly) and down (most certainly) at various points of your career. Each excuse costs you a certain amount of reputation points, which you spend at your peril. Once your balance hits zero, people will stop hiring you. They’ll avert their eyes at parties, and start casually mentioning the younger, more talented, and more attractive writers they’re working with instead. Use your points wisely! Or failing that, have a really good pen name ready to go in case you have to change your name.
Kid stuff (10 points): Whether there’s a snow day at school, or your kid was awake all night throwing up on the mattress, nobody worth working for will begrudge a parent taking care of their children. (This probably goes without saying, but I’m expecting you to lie about these things. Under no circumstances should you poison your child to make them sick, nor should you create some sort of evil weather-control device in your secret underground laboratory.)
Dead computer (15 points, multiplied by the number of times you’ve used this excuse): Dropbox makes this harder to get away with every year, but as of this writing, it still works. Just be very clear you’re emailing them from your phone when you tell them about it. Add in some autocorrect mishaps to make it lock more convivial.
Food poisoning (20 points): Alcohol is a food, kinda, so you’re not even really lying.
There’s an alligator sitting right next to your car, in which you left your laptop (30 points): This excuse is only valid only in Louisiana and Mississippi. In Florida, you’d be expected to wrestle it.
The flu (50 points): Illness-related excuses worked better in the typewriter-and-snail-mail era, when clients feared you might send them an envelope full of germs. Give this excuse a modern spin by using the face-with-thermometer emoji when you text your client the news.
Dead loved one (80 points): You can credibly only do this once with any given client, but just in case you acquire more points along the way, you’ll have to keep track of which fictional family members you terminate throughout your career. If you kill the same imaginary person too many times, the ghosts of your your faux-dead relatives will rise and drag you to hell, like in that classic children’s story, The Nine Dead Grandmothers of Vincent LeRoy.
Your dog ate it (99 points): Total power move. Give it a try. Dare them to call you out on it. Look them dead in the eye and say, “My dog ate it.” Bonus points if they know you don’t have a dog.
Dead author (100 points): Fake your death. The good news: the client won’t be mad at you. The bad news: The next time you pitch them is going to be very awkward.
What’s your go-to excuse when you’re about to miss a deadline? Share your ideas in the comments!
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