Blogger Dr. O at Academic Aspirations says that grant-writing takes time. Lots of it. "I know of no senior professor that writes a big grant in less than a month, and junior profs, postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduates need increasingly more time and help to construct a fundable proposal," she writes. In detailing her own experience, the blogger says that a grant she began last July saw a significant metamorphosis by October, when she submitted it. Grant-writing, Dr. O says, "takes a village." More specifically, it takes a diverse set of proofreaders and reviewers. "For my latest submission, I found it most strategic to send my first draft (already edited by one of my labmates) to only a few individuals, wait for their edits (about two weeks), then send out the updated proposal to a new set of readers," the blogger writes, adding that this process ate up about a month. Furthermore, anyone who's ever filed their taxes knows what a time sink filling out federal paperwork can be, she adds. "Multiply your IRS forms by about 100, and that's an NIH grant," Dr. O writes. "Bottom line — start early if you want to get funded."
In a comment to this post, Dr. Becca at One the Market: Fumbling Towards Tenure Track advises that "anyone who plans on applying for a grant to contact their institutional grants and contracts office first thing," because "they often have internal deadlines that are much earlier than the actual grant deadline." Blogger Biochem Belle stresses that first-time grant applicants should read through the actual RFA very carefully. Dr. O agrees and adds that it's best to "contact the program officer for your funding institution early with any questions you have about the RFA."