Making the Next Deadline

Lea Wait, here. I think.

Right now I’m writing or editing eight to ten hours or more a day. No – that isn’t my preferred way of writing, although I’ll admit it does focus me.  Why am I doing it, then? I have a September first deadline for my next book, and circumstances beyond my control (health, family, technology failures, promotion … the usual list) conspired to push me into this corner.

Seven weeks from a deadline I’ve usually finished several drafts of a book and am working on one of a series of “final” edits.

This time around I’ve written (and edited — my style is to edit as I go, so my first draft is pretty polished) about sixty percent of what will be the final version. I’m not happy with it yet, though, so I keep editing what I’ve written. Each day I edit out perhaps four pages and add five.  A slow way to go.

Interestingly, I have two other writing friends who also have September 1 deadlines. I haven’t seen either of them recently, for obvious reasons, but we do occasionally exchange panicked emails. One finished her book in April. But the expert to whom she gave the manuscript to fact check got it back to her two weeks ago and told her the plot wouldn’t work. Despite her research, she’d gotten a couple of key points wrong. The legal world would laugh and her character would be disbarred. A big oops. She’s totally rewriting her book. My other friend has had major family issues. She couldn’t race from bedside to bedside and concentrate on a plot, so the plot just didn’t come together. Now she has seven weeks to make sure it does. Yet the family issues continue. She’s beginning to whisper words like, “extension?”

I’m not. I’ll make my deadline. I’m writing this blog surrounded by the tools of an author’s trade. A list of characters. Time lines. Character bios. Genealogy charts. Notes from previous books in my series to make sure I don’t change any places or characters who’ve appeared before. Notes from my favorite book on writing, Donald Maass’ The Fire in Fiction reminding me about microtension  in dialogue. Lists of scenes. Lists of words to describe weather at the time of year the book is set. Lists of animals and birds, ditto. A side list of questions to be researched that I’ll have to fill in (later today? tomorrow? there’s not much time.) A running analysis of chapter lengths. (Currently they range from 3 pages to 20. Hmm. I’ll need to look at that.) Notes on prints I’ll choose to be in chapter headings, since this is a Shadows Antique Print Mystery.  Adding the headings is the last thing I do before sending a book in, but it can take days, so if I can get a little ahead on it, that’s good. At this stage, every hour counts.

My back aches. My tendency to migraines is challenged several times a week. My husband, who’s trying not to complain, is doing all the errands and the cooking. What bothers him most is that even when I emerge from my second floor study I’m not always “myself.” Believe me. I love him. and love the support he’s giving me.

But my head’s still in my manuscript, rearranging scenes, thinking up deeper motivations, adding new clues or complications.

My manuscript will be finished by September 1.

But I’m afraid I’ll miss this summer.


3 Responses

  1. Lea, I’m also up against an early September deadline and have several other commitments as well. The result has been a kind of brain freeze. Fortunately my characters have decided to take charge. They’ve told me, “Listen, dumb @#$%, here’s what we need to do. Here’s where we need go, and this is what we need to do.” I’m following along and have written almost 4,000 words in the past week.

  2. Lucky you! Unfortunately, my characters aren’t helping me out that much!

  3. […] Making the Next Deadline ( […]

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