Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Deadlines and me

I've been pretty accomplished lately. I sent off my story, "The Airship Gemini" for the Corsets and Clockwork anthology, and I passed 60,000 words on Magic Under Stone. It's probably going to be 75,000 words in the first draft (which makes it my Longest Thing Ever, not including Alfred and Olivia, which is 81k, but grew very slowly and comfortably over many revisions)...so I see the end in sight.

Last month, however, and during many other months of the summer, I was in despair about how I would get these things done by the deadline, especially with all of June and half of July occupied by pretty much rewriting Between the Sea and Sky. That crushing, OMG I'M GOING TO DISAPPOINT EVERYONE AND GO BROKE CAUSE THESE BOOKS WILL NEVER EVER BE DONE, despair. I was stuck in both contracted thingies, and that short story that sounded like a fun little thing when I signed up for it had seemed to grow into a very intimidating task as I worked on it.

As it turned out, I turned in The Airship Gemini early, and I'm not sure when Magic Under Stone is supposed to be due (my contract says November, but usually my editor seems to give me a different date), but unless someone tells me otherwise I gave myself a self-imposed deadline of November 2nd, because I'm going on vacation on the 4th and there is no better feeling than finishing a book and then leaving town! It appears I will definitely make that. Even allowing for getting stuck on the end.

My agent had a post today about the pros and cons of accepting a multi-book deal, which is similar to a topic I've been pondering lately--do I work better with or without a deadline? There were times earlier in the year when I just couldn't wait to be free of a deadline. I was thinking how I get SO stressed about them, I take them SO seriously even when the deadline is ages away (maybe because I never had any formal education with papers due? no experience forcing myself to do something and turn it in on time? or maybe because I'm just an over-achiever in certain areas), and how I hoped the next thing I sold would be done already.

Of course, now that it seems I'm going to make my deadlines without any problem, I wondered why on earth I was so worried. Deadlines are kind of great! They keep me on task so I don't flit around from project to project (as I am wont to do), and it's kind of awesome to be paid for something before you even write it.

So, now I have three books sold and two have been bought before they were written. I've also done two decently involved revision letters. And the short story. I'm a lot more acquainted with the deadline than I used to be. Will it be a little less scary next time I'm stuck under deadline? I'm not sure, really, if that fear ever goes away. But I also know that stories always work themselves out. So I guess I'm pretty comfortable with the deadline (unless it's really tight...I know how fast I work...it's fast, but not CRAZY-fast, and I think it would be awful to force myself to work faster than that). Still, I'd be pretty hesitant to sell a book without, at least, a strong vision for it. I've stuck *fairly* well to my Magic Under Stone proposal, and thank goodness for that thing... Sometimes when I was flailing, I would read it to calm myself down. "I do know how this is going to end...just keep writing from point A to B to C and you WILL GET THERE!"

Other writers, feel free to chime in! Do you love or hate deadlines?


  1. Writing (and agonizing over) my second book (sold based on synopsis) demonstrated to me that I am much MUCH happier writing first, then selling. Of course, it helps that my writing $ is not paying the mortgage. If it were I'd probably be more willing to go after contracts without a full draft. But I do like self-imposed deadlines!

    Congrats on your progress! I just read MAGIC UNDER GLASS a few weeks ago and loved it. Very excited for more of the story!

  2. Thanks for this post! I've been worried about my deadlines ever since I my two-book contract, knowing there was NO WAY I would meet the deadline. I told my editor and agent as much and they said not to worry about it. And they were both wonderful when I missed my first deadline and my second. When we were coming up to the third, my editor reminded me why we have deadlines: to make certain lists. So I cranked on the novel and got it ready in time. I think deadlines are good, if they are realistic.

  3. YAY for you for making such good progress!!

    I personally like deadlines because they motivate me. I had loads of papers in college since I was an English/Psychology major, so I'm very familiar with writing under the pressure of time constraints.

  4. Aw, thanks, Deva! So glad you liked it.

    Yes...I do pay the bills with my writing so obviously selling Magic Under Stone was a necessity or it was back to retail for me...which I HOPE to avoid although it was a "risky" move to quite my day job with my first book. (Not too risky, of course, since it isn't exactly hard to find another retail job...) I think I got pretty used to agonized over my self-imposed deadlines so maybe it's not THAT different to have a real one?

    Swati: Yes, I think the most important thing is that your deadline is realistic for your writing speed. I really don't want to ever turn out a cruddy book because the deadline was too soon.

  5. Okay, so MUG, MUS, and the mermaid book...but the other two? Are they open to discussion? Or set in stone already? (Just wondering if Alfred and Olivia are officially in the publishing ring!)

  6. Katherine: Yes, I would think writing papers would be very good practice! Especially long, involved, slightly scary papers...

    Rose: No, Alfred and Olivia isn't in the publishing ring, but it's still a Novel that is Done, so I still talk about it! I can't pretend books don't exist until they're bought...even if hardly anyone knows what I'm talking about...