13 June 2007

Deadlines, Anyone?

As usual, I am behind on a deadline. If you're an editor, forget I said that, will ya?

In the past couple of years, I've taken up the habit of selling books on proposal versus finishing a book and then offering it for sale. I thought this was how "it" was done, whatever "it" was. Why spend months writing a novel only to discover there is no market and end up shelving it indefinitely? Why not sell the concept, then collect the advance and have something to show (in the form of immediate gratification) while you're writing?

For me, I've discovered the answer. Because life gets in the way of my fairy tale. Daily. Hourly, it seems. I'm writing a contemporary time travel pantheon paranormal. It's the third in a trilogy, so I know the characters pretty darn well, and I have the entire story outlined. And I have most of the chapters done. Hopefully by the time this entry is published, I will have the entire book written and turned in. I'm targeting for the 15th though, so it's possible that as you're reading this, I'm chain smoking, staring at the screen of my laptop somewhere in the confines of my dungeon office, little clumps of my hair strewn about the floor around my ergonomically correct chair.

I've decided that I won't sell another book on proposal for several reasons. And here they are for whomever is still reading:

Procrastination. Plain and simple. I can't remember to send my bills out on time (I've finally given in to online banking and automatic payment systems) so why should I care about a deadline months, or even a year in the future? I have time to write it. Pee-shaw. I'll watch a movie, instead.

Which brings me to No. 2. Movies. "Survivor." The Lifetime Channel. Re-runs of Sleepless in Seattle on Encore. Is it possible to be a television addict? If so, point me to the nearest twelve steps, please. Cut the cord. Literally. And speaking of cutting the cord...

The Husband. Love him until Death do we Part. He really, really hates watching TV alone, unless it's something I'm truly not interested in, which isn't much. (I'm a writer. I'm interested in pretty much anything.) So even though I know I have a deadline, even though he knows I have a deadline, and even though he encourages my writing to the tune of I-want-to-be-a-kept-man-someday, he asks me to watch a movie with him almost every night. Hence, the television addiction. I suppose, that makes my dearest my pusher.

Writing during the day at least five days each week, while he is at work, or sleeping off his massively exhausting graveyard shifts, seems like the perfect solution. One would think, anyway. The phone rings at least fifteen times each day, and guess what? I answer it. Why? It could be an emergency. One of my children actually following my long-standing rule about bugging Mom "at work" call me if you're on fire or bleeding. Generally, it's a salesman, or my kids just wanting to check in (God bless 'em), or my husband asking me how the writing is going and what's for dinner. Totally my fault. I'm the one who picks up the phone, but I have to. If I let it ring, I end up doing that star-69 thing and calling them back to see what they wanted. Pathetic but true.

Writer's block. Going on two years now. I do have interspersed periods of lucidity. After all, I've written two books in the past year (Dawn of Redemption and The Flyer). I've started several shorter erotica ebooks, too. They're not bad. But all things being equal, when I see that blank Word document and that little curser blinking at me, I think of what I'm missing on Starz.

So these are the top five reasons why I've decided to get the sexy back, so to speak. No more pressure! Before I wrote to a deadline, the muse took up residence regularly in every part of my brain. I couldn't shut her up if I tried. I spent loads of time on the lists promoting the fact I wanted to BE a writer. I had the energy of a high-school-cheerleader-on-ephedrine staying up until three each morning just enjoying the process of writing. I miss those days so much that I'm going back. I'm finishing my contracted works (actually Dawn of the Fire Moon, "the current deadline book" is the last one) and then I'm going to write the way I want to.

How is that? When the inspiration hits. I have a feeling it will hit much more often once the pressure cooker blows.

How about you? Do you find you work better under pressure? Doesn't have to be a writing deadline, but do you rise to a challenge or beat yourself up because the end is nigh? I'll check back as soon as possible (read: after I've groveled to my editor about how late my book is) to see what everyone has to say.


Michelle Styles said...

I like deadlines. They force me to work.

Also I always set my own deadlines some what ahead of the deadlines I agree with my editors. It means I normally comfortably make those ones.

The Tharp book is excellent on the getting of ideas. Perhaps you have been scratching around in the same place toomany times for your ideas?

Right I have a book to finish and a deadline of Monday.

Karen Mercury said...

Hey Marjorie! Like you, I was on deadline nonstop for 3 years. I've been off the stuff since July 2006, and I'm starting to get the sinking feeling that I really "need" it. Sure, I got hit up with health issues like you, and the new drug (call it "methadone") doesn't really take care of all. I'm replacing one addiction with another, and for the first time in my life, I, too, am a TV addict.

Dare I say it...I think my next step is to go back on deadline. I might freak and throw things around and scream all this shit my H never notices later anyway, but at least I'll write more than 100 words per week.

I was just at a conference where Bernard Cornwell spoke...He said there IS no such thing as writer's block. It's apply butt to chair and write all day till evening. Then drink Jameson Whiskey. :)

Jacquie said...

I'm very goal-oriented, so deadlines are just the ticket for me. But I break them down into incremental deadlines (mileposts) . . . page 100 by this date, page 200 by the next date. I try to always make it a workable deadline so there's still time for PR (a time-sucking monster) and edits or proofing galleys on other projects, as well.

Then again, I used to be a project manager. First rule of setting a deadline: double the time you think a project will take, tack on a few more days for Acts of God, then concentrate on those milestones. Also, an author once told me to never agree to a December or early January deadline. So far that hasn't been an issue for me, but I can see that it's good advice.

I'm a big one for rewards. I reward myself for everything except procrastination, which is my biggest failing by far.