Sunday, October 19, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - Get 'er Done Time

Counting today, I have 4 days until the deadline on my manuscript for A BODY TO SPARE, my 10th Odelia Grey novel. 

The book is done and I'm doing my final edits. I should be excited and nearly celebratory, shouldn't it?

But nooooooooooooooooo.

You see, I've hit a bit of a glitch. 

Last night the voices in my head told me I need to do some major revisions in a few of the chapters. Those voices are correct. I do need to do some rewrites here and there. In fact, that's what I'll be doing today.  Fortunately, it's later in the book and the first 2/3 of the manuscript are tight and edited.  

The book would be fine without those re-writes. Really, it would. Everything is moving along nicely and the parts all fit together.

I'm at a junction. I can settle for the book as it is for the sake of time. The manuscript is okay and even good. BUT, am I shooting for just okay or for the best I can do?

Tip of the Day
Let your writing be ruled by your inner voice,
not the calendar.
Your book will be the better for it.

This does not mean to blow off your deadline to rewrite. My book is due to my publisher this week and I promised it would be done. And it will be! What will be sacrificed will be the plans I had for today.  Gone! Kaput! Instead, I'll be reworking those couple of chapters with glitches, then moving forward to finish the edits.

That's what a professional writer would do.
And there will be no whining about it.

So here I am. It's 8:30 on a beautiful Sunday morning. The cats have been fed and I'm armed with hot coffee. I'm prepared to show no mercy to those "nice" chapters for the next several hours. If I stay focused, I might get it all done today, maybe even in time for dinner and watching a little Sunday night TV.


Friday, October 17, 2014

A Blogging Fool


Recently I started a new blog called The Half-Assed Vegan to chronicle my experiences in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle.  New topics will usually be posted on Friday or Saturday every week or so.

On the new blog, I plan on sharing food tips, information, recipes, missteps, and, hopefully, I can convince some noted vegan and vegetarian bloggers to drop by and chat.

Not to worry, I'll still be blogging on Babble 'n Blog about my writing and other topics that come to my addled mind. 

When I mentioned doing The Half-Assed Vegan Blog to some friends, most were very supportive. One made the following comment: "Like you don't have enough to do?"

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I know. 

In the next twelve months I have two novels and one novella due to two different publishers. But this is important to me and I think it will be useful to a lot of people like me who are sticking a toe into the plant-based eating pool.  Besides, it's only once in a while. I'll sandwich it in somewhere ... along as the sandwich is vegan.

You can find the new blog HERE.  Or just click on the link for it in the right hand column under my profile.  And please feel free to leave comments!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - Just Go To Bed!

I am just PAGES from finishing my current WIP. PAGES... I tell you!

For the past several nights I've been burning the midnight oil, in spite of needing to get up and go to work the next day. I have the entire rest of the book all laid out in my head. I just need to get it on the page.

The spirit's willing, but the flesh is weak.

Last night I was determined to get the words on the page, or at least finish the scene I was working on, but I was starting to nod off with my fingers still on the keyboard. I kid you not. This has happened before. In fact, it happens at the end of every book. I try to push forward even though my brain is fried.
Tip of the Day
When you're exhausted, go to bed.
Because tired writing is crap writing.

This is so true. If your brain is too tired to keep moving, pack it up and get some sleep because you're just going to have to heavily edit or even delete what you put on the page at this point. Coffee may help keep you awake, but it will not sharpen your brain.

Sleep is not underrated. I repeat, sleep is not underrated.

This is why I schedule most of my writing early in the morning when my gray matter is fresh and revived. Instead of burning the midnight oil, try going to bed and setting the alarm to get up earlier. It's amazing how much more I can get accomplished doing this.  The words that were playing hide and seek the night before will usually come out of hiding in the daylight.

That doesn't mean you should use sleep as an escape from your deadline. But when it's getting to be past  twelve at night and you're fighting to find those elusive words, consider that it might be time for a long power nap.

I have just over a week to get this book done, and barring death or a major disaster,  it will be done, including the editing. 

By the way, the 10th Odelia Grey novel is no longer titled Junk in the Trunk. As of yesterday, it became A BODY TO SPARE. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - So Close I Can Smell It

9 days. That's all the time I have left until my extended deadline is up. But I'm not worried. The book is almost done. So done I can almost smell the finish.  Seriously, as I write this I have maybe 20-25 pages left. Then I'll do one final deep edit and it's done! YAY!

What then? A vacation? A shopping excursion? Lose myself in a bubble bath and a bottle of champagne? All are good ideas, but right now the plan is to take the rest of October off from writing and clean out a closet that has been waiting for my attention for a very long time, get more exercise and catch up with all the shows on my DVR and, most importantly, catch up with friends - my very understanding friends. Okay, and maybe a full body massage.

But I digress, losing myself in the treats ahead instead of plowing on toward the finish. It's easy to do so close to the end. It's easy to lose focus and meander, thinking you have all the time in the world, that the final push will be easy-peasy. But it's not.

Tip of the Day
Keep your focus until the fat lady sings.

Those final chapters tie up the entire book. If they're sloppy and phoned in, either because you're exhausted, sick of the book, or ready to par-tay, it leaves your readers with a bad, unsatisfying taste.  Like biting into a fine chocolate and finding it's filled with okra instead of a rich ganache.

And even if that's not your intent, it can happen. Push toward the finish like a spent marathoner trying to beat the clock, not like you're on a Sunday drive after church. Writing a book is a marathon. It's not a sprint.

I'm keeping this blog short because, guess what, I'm near the finish and determined to get across that line!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - In the Zone

Not wanting to squander my editor's generous gift of a three week extension, I've been diligently marching toward the finish of JUNK IN THE TRUNK, which is due in 15 days.  And I'm close... very, very close to the finish. So close I can smell it like an vacation ocean breeze. In fact, I'll probably have the book done by this weekend and then take the last week of my extension to do a final tight edit.

This past weekend I locked myself up in my apartment and worked on the manuscript. I had planned on getting the car washed, a pedicure and buying some groceries. Instead, the car never moved and I didn't even take the chain lock off the front door to go out and empty trash. 

I was in THE ZONE.

All you writers out there know what I'm talking about.


That bittersweet place where writers go where nothing else exists or matters but the words in front of them. It's a perfect place where sentences flow like Niagara Falls, characters fall in line like children following the Pied Piper, and page after page of manuscript comes to life.
Tip of the Day:
You don't screw with THE ZONE.
It's magical and can disappear in an instant.

I had things to do this weekend. One thing was even important, but could be rescheduled, which it was. You see, I make it a rule never to mess with THE ZONE unless absolutely necessary. I've cancelled dates and sent my regrets at the last minute for parties when I've found myself in THE ZONE. 

THE ZONE trumps all.

At least most of the time. There are times when some commitments must take precedent, like book events on the calendar, medical emergencies, day jobs, and your significant other's birthday. But most can wait until the creative fog clears.  Loved ones need to be educated on THE ZONE if they aren't already. My close friends know and understand about it. My last boyfriend understood when I cancelled dates. The one before that, not so much. He didn't last long.

THE ZONE is also fickle. You'll never know when it will hit or how long it will last, and you can't conjure it up like Beetlejuice. It also doesn't confine itself to deadlines. THE ZONE can honor you with its presence at any time. I wrote almost all of THE CURSE OF THE HOLY PAIL under the influence of THE ZONE.  It was like stars shooting from my fingers every time I touched the keyboard.

I was still in THE ZONE when I had to go to work yesterday morning. And I was in THE ZONE for most of this morning.  I hope it comes back again tonight or tomorrow, even though the book is almost done. THE ZONE is like heroin or good chocolate. Once you get a taste for it, you'll long and whimper for it over and over. It turns a normal writer into a zombie lusting for brains.

Repeat after me: 


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - More Please

Today I went to my editor at Midnight Ink, gruel bowl in hand like Oliver Twist, and asked for more time to get my manuscript for Odelia #10 done.  Being the understanding person she is, she gave me a couple of more weeks.

In spite of my diligence, the book is not ready. It's close, but you can't turn in close.  Truth is, I could probably get it done by my deadline next week, but I know it would not be up to my usual standards. The manuscript will be done, but the kinks will not be ironed out.

My plan is to turn it in earlier than October 22nd, my new deadline date. You see, I have another book lined up behind it and that book is tapping its foot with impatience.  It's the 6th book in my Ghost of Granny Apples series and it has a working title of GHOST WRITER. It's due in mid-March. So, extension or not, I cannot lollygag.

Tip of the Day:
If you legitimately need an extension, ask for it,
but don't take advantage of it.
I often ask for extensions on initial manuscripts, usually to do a last minute polish. Only once do I recall needing a long or second extension and that was due to illness. Usually all I need is just a week or so more. When it comes to other deadlines, like turning in copy edits, I always hit the mark, sometimes even early.

Often new authors wonder why a publisher needs a manuscript 9-12 months ahead of a book's release date.  Never forget that publishers have deadlines on their end too. They have covers to work up and catalogues to prepare and PR campaigns to plan, all done nearly a year before the book is printed. Getting a book out has many moving parts and involves a lot of people, and if you, the author, don't hold up your end, it throws everything out of kilter for many.

An author once bragged to me that she was four months past her deadline on one of her books. She didn't seem concerned at all. The last time I spoke with her, her publisher had canned her. Get the drift.

There are authors who can drag out deadlines for a long time and survive. Those are usually the top sellers. Those authors at the very top of the food chain who bring in millions for their publishers, but even then I'll bet they don't do it often. Those of us who are mid-listers or those just starting out do not have that luxury.

It's also extremely unprofessional.

So I now have a reset on the time clock for JUNK IN THE TRUNK!


That doesn't mean I'll be goofing off this weekend.  I have some personal stuff that came up that needs my attention. After that, it will be all Odelia all the time, or damn close to it.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - Make It Work Time

I have 7 days left until my deadline for Odelia book #10. 7 days. One week.

It was going well until this weekend. At the end of last week, while I was doing my usual U-turn edit of the book, a new character popped up on my radar. I could have ignored him but he was just too much fun and did enhance the story. So I went back and introduced him into the plot line. That used up a lot of time and now he's not cooperating. At least he's not cooperating with my story line for him.

So, do I force the issue and make him do what I want or do I let him do what he wants and see where it takes me.  Normally, I would choose the latter but with only one week left, it's a tough call. And I can't take time off from my day job to bury myself in my manuscript until it's done because we're super busy right now at the office.
What to do? What to do?

I know what I'm going to do. What I always do. I'm going to let the character take me where he wants, because that will be the better book.  And if I get near the end of the week and it's not looking good to finish on time, I will humbly ask for a short extension. I won't need much. The book is going well otherwise.

I worked all weekend on this manuscript and I'd love to work on it again all day today, but that's not an option. So I will continue to plow ahead mornings and evenings and lunchtimes on it.

It happens every damn time. 

And every time I say I will get the next book in ahead of schedule.

And every damn time I find myself on the ropes.

The thing is, as a writer, I don't think I'm alone on this.

Am I?

Tip of the Day:
Even in panic mode, keep your head.
A clear head will get you to the finish every time.
Panic mode will only give you hives and breeds self doubt. Trust me, I know. So even when you're pressed for time, take a deep breath. Do a few minutes of  yoga, go for a short walk, get on your exercise bike, or scrub a floor. I find a few minutes of something physical helps to clear my head and push back the panic of the looming deadline. 

  • Do not drink alcohol
  • Do not eat a bag of doughnuts
  • Do not watch the NCIS marathon on TV
  • Do not curl up into the fetal position

Put on your big girl panties (or big boy pants)
and deal with it.

That's what I'm doing. It's what I do every time.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - Time To Do It Right

I don't know about other writers, but when I get to the point in a manuscript where I know the finish is just around the bend at the top of the next small hill, I stop and take a breather. That doesn't mean I stop working on my WIP, but that I change gears and go back to the beginning and start editing, even though I'm not done with the book.


Because I want to make sure the story flows well and the facts fit before I head towards the finish line and tie everything up. This is where I make sure red herrings are in place, facts are presented but not too obvious, the timeline is practical, and the characters are behaving as they should, so that when I get to the finish it all makes sense and is satisfying to my readers.

And that's where I am right now in JUNK IN THE TRUNK.

I do it for every book.

And this is not the final edit before I turn the manuscript in. This is just my usual U-turn to retrace my steps. When I've finished editing the book and return to the place where I stopped adding new material, I'll continue on to the finish, then go back and edit AGAIN before hitting the send button to my editor. This final edit is where I check for typos, grammatical errors and clumsy sentences.

Once, when I was talking to a writers' group, I mentioned this process and another writer quipped, "That's what editors are for."

No. No. No. A thousand times NO!
An editor is not your maid or your mother.
It's not their job to pick up after you.

Editors are professionals who buy your books, then work with you to make them the best they can be before they get into the hands of the public. Before submitting a manuscript, every author should make sure it's the best it can be. Sure, you'll miss a few typos, and there might be some rough patches in the story. A good editor will catch those and give you suggestions on how to smooth them out, but editors are not there to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Tip of the Day:
Turning in slipshod manuscripts can end your career.

That's right. I'm working on my 10th Odelia Grey novel (my 19th contracted novel overall), yet I take the same, if not BETTER, care to turn in the best manuscript I can. I will do the same with the next book, and the next. No matter which book, series or publisher, I offer up the best I can. It makes for less work for all of us during the publishing process. 

Consider this: with publishing as chaotic as it is and with so many authors vying for so few spots, unless you are raking in buckaroonies for your publisher, why would they keep a lazy, sloppy author?  If your manuscripts take a lot of handholding, you might find yourself without future contract offers.  It's really that simple. Publishers want professional writers ... period. So be as professional in your writing as you can be.

One of my favorite quotes.
And this is also true if you are self-published or independently published. You may not have to answer to a publisher or editor, but you do have to answer to your reading public.  I have read a lot of great self-published books. Books that are well written, well edited and produced professionally. Yet, I have read more self-published books that felt slapped together. Continue doing that and it won't be a publisher pulling the plug on your writing career, it will be your readers.

Another thing to consider is time.  I'm under contract to write two books a year for two different publishers.  People are always asking me how I manage to do this and hold down a full-time job. Well, by turning in a very clean and well structured manuscript the first time, there is no need to go back and forth with editors except for the usual editing process, which tends to be minor. There are no time-sucking rewrites if  you do your best the first time around.

Every writer self-edits differently. I tend to do rolling edits. I write about ten to twenty pages or a chapter or two, then edit them before moving forward. Then near the end of the book I do this U-turn editing routine. When I finish the book, it's well edited, except for the final check for typos. Other writers finish a book totally before going back to edit. They might do several full drafts before they turn it in, saving each draft as a different version. Some authors even hire free-lance editors to check their work.  All are valid methods because we all have the same goal - to produce the best manuscript possible before it's published. Try a couple of methods and find what works best for you.

I should finish this editing U-turn by the Friday morning, then I'll be pushing to the end and the final chapters. I can't wait!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - Fighting the Panic

Counting today and my deadline day, I have 15 days in which to complete my current manuscript and get it to my publisher.

Saturday night I attended my favorite annual party, the Gumbo Party sponsored by the Southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America and hosted at the home of writer Bill Fitzhugh (who makes the best gumbo and corn whatchamacallit in the world) and his lovely wife Kendall. As always, I had a blast and even with a deadline looming, I was one of the last to leave.  Not because I had no where to go, but because I knew this was my last hurrah until my deadline and I wanted to savor every moment with my friends. From here on out, almost every moment not spent at the day job will be spent on this manuscript.

Am I panicking? Not really. Not yet. But I am eying the panic button, wondering how it will feel under my fingers.

Tip of the Day:
Panic solves nothing.
Repeat after me: Panic solves nothing.
It's a time suck, so don't be sucked in by its charms.

Take several deep breaths. Do some yoga. Take a walk around the block, if you have to, but don't give in to the quagmire that is panic. It's totally counterproductive.

The book is doing fine but isn't quite as far along as I'd like it to be. Just yesterday it took a short detour that I didn't expect in the story line. Nothing major that will cause broad edits throughout, but one that did use a bit of valuable time to incorporate smoothly. This morning I woke up knowing some other changes that I need to make before I can push on. These are good changes. Changes that will add more texture to the plot and characters.  It would be easy to push those thoughts aside; my sensible self kicking my creative self out of the way in its single-minded focus on the deadline straight ahead. But I won't do it. I'll give those new ideas the respect they deserve.

Second Tip of the Day:
Never sacrifice creativity and
good writing to the deadline altar.

Near the end you'll be tempted to ignore your writer's intuition when it's trying to tell you about revisions that will enhance the story. You'll try to convince yourself they aren't needed and you don't have time to incorporate them, even though you know it will make a better book. Listen to your gut and add them.

Then again, make sure they are quality additions and not ideas stemming from panic rising like acid from last night's pizza. Take a moment to think about those new ideas. Do they really make the story better? Or are you worried you've been working on a piece of shit and these changes are what you need to make your manuscript less crappy.

Really think about it. Don't bulldoze ahead with those new and time sucking ideas until you're sure. Have a cup of coffee and think it through. A few minutes of contemplation can prevent you from ruining your manuscript or can give you confidence that the changes are worthy of a short detour of time.

I often find that the closer I get to a deadline, the less in love I am with the book I'm working on. I'm tired of it. I'm tired... period. I want it over with as soon as possible and these new ideas are just making the end seem like a mirage I'll never realize. That's when I pull myself together, take a deep breath and remember that this is the date I brought to the dance and the date I'm taking home. It was a great idea when I started and it's still a great idea. It just might need a short pit stop to make it better.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - Geographically Undesirable

Southern California is in the grip of a major heat wave right now and I do not have AC in my apartment. Which is okay about 357 days of the year. Right now it's insufferable, in spite of the heroic efforts of every fan I own. My cats are not happy. At least I get to go to work in an air conditioned office Monday through Friday. I wish I could pack them up and bring them with me.

But what about the rest of the time?  What about the time I need to spend working on my current manuscript which is due in 20 days? A deadline does not care if you are sweltering and your sweaty fingers are slipping off the keyboard.

What happens is that I power through it even if I'm melting at the keyboard and sweat is pouring off me like I've just run a couple of miles.

I know a lot of writers who write in libraries, coffee shops and cafes. And several friends have suggested I do the same during high heat days. The thing is, I don't do well writing in public. I can't concentrate and, frankly, I find it hard to believe most writers can be really productive in such environments.  There are just too many distractions.

A writer friend once asked me how I managed to write so many books in such a short time when she could barely get one done every 12-18 months. She then went on to explain how she writes in her local coffee shop and has to discipline herself not to be distracted by the other people in the establishment.

Well, duh!

That's not true of all writers. I also know a writer or two have produced a lot of work in public places. But I believe that's rare. I'll bet if you polled writers who write in public places with a lot of traffic, you'll find them amongst the least productive. Sometimes I think people like to play the part of a writer more than the writing itself.

Look at me, I'm a writer!

Tip of the Day:
Don't sabotage yourself by writing in locations
that aren't conducive to productivity.
No matter how good the coffee or how cool it seems.

I don't like writing in public, but will do it when pressed. I've written in hotel rooms, on planes, in airports, on beaches, at lakes, even on a cruise ship. Except for airports and planes, most of the places I write while away from home are quiet and semi-private. Even on the cruise ship, I found a corner of a nearly empty bar and wrote undisturbed for a couple of hours.

Last month I wrote at a picnic table while looking out over a lake. This past weekend I wrote at the dining table at a friend's home in the mountains. In both places I was productive and found my surroundings soothing and conducive to concentration. But that said, the bottom line is I am at my most productive while sitting at my desk at home, even if there's no AC and the cats are bothering me for attention. That's were I can get comfortable (i.e., yoga pants/shorts and no bra) and get my mojo on.

Sometimes a change of venue helps jar the creative juices,
just so long as it doesn't prevent you from
getting those words on the page.

If you're having an issue with productivity, re-evaluate your writing environment. You don't need to have absolute quiet or banish the family to a locked room in the basement. Everyone is different. You just need what works for you and sometimes it takes time to figure out what that is.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - Go Ninja On It!

I've made no secret that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE watching American Ninja Warrior. Those men and women attack those obstacles like their lives depend on it. Like a swarm of alligators and a band of flying monkeys are both chasing them.

Yes, that's the tip for today.
Tip of the Day:
Attack your WIP and your deadline
like your life depends on it.

Don't be a wimp and whine about your upcoming deadline and how you're not going to meet it and how you're missing out on everything and how you make no money writing and how your publisher, readers, family, reviewers don't appreciate you and how hard you work.

No one wants to hear that shit and it only takes valuable time away from your manuscript and destroys your confidence. 

I don't know about you folks, but I can't write when my head is up my ass.

Instead, focus on that deadline and your current manuscript with all the determination of tiny Kacy Catanzaro muscling her way to become the first woman to qualify for the finals on American Ninja Warrior.  And if you don't know what I'm talking about, watch this video that I posted on a previous blog post.

See that face. See that I refuse to give up mind set? See that success? That's the face of a Ninja Warrior. That's the face you should have while muscling your way towards a deadline.

Then again ... there are times you feel like a Ninja wimp.

I'm having one of those times right now. I didn't sleep well last night and I'm paying for it today.

My personal favorite whines that are looping through my head right now:

I'm old
I'm too tired
I want to go back to bed
I got nothing
I'm washed up

I'm staring at my WIP and my head is telling me the clock is ticking, which only adds to the pressure I feel.  I don't mean I have writer's block. I know exactly what's going on the page and it stands ready to gush forth like a broken water main. I just can't seem to make myself punch the keys to put it down on the page.  My mind is wandering and my determination and focus is following it like an abandoned puppy following a kid down the street. It happens to all of us.

Second Tip of the Day:
When you become a loss soul
wandering the writing woods,
don't sit down consigned to die.
Pick your sorry ass up
and fight your way out.

Okay, first throw yourself a pity party. A small one about the length of time it takes a Keurig coffee maker to brew a cup of coffee. Then kick yourself in the ass and get back to it.

I'm old. I'm experienced.
I'm too tired. Then get your ass to bed earlier.
I want to go back to bed. Not an option.
I got nothing. Bullshit, you have more ideas than M&Ms has candy.
I'm washed up. No, you just need a shower and a cup of coffee and you'll feel better.

Take a few hours or even A day to get your head screwed back on, but no more. The longer you dwell on negatives, the stronger they get and the more they beat you down. And that, like going back to bed right now, is not an option.

What would Kacy do?

I've got 26 days to make this book work. And I will do it!

Taking a deep breath.

Putting fingers to the keyboard.

At least I will right after I get that cup of coffee.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - All Work And No Play Makes Sue Ann Cranky

As I write this post I'm down to 29 days before my deadline on JUNK IN THE TRUNK, the 10th Odelia Grey novel.

It's been a great weekend, even if Friday ended with me losing a crown and getting hardly any writing done (not because of the crown, but because of other stuff that cropped up). As I said in my last post, shit happens and you'd better be prepared. I have a dental appointment on Monday and in the meantime I'm trying to make up lost time on the manuscript.

Tip of the Day:
Even on deadline, make time for some fun.
It will help your writing. Trust me.

Even on a crushing deadline I make sure I schedule in fun time (aside from exercise which I don't consider fun). On deadline it's difficult to be spontaneous, but I make sure I get out with friends at least once every other weekend.  In September I have something fun going on every single weekend in spite of being on deadline, but I usually only schedule one day for the fun and usually not all of that day.

Saturday I had planned on meeting my friends Heide and Mark for brunch at the Spitfire Grill in Santa Monica, a favorite place. After brunch Heide and I were heading to an art show at the Brentwood Art Center, then on to do some needed shopping. I had planned on being home in the late afternoon to get back to my writing, but, as I've said before, shit happens. This time it was good shit.

Do you know how much time one can spend in Bed, Bath and Beyond? And buy so little? I came home with a couple of cartons of Keurig coffee pods and Heide bought a new fan. Really. That's it.

By the time we'd finished up everything it was almost dinner time so we stopped off at Billingsley's, another favorite place which was close by, for a bite to eat. BTW, it was one of the few meals at which I exercised my right to be a Half-Assed Vegan and I ordered prime rib.

I didn't make it home until 8:30 and I was tired, so I read a bit and went to bed. So much for getting in several hours of writing.

As Scarlett O'Hara said: After all... tomorrow is another day. Just don't quote that to yourself too often.

Several years ago I worked relentlessly on my books in every waking moment not taken up by my day job. The result was horrible depression, a feeling of having lost control of my life, anger and even a growing dislike for writing in general.  I hardly ever left my apartment and blew off invitations from friends regularly.

I wrote ALL THE TIME. Period.

After taking a good look at my crumbling psyche, I decided to stop beating myself up and take back my personal life. In spite of still being under contract to write 2 novels a year and working a day job, I started making time to go to plays and concerts. I met friends and went to parties and took short trips. I stopped and smelled the proverbial roses. And do you know what happened? I still made my deadlines. There were some much needed extensions here and there, but I hit them and my work did not suffer. In fact, I think the books written after I unchained myself from self-imposed slavery were better paced and needed a lot less editing.

Believe it or not, taking a day out to relax and enjoy yourself like this can, like exercise, clear the writing cobwebs and loosen up the words you're trying to get on the page. It's like pouring a bottle of Drano into your brain.
As I promised myself, I spent most of today writing. I didn't get as much done as I had hoped, but made some good solid progress that will need little editing. I also made myself a nice dinner and watched some TV and took time to sit on the patio and finish up a book I was reading. As soon as I post this blog, I'm planning on getting in another 45 minutes of writing.

If you're banging your head against a wall day
after day, all you're going to get is a headache, and you can't write with a massive headache. 
Step away from the wall and take a deep breath.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - 32 Days

Sometimes shit happens.

Literally and figuratively. 

This morning I got up knowing my writing time would be short because I had to get to the office a couple of hours early to work on a big project. I still figured I could squeeze in 30 minutes or so of writing.


Before my feet even hit the carpet I noticed the first piece of cat poop. It was next to the wall closest to the bed. Then I noticed two more about a foot away. Then a few more. Little dried brown balls that led me from the bed through the bedroom to the dressing area where I keep the cat box.  It looked like one of my cats needed to go bad and couldn't hold it until reaching the box. And I'm pretty sure I know which one it was.

So that was my morning. On a time crunch to begin with, I now had to pick up cat poop and clean the dirtied areas of the carpet.

I didn't even have time for my coffee!

Poop and projects had gotten in the way of my writing routine just 32 days out from a deadline.  And this was a pretty minor hiccup.

Tip of the Day:
Never assume when you are ahead of schedule
that you will stay ahead of schedule.
Shit happens.  It's called life.

Here are just a few things that can stand in the way of a writer meeting his or her deadline:
  • Illness - either yours or a family member's
  • Computer meltdown (Back your WIP up, people. Everyday!)
  • Your meltdown (trust me, it happens)
  • Unexpected company
  • An accident - try writing with broken bones or a concussion
  • Unusually long hours at the day job
  • A house fire or broken plumping
  • An earthquake, hurricane, tornado
  • Death
Get my drift?

A few years ago I had to work almost an entire week of 12-14 hour days at my day job just weeks before a book deadline. I almost ended up in the loony bin. Another time I had to have unexpected surgery shortly before a deadline.

Always write like alligators are nipping at your butt, not like you're on a leisurely cruise. Even when your deadline seems far away, trust me, it's not. All it would take is one bump in the road to eat up valuable time and turn you into road kill.

Most publishers will give you extensions. Thankfully, I've gotten many over the years. But they can only push it so far. Publishers have catalogues that have to go out and sales people who need to be informed and PR to line up. The author is not the only moving part of a manuscript and a lot of people depend on that book getting turned in within a reasonable amount of time.

Disasters aside, also don't be cavalier about your deadlines. The publishing world does not revolve around you and an author who doesn't take deadlines seriously may soon find themselves without a publisher.

Hopefully, in the next 32 days all I'll have to contend with is a little cat poop.  I wonder if I could get an extension with that excuse?

Oh, and work. I have to go in early again tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - 33 Days

I did not sleep well last night. It's hotter than hell in my apartment and I don't have AC, just some mega fans. I woke up with a headache just after 5 and by 6 was writing armed with a mug of coffee and some Advil. No time to be wussy, I have a deadline to meet in 33 days.

I belong to a private healthy eating and exercise group on Facebook and our September challenge is to walk, bike, run or crawl 50 miles this month. No big deal. That breaks down to 1.666 miles a day. Today is the 3rd day of the month and I'm just getting started, so I'm a little behind but I'll catch up. I'm actually looking to hit at least 75 miles this month. I wear a Fit Bit One most days anyway, so now I'll make sure I get in enough steps to meet my mileage for the month and then some. It's easy to forget but the challenge will help me remember.

But you have a deadline to hit. This is no time to focus on exercise.

Oh yes it is!

Tip of the Day:
Make sure you get some exercise almost every day
while you are working on a tight deadline.

I hate exercise. There, I said it.  But I make it a point to get up from the computer at least once every 60-90 minutes, even at the office. It's not healthy for anyone to sit for hours in front of a computer. It's bad for your circulation, your focus, your eyes. Your attitude. It's bad for everything! Even for your WIP.

A little movement can greatly improve your focus and clarity, even if you take a break to clean your bathroom. On weekends, I often alternate between writing and household chores. 15-20 minutes with a sponge or vacuum can do wonders for clearing out the mental cobwebs or getting over blocks in your story. So can strapping on some sneakers and taking a walk or getting on an exercise bike or doing a yoga video.  One of my favorite breaks during a long writing session is a short stretching video set to snappy music. It not only perks me up but also loosens the tight muscles in my neck, arms and shoulders. Periodically roll and stretch those muscles. Keep them loose or you'll be whimpering in pain by the time you send in that manuscript.

It's also easy when you're on deadline to slip into the habit of eating lots of take out and junk food. Try not to do it. A logy body is a logy mind. Sure all that sugar will hype you up, but it will also bring you crashing down in a lifeless, brainless heap. And heavy food can make you sleepy. Trust me, I learned this the hard way. Eat healthy. Drink lots of water. And coffee. Gotta have coffee. You're an engine chugging up a steep hill, fuel yourself properly.

It's 9:30 pm. Usually I'm watching TV about now, but instead I'm plugging away at my WIP.  I have to be to work earlier than usual tomorrow and won't get in my usual writing time. But that's another topic for another post.