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.

1 comment:

Mark Baker said...

I always claim my motto is "When in doubt, panic." Sadly, it doesn't actually solve anything, but I've given in too many times.

It's good advice whether you are working under a writing deadline or an accounting deadline or any other deadline.