Publishing is a world of deadlines for writers. We find ourselves “hunkering down” to make deadlines. Houses don’t get cleaned Bills don’t get paid. Showers become a luxury. Meals are eaten from torn open bags or microwave containers. Coffee forms the foundation of the food group pyramid. (Coffee/chocolate, ramen noodles, Cheetoes) Sleep becomes a thing of the past.
Having lived in that world for so many years, I can sympathize. (Okay, fine. I am on a short story deadline at the moment. What’s your point?)
Writers careen from one deadline to the next because they’re self-employed. If they don’t do it…no one will. Some writers are disciplined and never miss a deadline. That group is a select few; don’t kid yourself. Deadlines are hard and get harder. In my experience every writer I know has faced down at least one deadline they know they will never be able to make. Truly, it’s an act of courage to realize 1) how many pages a day you have to write to deliver your book on time, 2) know that there is no way on God’s Green Earth that those pages per day will happen since the number is roughly twice as many as you’ve ever been known to write in a day, and 3) put your butt in a chair anyway.
Reasons for deadline trouble are many. Poor work habits are, surprisingly, probably only about 20% of the cause. Writing isn’t factory work. You can’t time how long it takes to type a page and draw up an estimate of completion. First, a writer never knows exactly how many pages a novel will need to tell its story. Writers have an idea, but even well-plotted writers can’t pinpoint completion to a particular page in advance. A book could go ten pages or 50 pages long. One never knows. And if you’re a slow writer and can only do 5 pages a day…that 50 pages becomes ten DAYS in your writing schedule. Ten unplanned days.
Second, timing how long it takes to type a page really can’t account for all the variables affecting each and every page of a novel. A writer isn’t typing. The writer is creating. Some pages fly and other pages chain you to them, refusing to let you move forward.
Some writers get into deadline trouble because they overestimate their skill in wrestling manuscripts to the ground. Or they’re afraid to say “no” to opportunity. When an editor calls and invites you into an anthology, most self-employed people don’t think, “Well, I don’t know. I am in the middle of a book now, let me think about it.” Nope. Most self-employed people think, “Oh, thank God. I was afraid I’d be out of contract in fifty more pages and never work again.”
Really. You’d be surprised. Some of your favorite, some of the most successful, some of the prolific authors all still think that they could be on their last contract and are happy to pad the resume. Even if they have to squeeze that novella in during four weddings and a funeral.
Life can be a heinous culprit of deadline screw-ups. You can’t plan unexpected surgery. You can’t plan your broken wrist. Or a premature baby, house fire, divorce or any of a million other normal life crisis events that a writer has to face.
Unlike many literary novelists who might only pen a novel every few years, romance authors are told by their publishers to get a book a year out. Heck, they’d rather have a book every nine months. Talk about pressure! Yet so many authors jump in the trench and stay in the trench to meet deadline after deadline. They’ll emerge briefly between books to brush their teeth, pay the bills and say hello to the family. If they linger too long, research too much…deadline will get them again. So, it’s back into the trench.
And what do we wretched readers do? We chastise them. We nudge them. We whine. “When is the next one coming out?” We’re never satisfied. We want more of our favorite authors and we want it quickly. When we gulp down the newest delicious treat, I don’t think we fully appreciate what it took to get those words to us.
So…in the spirit of acknowledging the good things in my life, I’m saying thank you to the authors who work so hard, alone in a room, fending off the cacophony of voices in their head to write the one story, the one book that I’m going to get to read eventually.
Which reminds me? What the hell is taking so long? Enough with this eventually garbage. Give me my book. Now!
How impatient do you get waiting for the next-in-series? Your next shot of “fab author?” How do you cope with the wait? Do you check and recheck pub dates? Do you use a calendar? Or do you simply put it out of your mind and resolve to be made happy unexpectedly when you see the new book? If you’re a writer how do you cope with deadline dementia? Have you ever had to make “the call” to the editor expecting your book?