Deadlines & Writing

I did it!  I finished romance #6.  I met my deadline.  Time to toast myself and celebrate. This was the romance I thought might never end.  I kept thinking of new scenes to add to it, so it grew from 63,000–what I expected–to 73,000, which should make my editor happy.  He wanted me to make my books longer–if I wanted to.  I didn’t think I did, but this book disagreed with me.

I’m not suggesting that you can write a sprawling epic.  Every editor/publishing house has specific lengths they accept, and if you go too far under or over those, your book will be a hard sell. But I knew my editor wanted 70,000 words even though my contract was only for 60,000.  Those extra 10,000 words take longer to write, so if you have a deadline, it’s wise to write a little faster.  Which leads me to a little kernel of thought that I’ve rolled around in my head for most of this week.

I recently read a blog post that implied if writers wrote more than one book a year, they weren’t serious writers.  I guess we don’t sweat enough, suffer long enough to produce  good books.  I used to write one book a year when I had kids and my husband worked second trick, and there was ALWAYS someone underfoot, needing to do this, go there.  The kids are grown now.  I have more time.  And now, I write three books a year and squeeze in some short fiction, too.  Remember, I’m talking about 60,000 to 70,000 word books.  The good news–I’ve been at it long enough, (and that  makes a difference), that I actually think my writing’s BETTER when I write faster to meet a deadline.  I don’t ramble around as much.  Now, I aim for 10 pages a day, every weekday.  That gives me plenty of time to plot a book before I start it,  rewrite as I go (essential for me, even though it messes up other writers), give it to my critique partners, and then do a serious rewrite when I get back their comments.

This sounds good on paper.  It hardly ever works that smoothly.  I lose writing days when people come to stay and visit with us, when I get sick and can’t function, when the sky’s blue and I HAVE to play hooky, or I get a chance to go out for lunch.  But regardless of what happens, I have to meet my deadline.  And that pressure keeps the book in the back of my mind.  Writing faster also makes me more conscious of pacing, how the book’s moving.  I can FEEL it.

I’ve read novels by some of my favorite writers where I can almost tell they wrote TOO fast, that they were rushed and HAD to get a book done.  Things get lost in the shuffle–like characterization, telling details, description.  But Elizabeth George–yes, my goddess of writing–wrote her first book A GREAT DELIVERANCE–(which I consider  flawless)–in three-and-a-half weeks.  I’m guessing it had lived in her mind for so long, it gushed out.  But, in truth, there’s no perfect time schedule to write a book.  It’s according to how complicated the story is and if the story flows or fights you.   Some books come to you almost whole and you have to write fast to keep up with them.  Others, well, there’s a push-and-pull that takes longer.  One book a year or three books a year can both be good. Find your own rhythm.  Do what works for you.

Any thoughts on the subject?

I found this link from Elizabeth George on writing.  Lots of good advice:

And for you pantsers out there, I found an article on Linda Howard about how she writes:

We have a solar eclipse this Sunday (we can’t see it in the U.S.).  I hope the planets inspire you.  Happy writing!

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Twitter:  @judypost

Writing & Distractions

I have a writing office, of sorts. It used to be a small bedroom in the back of our bungalow that we lined with bookshelves on two walls. The carpenter built a shelf large enough in the center of one wall to hold my keyboard and the mountain of papers that I can’t seem to ever organize. Above it, there are cubbyholes to hold paper clips, my stapler, and a lot of junk I should sort through. The bookshelves hold the novels I read that I can’t seem to part with–the ones I think someday I’ll reread, but rarely do. But I still can’t get rid of them. Looking at the titles and covers bring back too many good memories, sort of like looking at photograph albums.

I had to give away some of the books that got jammed in here to make way for the overload of Temptation bowls and casserole dishes I ordered from QVC that won’t fit in our kitchen. (An addiction for the moment, but now that the kids have grown up, I can justify matching sets. They might survive without chips). At first, I thought I’d mind having dishes and platters mingled with books, but somehow, it fits my writing style. Cookbooks nestle with mysteries and my favorite urban fantasy authors. A soup tureen sits below the “Scribes” shelf that holds books and articles by friends in my writers’ club.

A parakeet cage hangs in one corner of the room, near the long, narrow window that lets in light. Hermes, our blue parakeet, chirps to me while I write. A dog bed is close to my office chair where my daughter’s rat terrier, that couldn’t move to Indy with her because she’s a nurse who works too many hours, stretches out and sleeps. Our little chihuahua comes and goes, pestering me when he wants something. And the stray cat we made our own leaps on my keyboard when he’s tired of being ignored.

I’ve gone to houses that have serious offices with doors that close. My office has a door, too, but it’s almost always open. For one thing, I’m naturally nosey. If something’s going on, I want to know. Mostly, it’s habit. For over thirty years, kids popped in and out to tell me something or to ask a question while I fussed over stories. Some people complain about distractions, but I enjoy them. If I have to sit too long in too much quiet, my ideas dry up. If I hit a snag in a scene, that justifies a trip to the coffee maker.

“Play some music,” one of my friends told me. But I end up listening to that instead of writing. My story juices flow better when I live inside my head. But if left to myself too long, those ideas just bounce around like tiny ping pong balls, never landing anywhere. That’s when a distraction’s welcome. It gives me time away and lets my subconscious do its thing.

I’ve read a few blog posts about authors who can write 10,000 words in a single day. To me, that’s like Superman, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. If I stayed in my chair and closed my office door, I know I’d get more words done each day, too. But I’d get sick of them. And a large part of why I write is to entertain myself, because I LIKE it. Hopefully, readers will like it, too, but I’m not too into drudgery, and it would show. My brain’s not fast enough to process words and scenes that fast, even if I chained myself to my desk. So for me, I write a scene, then I look for a distraction before I write the next one. And if I can describe that as a method, it works out pretty well.