Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011: The Year of (Missed) Deadlines

Don't look at me like that. I didn't miss all of them.

I just missed the same one. Four times.

Yes, my friends - I'm talking about the Dreaded Second Book.

(FYI: I actually have a lot to say about Book 2, and this one post can only hold so much. I'm planning a whole blog series about it early next year.)

This is what I imagine Joanna's expression looked like every time I emailed her to say, Book 2 isn't ready yet. I'm still writing/revising/slaving over it. (But I'll finish it in time for Courtney to see it next year, I swear!!)

She was actually super patient with me, and I really really appreciate it.

Initial Estimate: mid July (har, har)

Actual Date turned in: December 10

I'm not a slacker, y'all. My pride just wants to make that clear.

Turning Stuff In Late is in my Top 5 Least Favorite Things To Do. It even ranks above going to the dentist. I hate, Hate, HATE feeling like I'm letting somebody down.

So, the second part of this year was rough. My brain wasn't a comfortable place to live in.

But anyway, after I sent the Dreaded Second Book to Jo, I started thinking back over the year, wondering what my deal was and why I couldn't get the stupid book in at a reasonable time, etc. Mainly to make myself feel better, I listed out all the months of the year with everything I was working on during each month. Then I realized something important:

Every single month, I either had a deadline, or I was working toward a deadline in a few weeks.


(Yes, I'm counting the ones I missed.)

In fact, in October, November, and December, I was working toward more than one deadline at a time. In those months, deadlines would literally interrupt other deadlines. Insanity!

And here's the really scary thing: I can't expect things to ease up next year. In fact, it might even get worse. I thought that 2010 was the year of the deadlines, but 2011 really gave last year a run for its money.

So, it's probably not surprising that I dropped the ball somewhere. Until July of this year, I had a perfect record. Right now, it's...well, less than perfect.

Which led me to my next Important Realization:

Deadlines are just part of the writing life. They're not really going to change.
So, instead I need to change how I handle those deadlines.

This is my plan for the future:

Cut out the angst.

You would think that this is obvious, but it's not. Deadlines are terrifying things when you're a newbie writer, and then they're still scary even when you get used to a few things. All the doubts pour in.

Edit letter: Ack, my editor's right! This section sucks! I'll never fix it. *wails*

Copy-edits: What if I'm wrong about the correct usage of "each other"? The copyeditor knows so much more than me. *wails*

First pass: This is the last time I'll really be able to change anything. What if I miss something important? What if I screw it up and I can't fix it later? *wails*

Finally: *sob* Another deadline? Right now? Seriously? *wails*

Okay, so there wasn't really any wailing. I almost burst into tears a few times, sure, but mostly, I calmed myself down by taking long walks, venting in my journal, and begging my mom for hugs.

Do you see the pattern here?

The deadlines themselves aren't bad, but the angst over them is extremely problematic. And time-consuming.

I can save so much time if I just stop wigging out over the things and just do the things! Or at least minimize the wigging. Because really, everything pretty much worked out okay.

Moral of the story: Angst = time too precious to waste.

Be more honest with myself, my agent, and my editor about how do-able deadlines are.

This one is tricky. It's hard to schedule stuff accurately when you don't know when an editorial letter will arrive in your inbox or your copyedits will land on your doorstep. (Note: it's hard for agents and editors too!)

Confession: the July deadline I missed?

picked it.

I think I picked it back in January or February. I'd started writing Ever Afters 2, but I hadn't even started revising Book 1 for Simon & Schuster. I had no idea how long it was going to take.

But time management is still key, and (I hope) I'll get better with experience.

Let go, and enjoy it.

I am living my dream. That's a fact.

Living your dream can be stressful. That's also a fact.

But it shouldn't be that way. The great and wise Joanna wrote a post on the NC Lit blog (read it here), which reminded me of this.

And honestly, it's not all stressful. In fact, I usually got the most stressed out right before I started working for the day and right before I fell asleep at night. You know, when the deadline looms larger in my mind than the actual, in-the-trenches writing or revising.

Because you see, I like the work.

Okay, I love it. I love the way I can discover new things about my characters and my world in a first draft. I love ripping a messy scene apart and stitching it back together in revisions. In my deepest, darkest heart, I love copyedits too - it means someone was paid to sit there and take my little manuscript seriously enough to point out all its tiniest faults.

It's only when I think about the consequences of missing my deadline that the STRESS MONSTER rears its ugly head and screams, Doooooooom.

Looks strangely similar to a dust mite, don't you think?

So, I need to let go of the consequences - to deal with them as they happen, and not before.

You only get so much time, people. You better enjoy the life you got, especially when you're living your dream. :-)


storyqueen said...

Oh Shelby, I hear you! Deadlines are hard, especially when you don't know exactly how long a revision might take.

But maybe you can have a well deserved little break over the holidays and enjoy!

Take care!


Shelby Bach said...

Thanks, Shelley!

Well, I'm actually working on another revision right now, but because the holidays are so full of delicious treats, it doesn't feel so bad. :-P

Happy New Year, Shelley!!!! May your 2012 be bright and full of great buzz for THE SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET! (I SO wish it came out earlier than September!!!)