I’m deep in the heart of deadline city. It’s this eveeeel dark place in my soul where self-doubt and creative insanity whips up the great storm of chaos. Which means crunch time=cranky Dawn. When I get to this part of any book, my husband jokingly (mostly) quotes Robert Heinlein…
There is no way that writers can be tamed and rendered civilized or even cured…the only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room where he can endure the acute stages in private and where food can be poked to him with a stick. If you disturb the patient at such time, he may break into tears or become violent.
So very true, no? The truth is, I’m not aware of my hyper-fixation until my husband (lovingly!) drops the quote. I’m sure there are ways to deal with it, but the truth is, the last part of any project is exhausting. It completely envelops my thoughts, driving me to dream of an apocalypse of some sort, an inability to escape, and no one to help me win…Hmm. I doubt it’s an accurate portrayal of my state of mind ;). A writer’s journey is usually isolating.
You can be at the super coffee shop of the giant book chain with thirty people chattering around you, and still have to pound out the words. Word sprinting/speedwriting (or whatever your choice of words) is still just you writing. There may be people cheering you on, but like the cheering crowd at the end of a marathon, they’re not as invested as you are. If you drop out of the race, the only one who knows is you…and those you tell ;). The cheering will continue for others and you’ll be left in the dust.
Some of you are thinking this is depressing. It’s not. Hear me out.
I’ve run marathons, performed (and lost) in competitions, finished novels, novellas, poems, short stories, completed self-defense courses that were monumentally difficult, and did it all because I wanted to. Yeah, I have to write. I’ve always done it, and need the creative outlet, but no one can push me to be a writer. I have to do it on my own. The hard reality is…when it’s time to get it done, only you can do it. But you know what? You can. Just like the marathon runner who gets his second (or third) wind, you can see the finish line.
It may hurt (you may want to kill off all your characters b/c you’re so frustrated, or delete the file b/c you hate the book so much…don’t do it!). It may be one of the most difficult things to endure, but when you can see the finish line, your mind and body move on autopilot, and the finish line becomes your ONLY focus. You fall on training, desperation, adrenaline, what-have-you to get finished.
The author usually falls into one of three categories at this point (your mileage may vary):
- Butcher (the craftsman, not a rampaging serial killer…well…)
- Director (music, film, stage, or baby shower…trust me)
- Investigator (being dogged by rabid hounds from hell…while sinking in quicksand…without a lifeline)
Let me explain.This has nothing to do with whether you plot a story or write it by the seat of your pants. It has to do with a way you tidy things up at the end. We’re going to assume, for the purposes of this exercise, that you are under a self-imposed deadline (mostly because a number of you have asked questions about how to get started in your careers). So here we go:
Butcher: A butcher is an incredible profession, and one that gives a thorough understanding of anatomy. This type of author knows exactly where to hit every pulse point of the book, where the choice cuts are, etc. He wastes nothing. This type of author will write every single bit needed, exploring every possible outcome (in their mind, on paper, etc). He knows some of the words are headed to the grinder…and is okay with that. This type of author believes in getting every bit of the book down and then editing the hell out of it to get it under wordcount (UNDER wordcount? I’m lucky to make it to the wordcount minimum first time! I have to ADD in description, motivation, emotion.)
Director: This is the type of author I wish I could be, but will never come close. She spins her tale with grit and determination, sure, but can remember almost everything about the book. Knows the theme, the way a minor character’s statement in chapter two can be woven in at the end. Makes the characters dance in the final throes of bookwritinggasm that leaves her breathless. She finishes the book with a grin on her face, knowing, of course, that there’s work to be done, but looks forward to it with a refreshing (if a bit exhausted) expectation. It may not have been the best performance or most efficient tidying ever, but she’ll tackle edits with that in mind.
Wistful Sigh. Unfortunately, I’m like the third one.
Investigator: This is me. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a plotter. No two book-writing processes are the same for me. Ever. I have to pin my characters to the interrogation chair with a 3000 watt light bulb in their face. Make them sweat, b/c hey…I’m sweating too. We gotta get this book done, right? We’re in a race against time…or in my case…my attention span. This means I have to feel it out as I go. Once I start on a book, it’s a scramble all the way to the finish. I’m dogged by the hounds of self-doubt, grit, determination, and circumstance. While grit and determination are almost always positive motivators, they all look the same in the rabid maw of looming deadline. Circumstances aren’t areas I can always control, but if I can outrun the first three…I stand a better chance. When it’s all said and done…it may not be perfect, but it’s something to work with. The rest I can weave and coerce through edits.
We recently discovered that I can only work on one project at a time to be efficient.
So here we are…full circle. I’m now finishing up No Dragon, No Problem. That’s it for the week. Then next week it’ll be another project. All the way through the end of March. I’ll update my round of words goals and such on Sunday. We’re in the home stretch of the challenge, and I have theme deadlines I have to meet.
So…things will be quiet for a few weeks. I’m almost done. Three weeks. I can do it!