What it’s like to be on deadline for a novel

I handed in the draft of the jumbies sequel a day early, and promptly scooped myself some ice cream and felt my shoulders relax. There were plenty of days I did not think I would make it. Back in November when we set the deadline, I thought I’d have the whole thing done by April 1st. Good thing my agent pushed it back to June. By February, when I thought I would have the first draft done (you know, the one where you get all the words on the page but not many of them make sense, or are in the right order, and there are lots of notes to yourself like “something better here” and “what???”) I was panicked and depressed. I thought, “I’ve never written a sequel before! What was I thinking?” Some wise writer friends advised me to talk to my agent or editor and get the deadline pushed back. But no, the Catholic schoolgirl in me DOES NOT MISS DEADLINES!!! So I decided to push on silently. It didn’t help that when people asked if I could do a guest blog post, or an hour-long keynote, or edit their entire novel, I didn’t say no. Those nuns really messed me up. Then I unexpectedly had to be in and out of doctor’s offices in April and May. Plus recovery time for all the poking and prodding, which forced me to cancel a couple of events.

About two weeks ago, I was nearly done, but putting in long hours editing, rewriting, doing the back-and-forth thing where when you change one word in chapter 15, you have to go back and tweak 10 other things in previous chapters to make that one word work. My back ached, I had a permanent headache, and I was crying. A LOT. But on Friday I sent the draft to my agent, with a long email note about all the things I was yet to fix, mainly because it would be the first time anyone read the entire thing. She returned it on Sunday with (mercifully brief) notes, and I sent it back on Tuesday morning. Then it went out. A day early. I felt so relieved.

With apologies for the curse word, this chart is DEAD ACCURATE.

With apologies for the curse word, this chart is DEAD ACCURATE.

This was my first experience being on deadline. Having gone through it, if there’s a next time, I’ll definitely plan my time better. I’ll try to say no to stuff. But the likelihood is that I will be struck with the same sense of panic, and feelings of being a fraud and a hack, and I’ll probably still say yes to doing a zillion things because CATHOLIC SCHOOLGIRL. But at least the next time I’ll know that I’ve done it before, and maybe that will help me trust that I can do it again.


4 thoughts on “What it’s like to be on deadline for a novel

  1. Maria says:

    A Catholic schoolgirl myself, I so understand that guilt over saying no. I hope you have time to give yourself a real break and just breathe for a bit! And thank you for sharing this very real experience in such an honest way.

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