Friday, 24 February 2012

Deadline Dash

I have a week to finish this book before I send it out. Seven days to make it perfect.

No, scrub that – it will never be perfect, and that's why I need a deadline. Kindly people in publishing have been saying things like "Don't send it out until you're completely happy with it." Which is good advice, unless you're someone like me, pathologically holding on to a manuscript so that no-one can reject it.

Enough. No more. In a week's time, it will have made its journey to the great slushpile in the sky and I will be free to do something new.

In the meantime, everything else - work, family, this blog – feels like an imposition. "But don't you know I have a deadline?" I whine, like a stricken child. Except other people don't really see it that way, especially if they're paying me to do something else. So I have to fit the writing in when I have a spare moment (as ever). At least the deadline pressure means that I usually have the proper motivation when that moment presents itself.

As a writer, my strengths lie in starting things, not finishing them. I don't think I'm alone in this, given the number of new projects that my writing colleagues submit for critique. The difference is that my strategy for combating this lack of focus has been to make myself write only one book at a time. To be honest, I don't know how well this is working out for me, because I seem to get horribly blocked and discouraged. But it does allow me to pour all of my creativity and focus into a single project and (hopefully) make it the best it can be. Maybe my "something new" will be to start three different things and see which one suits me best.

There's one very nice aspect to the deadline dash, and that's the paper edit. Nothing fills me with more confidence than seeing an electronic manuscript printed out in physical form:
"Look, Mom – I wrote a book! Look how many pages there are – did I really write all these words?"

"You sure did, Honey. I'm afraid you now have to read each one to make sure it isn't complete hogwash."

"I'm not too old to get a sicknote, am I? Am I, Mom?"
Ok, consider that a qualified confidence boost. But having the manuscript in hand at least allows me to consider the scale of the problem. I'll be going through it tonight with a stack of Post-Its, marking out the areas where I think it still needs work. Expect more yellow on the page than white by tomorrow morning.

Perhaps I shouldn't start making a list of things I've done wrong during the eighteen months spent writing this book, because I only have 500 words or so here! But one thing I would definitely cite is my attempt to make myself go digital and write the whole book on my laptop – it just doesn't work for me. Something about the physical medium – the size of a piece of A4, the ease of visualising and flicking through printed pages, the act of writing with a pen – unlocks my creativity. Just the act of sitting down at a computer will sometimes freeze me up, and that's without adding the myriad distractions of the internet. Technology doesn't always equal progress – even in my line of work.

So tell me - have I written enough for a blog post? Can I go back to the book? Because I have got a deadline, you know.



  1. Hope you are doing something to celebrate at the end of those 7 days.

    Good luck. And thanks for the honesty in your blog.

  2. Good luck, Nick! Exciting to have the end so near - and then a new beginning! I like deadlines. Perhaps I should set myself a few. I suppose I could set a deadline for when I actually start writing the book, rather than just talking about writing it!