Wednesday, June 2, 2010

On Deadlines

RO: I delivered the manuscript for Slugfest, book four in the Dirty Business series this week. Yesterday actually. My message to my husband? - "I've heard from your wife and she will be returning shortly."
Needless to say this is my least favorite part of the process. I just hate to give the darn thing up. And the last few weeks are awful. I rarely sleep, I'm constantly rewriting (this may be what Jan has referrred to as the POS stage.)

This time, I'm a little embarassed to admit I stayed in my pajama bottoms for far longer than I should have. (Why change when you're not going anywhere?) My husband has brought me food or stayed away depending on my facial expressions - which are not always easy to interpret so hats off to the man. I did have some book events but I haven't called or email anyone, watched tv, seen a movie, had dinner or drinks with a friend or - sigh - worked in my garden. I was going to treat myself to a Roger Federer match this weekend but dang he lost to Soderling.

My m.o. has been to set up in my livingroom with a large handful of sharpened pencils, my trusty B&N lapdesk and the manuscript and read the thing over and over and over again until they make me give it up. The longer I have it, the more I will rewrite. I know it will be short-lived, but I feel free, like a weight has been lifted. I want to go to Canyon Ranch. Or Italy.
Or just outside to my garden.

What is your homestretch routine like?

RHYS: Congratulations on getting the thing done and mailed, Ro. I write two books a year so there's never much time for reworking. Which is a good thing. Like you, I would go over and over and probably end up by making the thing worse.
I find writing the first draft is the hard part. Until I have the story down on paper, or rather on a computer, and a flash drive in case the computer crashes, and a second computer in case I need to make rewrites and the first computer has died, and stored in cyberspace on Mozy Home, I can't seem to switch off. I drive to the bank and have to pull over and scribble something. I try to drift off to sleep and instead the next scene is playing out in my head.

And there's the constant worry about whether I'll be able to complete the story satisfactorily, whether it will be too short, whether I won't be able to figure out whodunit.

So once a draft is complete, I can breathe again. And I really don't mind the edits. I'm in the beginning stage at the moment, hence the short-tempered panic mode. I'll be off to England and France next month and taking the danged computer with me. Whether I'll get much writing done is a moot point.

JAN: I love that part at the end where you shut down the entire rest of the world and nothing else matters except finishing the manuscript. It's like some sort of Amazing Race episode. Congrats Ro!

RO: I never thought of it as shutting down the rest of the world but I guess I did. A couple of times, Bruce mentioned some bit of news to me and I think I actually said, "I don't know, I'm in Springfield."


  1. Deadlines are a must--otherwise, I'd tinker with a book forever. It seems like there's always a sentence to trim, a word that's not quite write, an awkward phrase to smooth, dialog that could do more . . . whatever.

  2. Didn't Peter Mathiessen rerelease an earlier book with changes?

  3. Oh, my post got deleted! Stoopid Blogger...

    Anyway, I YEARN for the homestretch. I'm in beginning stretch right now ,and that is SO tough! I think I can, I think I can..

    But when I do get there, and I know I will--I am obsessed during that time. I always think--I can finish, RIGHT NOW if I just keep at it.

    I love the almost-done. Congrats, RO!

  4. I'm like you. Not with as many books under my belt. But those final weeks, hours, where the world goes away and you're just left with the page and your creative juices primed, is a fascinating "alpha" state to be thrust into. Now try doing it while moving into a house that still has contractors fixing the plumbing, the electrical, and breaking into a new dog sitter. LOL
    Mystery Lovers' Kitchen

  5. I'm sitting in the middle of that stretch (is that possible?). I've gathered all the main players into a room and ... somebody had better say something, soon! And there's an ice storm, and possibly a fire. Worse, I thought I knew who did it, but now I wonder (but I know it's one of the people in the room!).

    Hey, I've still got a whole four weeks to finish it. (Oh, you wanted me to edit it?)

  6. I'm with you, Hank! I love that rush of the homestretch. I'm in the last few months now with my current manuscript, and my mind is humming like a machine while my fingers are tapping like they're pistons! My reward for months of floundering in the dark!

  7. See..I think Sheila's in nteh best place. Everyone's in the drawing room and the writer has 4 whole weeks to to figure out what they do

  8. HI Rebbie! So great to see you..! Loving your book--I owe you an email..xoox h

    Sheila--four weeks! And you were such a star at the Natick library panel today!