On Friday night, during the Write Club recently documented over on Angela Slatter’s website, I finished the first draft of Cold Cases. Afterwards, I looked at the messy first draft state that’s so familiar after years of first draft, and immediately started fretting. There were sixteen days until the deadline.
My usual rewriting process, particularly for something this long, winds out over the course of a year or more. I do a little rewriting, let it sit for a while, then do a little more. I tinker with scenes, do little bits here and there. I show it to a critique group, get some feedback, then show the revision to a different writer-buddy or two in order to see if it works yet. I sort through what other people think works, what I think works, and I fine-tune. I can’t replicate that process in sixteen days, especially with a work that’s sitting at 24,000 words.
So I spent most of Saturday freaking out, reading through the manuscript and making notes, hoping I could do something to salvage the story in time. I even let myself have a brief moment of “it can’t be done, I should ask for more time.” That may even have worked, although given how tight the timeline was when I discussed the schedule with the publisher I’m pretty sure it would only have earned another two or three days at most. Since Alisa reads this blog, I shall point out that everything is fine – it was only a momentary laspe into writerly weakness.
After that moment, I kicked my own arse and went back to work. I spent most of Sunday redrafting the story with a focused and detailed plan rather than my traditional tinkering . It’s different an alien process for me, yes, but it works and it’ll get the story done in the timeframe. At this point, meeting the deadline is more important than preserving a familiar writing process that isn’t really viable in the long term.
Because one of the things that occured me to me on Saturday night is this: deadlines are a fact of life. All going well, I’d like there to be more of them in my future. Getting out of my comfort zone and figuring out how to rewrite faster makes much more sense than blowing the deadline, especially given the fact that I’ve been telling myself I wanted to be a professional author since I was sixteen. Being a towering icon of literary genius would be nice, sure, but I’m generally more interested in getting writing to work like a career and be someone who is easy to work with than anything else (besides, given the state of my PhD, towering icon of literary genius status is certainly *not* in my future).
So Things may still go wrong, but I’m okay with turning in a book the publisher doesn’t want to publish as long as it’s still the best damn book I could make it when the submission goes in. There’s thirteen days to go before the due date and a third of the MS is rewritten already. There’s two thirds of a manuscript that needs large-scale redrafting and 24,000 words of line-editing in my future. That’s doable in thirteen days. Hell, it’s doable in less than that if I’m willing to work.
So in the words of my good friend, Jason Fischer, it’s time to unleash the Fists of Steel!