There are some exciting things happening for our authors this month! One of them had her book featured in a mid-size, national level newsletter, which just might boost sales (always a good thing). Another one submitted a manuscript for a sequel to a publisher. Another one finished a manuscript and is now in the process of editing it—a big transition that indicated that the light at the end of the tunnel is visible!
This makes the next question in our Ask an Author feature quite appropriate: what do the members of our group do when they have only eight hours left before an early morning deadline? What drink do they reach for? Will they eat? Will they put music on? Will they panic or keep calm? In the last thirteen editions of this feature, we have asked our authors both silly and serious questions; this one has to potential of being both. As for me, when I have a tight deadline, I turn off my phone, I disconnect my laptop from the internet, I put music on, I fill a big pitcher with water, and I go at it!
Hours to deadline? Heaps of time. I haul out the vacuum, bake brownies, and Skype my daughter at university. With six hours to go, I open the document and slap my palm to my forehead: I’ve misread the guidelines. Instead of just a few hours, the work will require several days of effort, plus a seriously good edit from my seriously scary crit team. I close the document. Nooo! It’s too hard. I take a well-deserved coffee break. Eat a Tim Tam. By now, I’m positive I will not make the deadline. I wail in despair. It is mission impossible, no less. I email my crit group saying, “I can’t do this. It’s too hard,” and they respond with encouraging, “Grow a backbone,” comments. Opening the document, I dither for another hour, writing and deleting words. A member of the scary crit group phones to check on my progress. More wailing. The person at the other end chastises me to the tune of The Little Engine Who Could. Afterwards, I attack the document again. It’s quiet. My family has gone to bed. All alone, I am drowning in misery. I stare at the screen and write a single word. And another. A sentence. Delete half of it. Write another. The sentence becomes a paragraph. A paragraph becomes a page. I’m warming up. Suddenly, words I couldn’t prise out of my brain an hour ago, apparate onto the page. With fifteen minutes to spare, I do a final spell check, add page numbers, and press SEND, releasing the completed piece into the ether. Done! No, wait. I check the document. Sigh. I knew it. Two typos.
When I have a huge deadline, whether from someone else or of my own making, I often go with milk with a little bit of vanilla extract in it, Diet Coke with Splenda, or tea. Those are my go-to writing drinks although pure water or lemonade/fruit juice might make an appearance as well.
For food? That’s pretty variable. I will run with whatever I can lay my hands on that is quick, usually leftovers if I know I have something coming up. I’ll make a large batch of food so I don’t have to cook in the midst of my deadline writing. Could also go for anything from cereal to granola bars. I’m trying to eat healthier so might find me with cucumber sandwiches these days. Just needs to be quick, filling, and not messy around the keyboard!
I light a white candle- it signals the beginning of my new journey. That is, after all, what a story is to me. I pour a large glass of red wine. By large, I might mean the entire bottle, never can tell. I find my words flow and my fingers connect to those words when I am warm and red-wine fuzzy- no walls or mental distractions to lead me astray. I listen to light classical music and surround myself with photos and items that take me where I am going. Occasionally I close my eyes, most of the time when I am writing dialogue, and imagine myself in the scene, watching from a distance. My words attempt to make the feelings palpable. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I do not panic, I feel most at ease in my writing chair, before my laptop, spinning a yarn that somebody, somewhere will read one day. I rest when I am done. Rest is not for active writers, but for those who have already written.
Deadlines are made to be broken! But I would do the best I could to achieve it. The thing is, I try to get my work started as soon as I know, so that the majority of work is done before I reach a deadline. If it got really bad, I would have a coffee or too, crank up the music (CrimsonFaced, Muse and Imagine Dragons or mashups by Robin Skouteris) and just do what needs to be done. Keeping calm is important, because panic would create more problems for me. And I would probably get the job done with minutes to spare 🙂
What drink do you reach for? Community Coffee (from Baton Rouge, LA) I like it black, with a little sugar.
Will you eat? Sure! I can’t write on an empty stomach. I’ll eat whatever’s available that goes good with coffee.
Will you put music on? Always. Instrumental stuff, probably symphony or jazz. Lyrics distract me.
Will you panic or keep calm? Calm. Panic doesn’t help and distracts from concentrating on my story and listening to the characters, who make all the important decisions.
I have long ago given up any pretense of meeting deadlines. As I tend to turn into a pumpkin well before midnight, my response to this calamity would be to grab a glass of wine, cook dinner, read a book and then seek my bed around 9:30pm, to sleep the serene and untroubled slumber of one for whom deadlines are meaningless. For all my old friends who say, ‘but you haven’t aged a day!’, this is the reason why.
This is a good question. Well, what will I do? I will panic. I won’t drink and neither will I eat. Hehehe… I will lock myself up to keep out disturbance. No music, no movie.
But seriously, I don’t like when deadlines are around the corner and I’m not ready. So I try to prepare ahead, unless something really important takes my time.
The problem that Sahar poses this month is nothing that I’ve ever had to face as a novelist, only in my past life as a journalist. With novels, I am allowed to get my writing in whenever I want to. I was only rushed once for a proof.
But when I was a journalist, I had lots of tight deadlines, some that I worked on at home. I never got panicked, never played music, never ate. As for what to drink, tea was usually it since I don’t drink coffee. I was always calm and never missed a deadline.
If I were given only eight hours to meet a deadline, starting at midnight, the first thing I would do is probably worry that there is no way I will get it done. The next thing I would do, after the stressing calms a bit is go into the living room (luckily, by midnight my kiddos are in bed and asleep so there is no “Mom, can I?” or “Mom, could you?” or anything of that sort) where it is nice and quiet (my husband is a noisy sleeper and he thrashes a lot). I would then set up my laptop on the side table I have, grab a Pepsi or some other Cola beverage with caffeine in it and get to work. Hopefully, my brain wouldn’t be mush and I would quite easily be able to spit out through my flying fingers what it is I want to say as to reach the deadline in time. Of course, I would have to get up several times to either refill my “lead” as I like to call it, stretch my legs or take care of any one of my many health issues I live with on a daily basis.
It’s all about the chocolate: hot chocolate, peanut M&M’s, and York Peppermint Patties. Nothing gets me through a rough patch like my favorite go to foods. The music is fast. hard, and moving: Kill the Noise, Toole, Justin Timberlake, any dub step I can get… you get it. And then, I write like the devil is behind me!
I think when a big deadline is looming, the most important thing to do is panic. I mean really panic. Chocolate is a necessity, as is going around the house vacuum cleaning and pulling out drawers. Only at the last possible minute can any writing be done, and by that stage it’s time to realize eight hours was never really long enough in the first place…
Image courtesy of Chad Mauger.