Deadlines

On April 8, 2014, I found a call for novella submissions that was perfectly suited to me. Right in the middle of my wheelhouse. The catch? The deadline was May 1.

One of the ways I hone my craft is to run writing drills to see what I can do in a short amount of time, but recently I’ve taken on much more in my life outside of writing. I wasn’t sure I could make the deadline with these new responsibilities, but I was sure I had to try.

I set aside the paranormal romance novella series I was working on, pulled out every tool I had for writing something fast and tight, and did it… I actually did it. Almost 20,000 words in about three weeks starting from no story idea and ending in an edited and polished novella, out the door to the publisher with three days to spare.

There were a few false starts, several, “Wait, where was I going with this?” moments, and a whole lot of, “This is insane. I can’t do this. I need more time to think about it and make schedules and do everything except write.” That looming deadline, though, made me push through. I wanted to submit a piece for this call. I needed to.

So, every time those doubts rose up, I crushed them mercilessly beneath my all-powerful goal. “Make that deadline. Get the words on the page.” My escape clause helped when the doubts fought back (“If I decide it’s crap, I don’t have to send it.”). And most of the time I was writing, I was convinced it was crap, but I pushed through and got it down. Laundry piled up, sleep was put off, coffee was consumed.

The moment of truth arrived. I had reached the end of the first draft just past 18,000 words (the minimum for the call). I took it as a good sign that the two coincided. I only had time to take a deep breath before diving back in. I returned to the beginning and started my first read-through, and… it was good. After the first round of edits, I shared it with trusted critique partners. They confirmed and amplified my suspicions. They said it was really good. All the time spent in learning my craft, practicing, and pushing for those goals had paid off.

Whether the publisher decides they want the novella or not, I’m proud of it. The experience of getting it done, of knowing I can make such an aggressive deadline and still turn out quality work and keep everything else that’s important in my life moving along, that alone was worth the sleepless nights.

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