Thursday, February 24, 2011

Them deadlines

Deadlines. A dreaded word, but I think it’s important to consider how vital they are to an author. I’ve been employed in the media industry for more than a decade now. It’s a scary thought, and deadlines are a big part of my world. Can’t escape them and the wheels really come off without them.

When I wrote my first novel, I didn’t set myself a deadline. I’d write maybe once or twice a week. Most of the time I just mucked around playing computer games and didn’t have any clear idea of where I was going with the writing. Oh, and I spent a lot of time talking about writing a novel.

It took me just over a year to finish my first novel and the cruddy thing was that the story suffered for it until I tightened it during the editing phase. Why? Precisely because it was written over 12 months, there were patches in the story where I dropped threads, forgot where I was going with some ideas.

I tried something a bit different at the start of this year. I gave myself a crazy deadline: to write and revise a 90 000-word novel in time for Angry Robot’s open door month in March. I started writing Inkarna on December 28. I completed it at the start of February. It was pretty intense, pretty crazy but one thing I realised while I was chasing that deadline was that the story condensed during such a short space of a few weeks meant that it was always at the front of my mind.

Writing Inkarna, as opposed to my debut novel, Khepera Rising, was PRESENT. The story arcs were tighter. I knew where I was going. While doing a double-whammy compared to the NaNoWriMo vibe (you try writing almost 3 000 words a day as opposed to about 1 700) you’ll see what I mean. It’s not easy. Life conspires against you to keep you away from your computer.
But that feeling of accomplishment, and now, while I’m revising and I see parts where the prose shines, it’s all worth it. Even if Inkarna doesn’t make the grade for Angry Robot, it’s still there. I can proudly step back and say, “I’ve done it!”

The real work starts now, however. What I’ve learnt with Inkarna I can now apply to revisions of my earlier novels. It’s called deadlines. My next big project after I complete edits on my next contemporary erotic release will be to take a dark fantasy novel that’s been languishing on my hard drive for almost a year, and I’m going to be merciless. I’m going to give myself two months to polish that manuscript to within an inch of its life.

And then I’m going to get back onto the submissions mill. Writing is a thankless task. While everyone else is watching telly or maybe hanging out at the mall, we authors are plugging away at our machines during every spare minute.

Why? We have stories to tell.

Set yourself deadlines, get your bum on the chair and work. That’s the only way to do it.

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