Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Surviving Deadline


Hello from deadline week. It’s an indicator of my state of mind that I wrote the first word of this post as “hellow.” And I’m working on copyedits. Hahahahahahaw.

I've addressed more than 300 queries from my copy editor. I’m at the stage when bring-out-the-chocolate, something-stronger-than-coffee, kind of propulsion is needed. T minus 36 hours and counting, and I can tell you that ‘deadline acne’ is a real thing. I’ve made lists of all remaining edits, and they look like something from the movie A Beautiful Mind. The part where all the main character’s crazy shows.

The trouble with writing deadlines:

Counter-creative
Creativity—at least for me—is not something I can just turn on and off. It doesn’t pour from a faucet that I can conveneiently crank on, depending on my need at the time. Magic—the really great writing—isn’t guaranteed just by my showing up to work.

Sometimes the pressure of a short deadline works against our ability to think and create from a filled-up artistic well.

So basically, some of my hard-working editing moments this week have felt pretty much . . .

Timing
Just when you need to be at your most focused, you’re often surrounded by distractions.

So far in my debut year of receiving deadlines from my editor, they’ve hit at a few key times:
Summer vacation
The week my in-laws came to visit
Thanksgiving week (in which I host more out-of-town company)

Life “fail” guilt
Ignoring the real people in your life to focus on the imaginary ones. I try to justify this by the fact that my writing helps pay the bills, but it still doesn’t feel good to the people around me.

How to handle deadlines like a boss:
*still figuring this out, so feel free to Tweet at me with useful tips or leave in the comments. Please.

But here’s how I’ve whittled over 300 queries to JUST 15 LEFT! *cries tears of gratitude* and maintained my sanity, (if not always my emotional stability).

Get organized
Everyone has their own system of working through the process, but it really helps to know YOUR system, and put a plan in place. Here’s mine:

1.     Read through edits. Allow time for initial freakout. (approx 24 hours)

2.     Start working. Set a goal for the number of edits to be made per day, and try to surpass that goal.
3.     Physical activity break. I find this really helps to re-focus and re-energize my edit process. Oftentimes, I’ll work out an edit challenge just taking my dog for a walk. Fresh air and fresh perspective can be a creative spark. It also helps alleviate stress.

GET OFF SOCIAL MEDIA

Just until your deadline is met. Or, if you must, check in at the END of the day. Here’s the thing: the interwebs may seem like a “break” or even a source of “support”, but it’s a time-suck you can’t afford—and more than that—a focus-distractor like no other.

Allow yourself to say NO
This one’s hard for me. My pleaser-personality cringes at this, but you must protect your time. Give your writing the time, focus, and devotion it deserves. All your other obligations will still be waiting for you after your deadline.

Treat writing and editing like the jobs they are
When executives go to work, no one resents the attention they devote to their projects. People don’t assume they can interrupt or pull them away because they’re “just working.” Why does writing seem less than “real work” to some people? I know many writers who leave their homes in order to give themselves “office hours”. Find what works for you.

Find the time
I have yet to complete a deadline under ideal circumstances. My husband travels often, so I don’t have the luxury of handing him the parental reigns and checking out to go find a quiet place to edit. Most of my revisions occur in my car while I’m waiting for a kid to finish piano lessons or basketball practice. They are attacked in the pre-dawn hours while I gulp coffee and try to get some writing in before the morning get-three-kids-off-to-school rush. They are worked out at Sport Clips, with the sounds of electric trimmers and ESPN in the background.

You can find the time to do anything that’s important to you. It just isn’t always easy.

Cereal is your friend. So is microwaveable mac n’ cheese. Basically any zombie apocalypse food. The kids will survive.

Reward yourself
That glass of wine, a Netflix binge, a night out to celebrate. A shower. I find that I meet more of my goals (with a better attitude) if I treat myself for reaching them. 


And finally . . . gratitude
Huh? Wha? Who feels thankful to be on deadline?
I do.
It wasn’t long ago that I was dreaming of having these kinds of opportunities. Dreaming of a book deal. Hoping to work with an editor one day. Yes, it’s hard, but it’s also a gift.
Remember:
Someone wants to read what you’ve written enough to set a date to receive it by. At least one person—and more likely, a team of people—believe in your creative ability enough to invest time, talent, and money into your project.

Someone cares about what you have to say--and wants to help you say it the very best you can.

So gulp that coffee, unwrap some chocolate, and dig in. Work hard enough, and there might even be a shower at the end of your editing rainbow. 

Jenny Moyer is the author of YA sci-fi/fantasy FLASHFALL (Macmillan/Holt, fall 2016) She studied writing at Seattle Pacific University, and currently lives in Iowa with her filmmaker husband and three boys. She's currently at work on the sequel to FLASHFALL.

Where to find Jenny: Website, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube

Where to find FLASHFALL: Goodreads

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