Friday, April 26, 2013


by Sheila Connolly

April carries the weight of everyone's least favorite deadline:  Tax Day.  April 15th strikes fear into the hearts of many, and inspires annual surges of loathing.  Yes, I mailed my federal taxes on April 15th; I managed to send my state taxes electronically on the 14th (for the first time), yay me.

We as writers face deadlines all the time.  Admittedly I have more than many do, since I write three series, by choice.  Actually I was pleased when that arrangement was formalized, because it meant that I knew what my forward schedule would be for years, rather than book to book. Same due date for drafts, same month of publication, for each series, stretching out to 2015 at least.  It's good to know what's coming.

Of course, there are other writing-related things that have to be fit into the intervals, like conferences and research trips.  Yes, I do research for all my series.  It's such a burden to have to sit in pubs in Ireland or tour museums in Philadelphia or visit harvest festivals in western Massachusetts.  Poor me (not!).

There are studies that suggest that many people work better and think smarter when under pressure (i.e., with a looming deadline). I've always felt that way.  Even in high school, I had a well-calibrated sense of how long it would take me to accomplish something, and how long I could defer it before starting.  No, I wasn't the kind who pulled an all-nighter right before a major paper was due, but I know I needed a certain sense of urgency to spur me.  Apparently I'm not alone.

Which doesn't explain the high school honors history course I took, where we were all assigned one research paper due in the spring. A couple of days before the paper was due, our teacher asked the class, "who has started the paper?"  Nobody raised his or her hand.  Defeated, he cancelled it.  I'm still not sure what went wrong.  We were all smart, hardworking, college-bound kids, but maybe we had no idea what went into researching a topic (remember, this was before the Internet).  But I never waited that long to start anything again.

When you're working on something creative, there's always the lurking question, what if I run dry at the wrong time?  What if I can't figure out how to end this thing and it just sputters to a halt?  Is it better or worse to submit a product that you know isn't your best, that still needs some fixing, rather than missing that all-important deadline?  If you've got a good editor, he or she is going to notice, and it's not fair to rely on the editor to remedy your mistakes, when you know you're in the wrong.

But if you miss that first deadline, is it the beginning of the end?  Will you start getting sloppy after that?  Ah, what the heck, it's just a date.  What's a few more days? Or weeks?  But then you run the risk of being labeled undependable by your publisher, and we all know that there are a lot of eager writers waiting to grab any slot that opens up. 

Me, I need the structure.  I like being able to look out at my coming year and know what's coming, and when.  I'm not a hare, I'm a tortoise, slow and steady.

And very busy!

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