Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bedsores & Deadlines

When I signed with Tyndale to publish my debut, Crossing Oceans, it was only half-written. It had taken me a year and a half to write the first half, but I only had four months to write the second.

I never thought I could do it. But by God's goodness, I turned it in with two weeks to spare.

Now, I find myself on a far tougher deadline. I'm down to two and a half weeks to write the last 1/4 of my sophmore novel, Dry as Rain.

I'm still working part-time as a nurse, I'm a wife and a mom to 5 and I'm doing interviews, book signings, you name it to promote Crossing Oceans. You've heard me say it before, but it's worth repeating, you only get one chance to debut, make it count.
As if all of this pressure wasn't enough, I'm reminded from little industry birdies that an author's sophmore novel can make or break her career. You have all the time in the world to write your first novel and so it's edited, critiqued and written to perfection, but if your sophmore novel is a dud, the common belief is that no matter how good your debut was, readers will not be picking up your third.

Talk about pressure. Man.

So, how am I coping with the stress of this deadline of doom? I'm praying of course. Praying a lot and believing God will do for me again, what He did for me before.

I'm waking up, and parking my butt in the spot I've worn on the couch, with my trusty laptop resting on my legs dawn to dusk every day. Sure I'm getting bedsores, these things are to be expected, but somehow, someway the girl who writes one chapter ever two weeks when she's not on deadline is now producing a chapter a day, (most days).

You'd think my writing would be suffering, wouldn't you? It makes sense that it would. Oddly enough, it's not. One surprising thing I learned from writing Crossing Oceans was that fast or slow, pressured or not, you can't tell the difference between the chapters I slaved over and ones that flew from my fingertips with speed and ease.

The best scene of Dry as Rain, (my sophmore novel in progress), is the one I wrote in a day, sent to my crit partner, Ane Mulligan, had her shred it and tell me "no, ma'am". In about an hour I rewrote it, and sent it back to Ane's rave reviews.

Nonetheless, even when you're someone who works well under pressure, deadlines suck. They stress me out, make me bite my nails, hiss at my kids, ignore my husband, and gain weight, but the work itself is not suffering even if my bed-sore covered bottom is.

Funny what you can do when you have to.

I'm curious how you all handle deadlines. Do they stess you out? Do you find you make a way to meet them somehow? Do you find your work suffers from pressured writing?


Julie Garmon said...

Love your honesty. And Ane Mulligan's too!

Ane Mulligan said...

Julie, believe me, Gina gives as well as she takes. :) Her crits stretch me beyond what I thought I could do. :) Our CP partnership was a gift from God.

johnny dangerous said...

Yesterday I wrote THE END for my fourth novel, VIPER, the sequel to my mystery, BLEEDER. I had a self-imposed deadline of May 31, since my editor at Sophia Press suggested that if I could get a draft to her by the end of May, she could edit over summer (and I'd have time for re-writing), do the cover design and other production work and have it ready for a Christmas launch. So for the past 2 weeks, since my college semester ended, I've been in the seat nearly all day, every day, as you described. I've been terribly stressed out, and my patient wife told me that she felt I was 'away' for those weeks. I've gained weight and slept badly (talking in my sleep to my characters, my wife tells me). I developed a rash on my hand. I prayed, sure, but most of it was in gasps for help, and not very calming. It's no wonder some writers turn to drink and other self-medication to deal with the doubt. God save us from that. Now that I've finished the draft, my wife says I'm 'back' and 'myself.' She noticed a major difference overnight. The deadlines yet to come for editing won't be nearly as bad as squeezing out that first draft. Finally, I really can't tell the difference between writing that was hard, ripped up and rewritten a dozen times and writing that showed up whole. It's a mystery.

D. Ann Graham said...

Having worked for a number of years in the journalism industry, I discovered that deadlines had a flip side to them. The more you face them, the more your brain (which is" fearfully and wonderfully made") starts drawing on that other 97 unused percent Einstein always talked about and rises to the occasion. Instead of "firing on less cylindars" it really kicks in and starts not only producing more, but better. After a while, there is even a conditioning factor that switches "working mode" over to automatic, and you will hardly even have to gear up to engage.

In the newspaper business, we used to call reporters who could whomp out a riviting story at 2am in twenty minutes, with the presses already starting to pump out the ads, a real professional. Those guys (and gals) always came through. The amazing thing was that they actually got to where they were at the top of their form during those moments. Some even liked that aspect of the profession best, enjoying some sort of rush, and declaring they were at least never bored. Whatever it was, we were all impressed.

Personally, I have found these "brain habits" from the working world to be equally adaptable to novel writing. And as a Christian, I also keep thanking the Lord for backing me up with so much "surplus" brain-power to draw on when the chips are down. Gives me the same kind of feeling as having a savings account.

I so appreciate you sharing your experiences, Gina, and I will pray that DRY AS RAIN turns out to be your best work, yet!