Friday, November 29, 2013

Surviving the Deadline

My silence on this blog lately has not been due to laziness, but racing to meet a deadline. Earlier this year mystery author Paul Bishop asked me to contribute a volume to his Fight Card series, which I thought would be a terrific opportunity to do a story that didn't feature blondes, bombs, and quasi-Bonds for a change. However, I was not at all prepared for the genuine challenge such a story posed. Paul's instructions to me was that the story could be about anything, but boxing had to be at the center of the conflict, and he gave me a December deadline. OK. I did a bunch of research, watched fights, developed what I thought was a pretty good story, and started to write. And then it all screeched to a halt.

When I say halt, I mean almost eeeked along on dry bearings. The writing was hard, the characters wouldn't talk, nothing seemed to make sense, and I swore I would never take another assignment ever again, ever, ever, never. I work from detailed outlines, and I kept going back to the outline, scratching my head, wondering why what seemed to work in that form did not at all work on the actual page.

Did I mention I started this project 30 days before the deadline?

I'm a masochist, you see. But I also wanted to prove that if a writer puts his butt in a chair and produces pages, he can meet a deadline in a short period of time. Maybe even beat it.

The outline assured me I had a good story. I decided to put my faith in my outline and forged ahead. But, wow, what a slog. I would up, at some points during the project, doing as little as one page a day. It was that hard to put together. I have never worked this hard on a book before, nor wanted to quit so many times in the middle.

In the end, I think my Fight Card book will be a worthy entry. It's funny that by the time I reached the end, it all seemed to magically come together. Reading it through for fine-tuning, I can't find that parts that I thought needed fixing, and it all seems to flow along. I think part of the problem was a hectic work schedule that, basically, had me working 30 days in a row at the same time, without any time off, so, luckily, I had my outline to guide me instead of having to sit at the computer each day and figure out what happens next.

I beat the deadline by four days, by the way.

So let that be a lesson to you. Writing + butt in chair = produced pages = 100 page manuscript in less than 30 days = a happy Paul Bishop because I don't have to tell him he has a blank spot in his 2014 schedule.

You're welcome.

Now my Fight Card book, still untitled, gets edited by Paul and his people and then by me again and, anyway, I think it will be out late in 2014.

What I hope I take from this experience and bring to my independent work is the same sense of discipline, the "write every day" approach. I am sooooo guilty of not doing that, and taking a year to do a 200 page manuscript which, according to this project, I could have turned out in two months.