Thursday, February 23, 2006

Deadlines

My fourth Jack Daniels book is due March 1st.

I've got about 15k left to write.

It usually takes me about a month to write a book. I began a little earlier than usual for this novel, because February is short a few days, and I had a conference and a few events that took up some of my time.

But I'm still behind schedule. This book required more research than previous books, and for the first time ever I actually got stuck (I needed to figure out how to commit an impossible crime, and then figure out how the police could thwart it.)

I've always been a last minute kind of guy. I'd do my homework on the bus going to school, the day it was due. I was still making edits on my final film project in college ten minutes before the festival ran it. When I give a dinner speech at a conference, I'm usually jotting down what I'll speak about during dessert.

My wife, a fountain of wisdom, patience, and beauty, casually suggested that perhaps I need to begin writing my books sooner than 40 days before they're due. I laughed at her.

"I do my best work at the last minute," I replied.

"You do all your work at the last minute," she countered.

I would have pursued the arguement, but---hey---I need to finish the damn book.

Which I will finish. It will be tight, but I'll burn the midnight oil and get it done. And according to aforementioned wife, who is reading the chapter a day I'm writing, it's my best book yet.

Which brings me to the topic of this blog entry.

How well do you work under pressure?

In the music biz, the second album traditionally sucks. The first was compiled over years of honing, rewriting, and reworking. The second has to be written and recorded in eight months.

Novels are the same. You have years to write your first book. Book #2 needs to be done within a year. And also within that year, you'll be doing a gazillion things for the first book, so you don't actually have an entire year.

The fact is, no matter when you begin your next book, you'll never have enough time, and you'll always feel the heat of the time-crunch. If I'd started six months ago, I can promise I'd still be in the very same situation I am now.

Can you flip your creativity on and off like a switch? Can you force the muse to appear when the pressure is on and the bills need to be paid and the deadline looms ever closer? And can you make sure the book is better than the previous one?

If so, you have a shot at succeeding in this biz.

If not, you may still succeed. But make sure you never sign multi-book contracts, be upfront with your agent and editor about how long it takes you to complete a novel, and don't bite off more than you can chew.

My goal today is 3500 words. That's about 15 pages. I know I can do it, and I will do it.

Can you?