Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Beauty of Deadlines

by Stephanie Black

Deadlines can be a beautiful thing. Who knew?

On the one hand, deadlines can be stress-fests as you scramble, struggle and sweat to complete a project in time. On the other hand, deadlines give you a cut-off date, a kick in the pants to declare the manuscript finished and send it in. I love rewriting, see, so it’s easy for me to linger longer with a manuscript and tweak it just one more time . . .

With my first novel, I was scrambling to meet deadlines. I was rewriting the novel at the same time my family was going through an international move (note: do not try this at home). My editor gave me all the extra time she could, but needed the manuscript back in time to work editorial magic on it and meet production deadlines. I had a lot of rewriting to do—I needed to cut a hundred pages from the book for starters. By the time I finished the rewrite, there was no time to wring my hands, gaze anxiously at my prose, contemplate changing a few more things or throw a farewell luncheon—I just needed to click “send” and get the book to my editor’s inbox pronto.

When it came to reviewing the edited manuscript, the time crunch was on again. The edited manuscript arrived in my inbox on the day I returned home from the hospital after the birth of my fifth child. For the days following the baby’s arrival, I was working all day long on that manuscript. My new daughter, bless her, probably thought a laptop computer was a permanent part of my lap. She was a sweetie, good-natured and patient with all the writing, and my mother (bless her) was here taking care of the house, the other kids, and everything else while I worked on the book and nursed the baby. And here’s an unusual example of an answer to prayer: I always get the baby blues after the birth of a child. Nothing serious, but I always feel weepy, overwhelmed, emotionally off-balance and stressed out for two weeks following childbirth. I passionately dislike that period of feeling like an emotional wreck and I prayed that I wouldn’t experience it so acutely this time—and I didn’t. I was so swamped with work on the book and so focused on finishing it that I never ended up in the usual emotional/hormonal tailspin.

Well, I think I remained emotionally stable, but my editor might beg to differ. After I proofed the typeset, I called to tell her the problems I’d noted, and she’s probably still recovering from the tedium of this conversation, which consisted mainly of me worrying about 4523 different spots where I thought there should be commas, along with worrying over the word “in” versus “into” and the word “toyed.”

Revisions, editing, proofing, the audio cut—I was always up against a deadline and thus had no time to agonize. But with the revisions on my new novel, I have—gulp—plenty of time. I didn’t need to do nearly as much in revisions, and the book isn’t due out until next spring so it was okay if I took some more time, so I did . . . and now I’m finished. . . and I’m having trouble letting it go. I can take a little more time if I want; it’s not urgent yet, and maybe I should keep it a little longer in case I get an “ah ha!” moment at 3:00 A.M. and want to change something . . . or maybe I’ll tinker with that phrase a bit more . . . or maybe . . . Okay, I told my editor I'd send it to her next week. Seven more days to plan that farewell luncheon.


At 5/09/2007 7:00 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Really bad day for me to read this. I had my own editorial deadline today. That's the *production* end--not happy, fun writing end. (Yeah, that comma, word, cutting, rewriting, ACK! stage, when I'm going to my editor with all those whining things. And I don't have a newborn to blame.) With my 2 remaining brain cells, I cannot see any beauty in deadlines. Maybe when I turn in my next manuscript when it's still fresh. :) I certainly hope so!

At 5/09/2007 7:10 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Believe me, as soon as I'm up against a deadline again, I'll probably be writing a blog complaining about how stressful deadlines are! :)

At 5/10/2007 4:37 PM, Anonymous ennie said...

Hey, as a former newspaper reporter, I find nothing gets me moving better abd faster than a deadline.

At 5/11/2007 12:45 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

As one of the few and proud and absolutely delighted who received a sneak peek at the manuscript, let me be the first to beg you not to change a single word!

It's beyond incredible, Stephanie. I'd like to write that endorsement blurb for you, but so far I haven't been able to think of anything good enough to say!

Fool Me Twice is one of those books that you can't stop reading, want to read again the moment you finish, and can't stop thinking about even when you're trying to get on with your life.

As someone who didn't believe Sister Black could ever come close to matching The Believer, I now have to admit that I was wrong. While different, this book is every bit as good; possibly even better. DB might as well clear out that #1 slot on their bestseller list right now. Fool Me Twice is going to be there a long, long time.

At 5/11/2007 12:46 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

PS - That isn't the endorsement. I'm just practicing . . . :-)

At 5/11/2007 1:15 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

Kerry, you have made my day, my week, and my whole year! Thank you SO much!


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