Judgment Day

 I am finishing revisions today.   I hope.  They are due in my editor’s office at nine on Tuesday morning. There’s still a lot to do.
Thankfully, she had few, but in re-reading the manuscript, I had a bunch. And I’ll tell you why.

Three weeks ago, I was running late in finishing the manuscript. Very late.

For those who are not writers, deadline is our hell. It’s certainly judgement Day. Every writer has those. The day the book is due. The day that is the absolutely last day you can still submit it and fulfill that nasty little clause in your contract. The day your career hangs in the balance.

But the book wasn’t working.

There are two kinds of writers. The plotters and the fly-by-the seat-of-the-pants crowd. I am of the latter persuasion.

I do not say that proudly.

The sad fact is I am one of the latter because I am lazy. The plotter spends hours upon hours plotting out their characters, conflict and plot. It is labor intensive on the front side.

Our crowd – the left side (or is it the right) of the brain group – goes in another direction. We figure that if we develop strong enough characters they will take over and do all the work. We are the optimists. Our characters are going to save us from ourselves.

I am here to tell you it doesn’t always happen. A funny thing happened on my march to this judgment day. A bit player tried to upstage my hero. He wasn’t even in the synopsis (which never bears any resemblance to the final product anyway). He was a device. A prop to make a point. However, he became intensely disgruntled with that role and shouldered his way into a secondary role.

Not to be content with that promotion, he persisted. Then everything fell apart. The hero was not a happy camper. He rebelled. He stopped telling his story.

I had a hero wanna be, a resentful hero and a heroine bemused by the whole mess. No one was doing what they were supposed to be doing.


Time marched on. Unfortunately the story did not. I tried bribery. I will give that wanna-be a book of his own. He knew I was lying, though. I had already decided my next historical project was to be a western series, and my nemesis was a broken down private detective.

Several days before judgment day, the stalemate continued. Nearly fifty pages to go, and I had no ending. Too late to join the plotting crowd. Try that, and I would have to write a whole new book.

Probably no one knows panic like a writer does at deadline time. It paralyzes.

So there I was at three-thirty in the morning with two days to go before the absolute last deadline. Staring at a blank screen. Remembering all those movies about writers when they sit there and crumple pages in their hand and throw them into the waste basket until the entire floor is littered. I wanted to throw the computer into that basket. Fortunately, it’s too heavy.

Okay. I admit it. I finally surrendered. I’ll give him a book of his own. As long as he stops outshining my hero and leads me back into the path of creativity again. No, I will not wait until I finish the western series. He can be next. I swear. (Fingers crossed).

The keys on the computer started to work again. Frantically. The hero shoves the interloper aside in his rush to save the heroine, but all is well, and the heroine saves them both.

Sleep didn’t exist for two days, but it was delivered on the second deadline after several all night sessions.

Do you all know what happens in all night sessions?

Characters change their names. Their hair color changes. An important plot twist isn’t answered. Surprisingly, the editor really liked the book.   She thought there were a few problems with the hurriedly written last chapter, and after reading it, I agreed. Unfortunately those changes required others, and in reading the complete manuscript, I saw lots and lots of problems, and not just those involved in the ending. There’s a quick turnaround time, thus more marathon days and nights.

Each time I finish a book, I swear to join the plotters. They do not have to cope with rebellion. They have matters under control. I am thinking this on my way to bed last night, having had six hours sleep in the past fifty hours.

My wanna-be, though is already banging on my brain. Give me my head, he says. And, sigh, I suppose I shall.

It is now three a.m. I hope you were not expecting much.





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17 thoughts on “Judgment Day”

  1. Great post, LOL. It’s all so TRUE.

    I had a secondary character that…I promise… did not exist in any part of my head anywhere when I started this book. Talk about your take charge alpha male. And he’s in now and he’s the heroine’s long lost brothers and he HATES the hero, been fighting with him for years…odd since he didn’t EXIST until yesterday.
    So he finds out his sister is alive and working out her story while being the housekeeper on the hero’s ranch.
    Well big brother wants his sister to come and live with him. And you know what? There’s no good reason why the woman would stay with the hero, whom she currently loathes…even if he does light a spark she doesn’t exactly understand. In fact the spark makes her loathe the hero all the more…when she’s not kissing him.
    So how am I supposed to keep her with the hero?

    A couple of alpha males at each others throats. And of course, just like Pat, we solve it by having the heroine save the day.

    But even as I tried to control this unruly brother, I knew he’d have to be dealt with in his own book. I just needed to teach that guy a lesson. So he’s coming soon…and there’s probably some as-yet-unimagined guy waiting around to try and overthrow him from his own book.

    Writing…what a life.

  2. I always look forward to your posts, Pat, and this one didn’t disappoint. Been there, been there, been there. Most of us have. Like you, I’m a seat-of-the-pantser. When other writers talk about character arcs and black moments and diagrams, my eyes just roll back in my head.
    Just finished a book about two brothers (THE BORROWED BRIDE, out in November). The younger, irresponsible brother runs off to Alaska and leaves the heroine pregnant. When they can’t reach him, the older, more sober, responsible-to-a-fault older brother feels duty bound to marry her.
    So guess who’s the hero in my current book? Having great fun with the risk-taking hunk who refuses to grow up.
    However you write, it must work, Pat. It got you a Rita nomination!!

  3. I am sitting here laughing, not because your situation is all that FUNNY, but because it’s so ironically TRUE. Oh my goodness. I felt your panic. Been there. I am somehow profoundly reassured that even a pro like yourself has these moments.

    I start with an idea of where the story is going, and I know the characters and their conflict, but I have no idea what will happen from chapter to chapter–or even from scene to scene. I don’t even pay attention to which character’s point of view I’m doing, like some writers do. It’s all a big crap shoot, where the scene I finish tells me what the next scene is. I work the plot points into those. Somehow. You know, I give workshops on this stuff, and I still don’t know how it’s done.


    Sending off a ten page proposal right now for a book that’s contracted. The good news is that the story always reads better than the synopsis.

    Great blog, Pat.

  4. I’m working for about the oh…second time in my life with a really developed synopsis. My editor asked for it.
    If I have an impulse to follow that leads me off the beaten path I just CRUSH IT TO DEATH.
    Actually the synopsis is great. But like the rest of you, I don’t usually do them. They take a long time and I don’t like to commit. What if I come up with a better idea?

  5. Pat, I hate to tell you but all is not rosey with the plotters. We have the same trials with characters and plot even though we think we have everything worked out in the beginning. As I tell my story there are always and forever umpteen changes. The Plotters’ characters rebel too. So you’re not alone. You might as well stick with the way you know best.

    I’m sure looking forward to reading your story. Usually the ones that give us the most trouble are the ones that really stand above the crowd. Good luck with revisions!! 🙂

  6. Pat you are so funny, Lazy?… I know you got me wanting a copy! sounds great and i’m sure all this will be worth the pay off. I don’t see how any writer could be Lazy maybe fried brain cells from thinking to much lol!

  7. How terribly disappointing that things are not rosey with plotters, either. I was intending — one day — to try my hand at it. But I’m delighted I have so much company on my present course. Maybe I’m not as strange as I thought I was.

  8. Not much?! OMGosh, Pat, I wished I had popped popcorn 😉 This post is RIVITING!! ((HUGS)) on the Paster-stress, I know your pain, and felt sorta bad for laughing so hard 😉

    “We are the optimists. Our characters are going to save us from ourselves.”

    YES!! *lol* What a perfect description 😉 Good to know I’m not alone on that right/left side!

    “I had a hero wanna be, a resentful hero and a heroine bemused by the whole mess. No one was doing what they were supposed to be doing.”

    😀 I know your frustration–BIG HUGS, but I sooo love this image 😉 With GUNSLINGER the last ten pages of the deadline ms were a last-minute panic and a pretty expanded “and they lived happily ever after–and now I sleep!” With a note at the end for my editor that said “Please excuse the last ten pages–in a week it will be three sparkling chapters”. And it was 😉

    If you find a mix of Instant Plotter–let me know–I’d love to try it! I’m already looking forward to meeting that pesky secondary character, Pat 🙂 That was how the hero of my second book came about–Jed stole the show and I ended up finishing the next book first! The first book is still under my bed *ggg*

  9. Hi Pat! I’m a pantser, too. I once told my editor a book was done except for proofreading, then realized I’d totally missed the boat and had to redo that last chapter, plus go back to weave in the changes.

    Right now, I’m going way over word count on a novella. Oops. But I’m just not a plotter. I wish I were though!

  10. Patricia, boy do I hear you! Yes, we pantsers are optimists and proud of it!

    Actually, I’m a..ummm…panter?.(pantser-plotter)

    I start with an idea and work on it until I think I have what it takes. At this point I was going to tell you what I do but then I read Cheryl’s post and so I say, “Yeah – that’s what I do.”

    I can’t plot out 3 scenes for every chapter. I just can’t write like that – too restrictive to my creativity.

    But, I do know how I will start and how I will end. Sometimes I know the black moment and sometimes I think of a stronger one as the book evolves. Hey…I sound like a writer… 🙂

    HOWEVER, I must admit I haven’t had the pressures of a deadline looming over my head.

    Cheryl – good luck on your proposal.

    Pat – it’s blogs like yours that are starting to make me click on P&P as soon as I put my laptop on each morning. 🙂

  11. Oh My! I wish many sleep-filled nights for you!
    I’m going to take a nap myself! I’m tired just
    from reading your post!!

    Pat Cochran

  12. Oh you poor baby. My heart goes out to you.

    My characters never behave badly.

    (and I have some land for sale…beachfront property…arizona I believe) LOL!

    Glad you made the deadline though.

    As with most authors, I often envy those who have multiple books/contracts until I had 2 novels and 1 short story all due at once!

    THANKFULLY, my editors are busier than I am so the deadlines are real soft – THANKFULLY!

    Great post, Pat.
    Get some well deserved rest.

    And…if you figure out how to plot after SOTP writing for so long…let me know LOL!

  13. Dear Pat – My computer woes of this morning are finally gone, so here I am reading your post and nodding my head and smiling. OH, I’m a terrible plotter, takes me weeks and weeks to plot a story. Then hopefully, I settle in and shove those pesky secondary characters away … until I’m ready for them. I feel your pain. What a great post! I hope you can get some sleep soon!

  14. Okay that explains it! I couldn’t understnad how a published book could have so many changes of eye color to the heroine. After reading your blog today though, I’m guessing the author must’ve been under some deadline pressure for that to happen!

    If you want to see what I’m talking about, I wrote a book review on my eharlequin blog (100,000 book challenge) for ‘Some Kind of Cowboy’ by Pat Warren. I was so thrown by the change in eye color that I listed all the changes by page nbr.

  15. I think this was a great blog for 3 am! I have a difficult time thinking that clearly at any time of the day. 🙂

    I haven’t really had a character try to take over a book–since most of what I’ve written is series oriented, they know their time is coming. However, I do have a secondary character that flits from book to book. And not just the series. He’s found his way into some contemporary work…and has even made his wishes known about showing up in historical westerns. 😉

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