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.