by Kelly Boyce
In a perfect writing world, I would write up a pristine outline incorporating all the required elements. I would then proceed to write my first draft over a couple of months at which point, upon finishing, I would set it aside for a month. Clear my head. Take a breather. After that, I would read through my work, make notes and then revise at leisure, pouring over every nuance, word, piece of dialogue and character motivation, spiffing it up until it shone like a…uh…well, something shiny. Ahh, the writing life.
In theory, it sounds so wonderful. In reality…well, in reality it can be an entirely different beast as I discovered while completing my first manuscript under a publisher’s deadline. I had six months to write and revise a manuscript from scratch, about half the time I had been taking. I started chanting, “Failure is not an option.”
Things started fine. I had a great idea, breezed through my outline and started writing. It was awesome! At least until the original plot idea decided to implode one month in. Deep breaths. No problem. I can do this. Failure – still not an option.
I revised the idea. Re-outlined. Re-wrote. Reverted to the fetal position while hyperventilating into a paper bag when the second outline fell apart in spectacular fashion. Another month lost. Four months left.
Back to the drawing board. I pared down the plot. Did yet another outline, buffed up the character motivations and conflicts. Started writing. Okay…this is good…this is working…this is…total utter crap!! Ack!
I bypassed the hyperventilating and went straight for the wine. Major changes were made. Three months to go. I made up a writing schedule to determine how many words I had to complete each day to leave myself time for revisions.
I told my husband to remember me fondly and I would see him again after my deadline date.
I typed like a woman possessed, finished the first draft and jumped into revisions. Realized halfway through revisions I’d made a fatal error. Banged my head against my desk until my husband suggested a brain injury would not facilitate the process. He also suggested putting in a car chase despite the fact the story takes place in 1876.
I fixed the error and kept going. Three weeks left. I wrote mornings, lunch hours, weekends. Then, two days before my deadline I had a major epiphany. Or a brain bleed. They were becoming hard to tell apart at this point. Either way, there was no time left to implement it. None. Nada. Zippo.
I sent my manuscript to my editor meeting my deadline. In my email to her I described my epiphany and hoped she didn’t seriously question why the publisher had signed me. A day later the doubts crept in: Had I gone too plot heavy? Did I tie up all the loose ends? Did the motivations hold up or fall apart? And why didn’t I take up basket weaving instead??
Then I jumped into writing my next book.
Ah yes…the writing life.
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