by Brenda Carre
Do you write to a deadline or do deadlines scare you? Do you make meeting deadlines into a writer's tool, or do you avoid them like the plague?
Writing fast can be terrifying, breathless and an amazing experience. In my opinion, the first draft should always be this way. You can always go back and clean up the manuscript later. Your first draft is all about belief in yourself. It's about writing to deadline, doing it fast and setting aside worries about historical accuracy for a time.
Deadline might mean one we put on ourselves. I know many writers who set a daily word count for themselves or a weekly one. I know a number of people who write a short story a week. They say it's a practical way to build the writerly muscle. To build trust in oneself and oust fear.
More about this later.
Deadline might also mean writing a 7000 word short story in a week because you had a story proposal accepted by an editor while you were on vacation in Europe and needed to deliver the not-yet-written story in ten days. Which is what happened to me last month. Being away from most of my avenues of research, I panicked. For about an hour. Then I got down to business and set my course.
I reasoned I'd need to do 1000 words a day. Easily doable since I was already journal writing more than that daily anyway. I determined where and when I would be able to write. For me this involved an iPad, the seat of a moving car, or bus, or train and breakfast rooms where I wrote steamy scenes of romance whilst other guests sat and ate their toast and sipped their tea or in the venue of train or bus, watched scenery roll past outside their windows.
It was a challenge, but more, it was a need to do what I might, a year ago, have said was impossible. To write for publication, to deadline, with limited internet, limited time, and the distractions of travel. I had to ignore the protests of family members.
Them: "But you're on vacation!"
Me: "I'm a writer. I'm still on vacation; it just took a detour, that's all."
I fought with myself over the necessity for historical accuracy and determined that my need right then was to write the story and worry about research in the second draft, if needed. I remembered the words of Cherie Priest regarding historical accuracy when writing steampunk: "Steampunk needs historical accuracy like a dirigible needs a fish." Though I was not writing Steampunk, I did reason that to have two people making love aboard a fifteenth century war ship did not involve historical accuracy but an understanding that the mood is more the thing. In fact, had I included historical accuracy, it would have produced a tale more hysterical than romantic given the lack of room and privacy aboard said ship.
Over the period of a week I wrote from the gut. I finished my story feeling like I had just taken a roller coaster ride. I did a second pass to edit and sent it in, meeting my deadline one day early.
How? I set my editor aside. I told myself it didn't have to be good, it just had to be finished. I turned off the inner voice that says, "You can't write that...because," and just let the story unfold as it wanted to. In short I didn't worry about grammar, punctuation or usage because I trusted in my ability as a storyteller to communicate what was right at any given time and let the story and the characters have their own way.
They surprised me as always. They had opinions, they fought, they experienced life through all their senses and they took me along for the ride.
They filled in everything for me.
Characters are setting. Characters are conflict. Good setting comes to life through the opinions of the operating characters. And, surprisingly, their opinions dictated sentence structure, punctuation, voice and a whole bunch of other things that would have been dashed right out of my story if my editorial mind had gotten in my way.
So, again, I ask you, how do you deal with deadlines?