When you’re a first-time novelist, there’s no pressure: No one is waiting for your book. In fact, if you never write it the world will never notice. So there’s lots of time for daydreaming and learning and following a whim. But when you have a deadline, the stakes are raised, the adrenaline starts pumping—gotta get this done.
And when you have several deadlines it becomes an exercise of waves of writing and editing. Here I was happily working on my second novel while tentatively pushing my first novel out into the world. It’s met with good reactions, but not great reactions. (i.e. No one has offered to publish it yet!) So I thought I’d find out why. (See earlier blog on substantive edit: http://ascribewriters.com/breaking-up-is-hard-to-do/#more-416
I looked around and found someone who communicated what she did clearly and concisely. And she offered a trial run, for both of you, for $150 for the first 50 pages. This was a way to dip my toe in and see what happened. She scheduled me in, read my pages, and we had a phone conversation to discuss. Her comments were insightful and to the point. I learned a lot. I also had a moment of, Do I really want to go back for one more edit?
But that’s why I’d contacted her, so yes I’d go back in; I was paying for this advice. I’ve come too far not to give it one more try and most likely another if anyone agrees to publish it. At the end of the conversation, I asked about the rest of the substantive edit. But she didn’t know if she could schedule me in yet. I was to contact her toward the end of March. Initially I was disappointed as I was now geared up to work on it. Then I quickly realized it was for the best. It would give me time to think about her comments and incorporate them into my novel.
If you’re reading this, you know I belong to a group of writers called Ascribe. This is their blog site where we rotate bloggers and post every Monday morning. Our group mentor in many ways, Tracey Richardson, suggested we might write a book of short stories. We all thought this was a great idea so we came up with a deadline and word count, editing schedule and away we go. Deadline #1. Medium-term.
And if you know me, you know I have a few opinion. I try to be well-informed in my opinions. And I’m passionate, I care deeply about things. I read several newspapers and I like to write in if I can add something. But with papers, you like to react quickly because news moves quickly. I’d seen a political cartoon in the Owen Sound Sun Times that I felt simplified a complex and important subject: The current bombing of hospitals in conflict zones. http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/article/op-ed-bombing-hospitals-and-schools-cannot-become-new-normal Deadline #2. Very short-term.
I’d been to a dinner party where the subject of the play, Carousel, came up. I was disturbed by this play, by its seeming acceptance of violence in the family. I had discussed it with others to see how they felt. Had I missed something? But my friends were disturbed by it as well. In a facebook conversation, we discussed some of these issues and then I was asked if I’d like to write a piece broadly based on our conversation. I said I’d give it a go. I’ve been asked to write things before, but it’s been a while. Deadline #3. None given, but when asked I like to respond as promptly as possible. Short-term.
Then an area school review recommended that the high-school my daughter planned to attend should be closed and remodelled into an elementary school. The process wasn’t final, but we had a week or so to respond in time to be heard at the meeting. Deadline #4. Short-term!
And now it’s my blog turn. Deadline #5. Short-term.
I miss my days of meandering through my novel. But these deadlines haven taken my writing in areas I hadn’t expected. And when writing opinion pieces, you do research which helps you understand the topic better and why you care about it, before you try to convince others. They’ve all been learning experiences and have helped me to better articulate my thoughts and ideas. What great writing practice.
Now it’s mid-March and I haven’t got back to my first novel yet. What seemed far in the future is just around the corner and I’m not ready. Or perhaps it’s just another deadline.
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