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Thursday, May 7, 2015

MIA or 6 things I learned from a book deadline...

Firstly I must issue an apology for my recent absence from the blogosphere ... I have just crawled out of the tangled jungle of a contracted 'book deadline' -  (without the assistance of Humphrey Bogart...)

This is the first time I have encountered this beast before and it all seemed fairly straightforward when I put my signature to a contract around July last year that said 'Thou shalt deliver unto us a completed manuscript by no later than 30 April 2015'

I blithely tossed my hair... 'Oodles of time', thought I. 'I've published 6 books. Loads of my friends do it on a regular basis. It can't be too hard...'

HOWEVER what with one thing and another... I did not get to sit down to even consider the concept of the book until September - giving me seven months to write the book from a standing start. 

There I hit my first snag.

I had a hero, a historical time span but no earthly idea where to go from there. I resorted to Tarot Cards (no kidding) - as a mind kicking exercise it is brilliant, by the end of that session with my Writers Group, I had a heroine, an antagonist and motivations etc. etc. 

Next step, said I, let's PLOT the story. I have stated on many occasions I am not a plotter but I thought on this occasion something more than just 'a vague idea' was needed, so I plotted - or thought I did. I then sat down to write and, you guessed it, the plot went out of the window... Of the 7 months I had available to me it took me 5 months to write the rough draft.

Throw into this mix, two weddings (I have now officially run out of children to marry off), Christmas, the fact I still work, edits on other books... and time began to disappear from underneath me. Extraneous activities (such as keeping up with my blog went out of the window) but I am pleased to say I fell across the finish line with the duly finished story delivered up to my publisher on the due date.

So what have I learned from this exercise?

1. I can write a book to a deadline but at a cost to my life, my health, my family and my sanity. Next time there will have to be an enormous 6 figure advance attached to it!
2. I can write a book to a deadline and still be a pantser but at a cost to my life, my health etc etc...(see 1 above)
3. I cannot plot (see 2 above).
4. In order to reach the deadline with something that looks vaguely book shaped, I had to write SOMETHING every day... even if some days it felt like I was carving every word from stone with my thumbnail. 
5. I could not have done it without someone keeping me accountable and that someone was a Facebook group set up by my friend Monique McDonell #1000wordsaday. Only by checking in my word count on a daily basis did I get across that line. Some days were woeful some were good, but word by word I got across that line and I don't think I could have done it without the support of that group and the accountability of having to check in daily. Actually I had 2 'someones' because standing behind me with their shoulders against my back when it looked like my steps might falter, were the wonderful ladies of my Writers' Group to whom I am completely accountable for my goals...
6. When in doubt... resort to Tarot Cards...

Of course it remains to be seen whether the book I delivered passes muster with my editor, but any rewrites will be welcome and only improve the story.

So how did I eventually do it? In this photograph, the sheet of paper with the sticky notes is my first attempt at plotting. The picture of the white board (expunged the day I handed the story in!) is how I actually got it over the line, using the 4 Act method of writing. The black writing was where I had got in the plot and the red was what was needed to bring it home. 

Plotting for pantsers... Alison style
THAT worked well but I had to be halfway through the book before it even started to work. 

Oh... and Scrivener... I couldn't have done it without Scrivener (or my Writers' Group or my husband...)

(I am just about to go AWOL again as I head off on a 6 week vacation... but once I am back in June I have some very exciting projects to get my teeth stuck into - and the deadlines will be of my own choosing!)  WATCH THIS SPACE....