Writing Deadlines – The Missed and the Made

I have a manuscript that was due on May 1.  Yes.  I know it’s May 3.  No, the manuscript isn’t done yet.  Almost, but not quite.  This is the first deadline I’ve ever missed.

I pride myself on meeting deadlines.  Writing is my job; it’s a business.  Part of running a successful business is meeting client expectations.  In this case, my editor is my client, and she expected the manuscript for BITE AFTER BITE, the first volume of my Night Court lawyer-vampire series, by May 1.  In fact, we have a written contract that specifies delivery of the manuscript by no later than May 1.

But I have excuses for my failure to delivery, even though I had a full six months to write the manuscript.

First, there was my editor’s four-month delay in reviewing my proposal for the new series (caused by the usual scramble of her being overworked and stretched far too thin.)  We negotiated an extension of my original deadline from April 1 to May 1.  (Yes, astute mathematicians will realize that I lost four months to the delay and gained one month in the extension, resulting in my having a total of three months to draft the novel, rather than the six I had expected.  Revisiting point one above – this is a business, and in businesses, we sometimes don’t get to work under ideal circumstances.)

Second, there was a two-week delay in early April, because my editor needed complete outlines for books two and three in the Night Court series, so that consistent artwork could be developed for the covers of all three volumes.  (Again, the mathematically astute will notice that the two-week delay added up to one sixth of my total re-negotiated writing time.)  I was thrilled by the idea of a coherent cover scheme.  I was slightly less thrilled at the idea of dropping all forward motion on BITE AFTER BITE to write up outlines for two books that were dependent on the events that I was writing in BITE.  Nevertheless, I provided the new data, then returned to BITE.

Third, there was the one-week delay when I received my editor’s notes on TO WISH OR NOT TO WISH, the third of my As You Wish genie-in-the-world-of-professional-theater books.  Although I’d turned in TO WISH by its contract date of October 1, my editor took a little over six months to get notes to me (see, again, that comment above about editors being overworked and spread too thin.)  By the time I received the edit letter, those edits were late (by about two months); therefore, completing those edits became top priority.  Once again, BITE got pushed to the side.

Fourth, there was the two-day delay when I received the copy edits on TO WISH OR NOT TO WISH.  Two days isn’t much, except that I received those copy edits less than a week before the official due date for BITE.  By that point, I had mapped out hour-by-hour writing strategies, to meet my deadline, strategies that were destroyed by taking the time to review the TO WISH copy edits.

So, I’d like to claim that it isn’t my fault. I lost almost four months of my contractually-granted six months to write the book, through no fault of my own.  Even the best-laid plans are severely tested by a loss of 66% of resources.

What have I done, in the face of this failure?  I’ve discussed revised deadlines, early and often, with my editor.  I’ve negotiated a new delivery date (three weeks from the writing of this blog post) which I’ll meet (and possibly beat.)  I’ve kept my First Reader and my Critique Partner in the loop, letting them know how urgently I need their comments on quick turnarounds.  I’ve put my husband on notice that the kitchen is closed until further notice, and the laundry room isn’t getting much traffic either.

It’ll all work out in the long run, but it isn’t very fun right now.

So, entertain me with your stories of scrambling for deadlines.  What heroics did you perform to honor your business obligations?  Did you bend over backwards to meet a writing group’s expectation?  A contest deadline?  A contractual one?

Mindy, off to write

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  1. 1. Joe Iriarte

    I don’t have any contractual writing obligations yet, but I had a bit of a scramble to meet a contest deadline just this past weekend. The deadline was postmarked by Friday, and we have a late night post office by the airport, so I planned all along to work into the evening making it as polished as I could, and then getting to the post office by eleven or so. I ended up getting there at 11:55. I had four things to mail–three contest entries needing the 4/30 postmark and a partial with no real deadline. I did the partial last.

    I cut it so close that the three contest entries were postmarked 4/30 and the partial was postmarked 5/1.

    O_O

    (A more detailed version of this is on my blog.)

  2. 2. Leah

    Like you, I once had about 48 hours to look at copy edits. This happened, of course, during crunch time for the day job.

    How did I make it? By working 19 hours a day for a few days, and living on caffeine.

    This was the edit, BTW, where the printer had lost every letter that had a diacritical on it. So I ended up with B lusz, etc. Ugh.

  3. 3. karen wester newton

    Well, I was four days late delivering my son, but my daughter was right on time! -)

    Cut yourself a little slack, there, Mindy! Just think about how many books went out on time or early.

  4. 4. Deborah Blake

    I’m going to say that in this case–SO not your fault. I understand that editors are overloaded, but they also need to be reasonable in their timeliness in getting work back to authors. (Oh, well…there goes that book contract.)

    I always aim at being so far ahead of deadline that even if crap happens, I have time. Too much of my formative years spent watching Scotty on Star Trek, I guess :-)
    Captain Kirk: I need it in five hours!
    Scotty: I canna have it done for ten.
    Captain Kirk: I need a miracle!
    Scotty: Ach. Well, then, I can do it in four. No problem.

  5. 5. Marie Brennan

    I finished In Ashes Lie on time, despite changing plans on which book I was writing three months into my six months or so of designated research time (making all my nineteenth-century research useless), my husband losing his job, moving two-thirds of the way across the country, going home for my father’s major heart surgery, and finding myself writing a book fully thirty thousand words longer than it was originally supposed to be.

    I’m still fairly proud of that. But it’s the kind of thing you get no credit for; so long as the book goes in on time, nobody particularly notices what you did to make it happen.

  6. 6. Mindy Klasky

    Joe – I haven’t submitted postmark-required entries for a long time; I used to know the way to the 24-hour post office around here quite well, though!

    Leah – I’ve been lucky with copy edits in the past – no major disasters introduced by CEs (although a few long-standing disagreements with house style…)

    Karen – you made me laugh, with your comments about the kids. Alas, with the books, we’re only as good as our last deadline…

    Deb – It’s my fault, because I agreed to the (new) deadline. ::shrug:: In this case, I think it’ll all turn out OK…

    Marie – You *should* be proud of it, but you’re right – we don’t get a lot of credit for doing what we’ve agreed to do, even when the cards then stack against us… The magic we work behind the curtain!

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Author Information

Mindy Klasky

Mindy Klasky is the author of eleven novels, including WHEN GOOD WISHES GO BAD and HOW NOT TO MAKE A WISH in the As You Wish Series. She also wrote GIRL'S GUIDE TO WITCHCRAFT, SORCERY AND THE SINGLE GIRL, and MAGIC AND THE MODERN GIRL, about a librarian who finds out she's a witch. Mindy also wrote the award-winning, best-selling Glasswrights series and the stand-alone fantasy novel, SEASON OF SACRIFICE. Visit site.

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