Friday, May 22, 2009

Writing under deadlines

Charles here, writing under a tight deadline. I have fifteen minutes to write and post this entry before I need to get down to work here at the ad agency. According to conventional wisdom, it should produce a well-honed, targeted bit of writing that would be better than a piece I had spent three hours writing. I doubt it.

I don’t know why, but people often (usually? Always?) say, “I produce my best work under a tight deadline.” While I might see it as an excellent excuse for procrastinating, I assume they are being more or less honest and do believe that their best work comes out under extreme pressure and a ticking clock. (I have ten minutes to go – yes, the above really did take 5 minutes to write.) I have done plenty of deadline-based writing—in the ad world it’s an hourly occurrence, not so much for my novels—and while most of it is good and some of it borders on great (given the task), all of it could have been better with more time.

8 minutes to go.

As a writer, I have two deadlines I’m currently working under. The first is to have my corrected manuscript to my new publisher buy June 1st. It’s a young adult noir tale, about 35,000 words long, and all I need to do is read it and re-read it, spotting typos and word omissions. I declared it error-free last Sunday, Rose read it on Monday and spotted, on average, one error per page. A colleague at work read it and spotted additional four errors that Rose missed. I have two more readers looking at it now and they’ll no doubt spot more. But I’ll make the deadline…and there will still be errors in the manuscript.

The second deadline is to submit my net YA manuscript to Harper-Collins on or before June 1, 2010. I’ve got over a half-million minutes before that deadline hits and already I want more time.

I want to say more on this topic but times up.

And after a quick read through of what I wrote, I believe you will agree I proved my thesis.


Vicki Delany said...

Speed does lead to some typos though. An interesting point, the editor at PPP doesn't give her authors deadlines, as she wants them to produce the best work they can regardless of how long it takes. I wonder if that's the wrong approach.

Debby (Deborah Turrell) Atkinson said...

Now that's a topic for discussion. Vicki and I share the same editor, and though Vicki is working on two--count 'em--two books a year, I'm still taking 18-24 months per book, despite my agent's pressure to write one a year.

Tim Maleeny said...

Like Charles, I have a sordid background in advertising, so deadlines are all too familiar. For some reason I work best when given a deadline, because I procrastinate if I don't have one, but then I need that deadline to slide, then slide again, for me to produce my best work. The first draft comes out just fine, but it's only when I have a chance to breathe and think about what I just spewed onto the page do I actually start to understand my own writing and, hopefully, take the time to make it better. I am still working on that time machine in my spare time, though. That'd be nice.