Saturday, August 05, 2017

Making the Deadline … or Not


Several years ago, I asked SJ Rozan to recommend a new series featuring a female police officer. SJ looked up from her lunch and said unequivocally, "Naomi Hirahara's bike cop, Ellie Rush." I ran out, bought, MURDER ON BAMBOO LANE, loved it, taught it, and my students fell in love with Naomi, albeit vicariously (she eventually led a Skype class for me). She has been a dear friend -- and a writer I admire -- since.
Aside from the Ellie Rush series, this week's guest, Naomi Hirahara, is the Edgar Award-winning author of the Mas Arai mystery series, which features a Japanese American gardener and atomic-bomb survivor who solves crimes. Books in this series have been translated into Japanese, Korean and French. She has written a YA novel, 1001 CRANES, which was chosen as an Honor Book for the Youth Literature of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in 2009. She has worked as a journalist, editing the largest Japanese American newspaper in the U.S., and has published numerous nonfiction works. Her short stories have been included in various anthologies.


By Naomi Hirahara


I pride myself in meeting deadlines. I cut my teeth in journalism, and the consequences of not making my deadline were very immediate, visible and audible. We had our own press at our newspaper, so experiencing unhappy pressmen was not my idea of having a good time. It was beneficial, however, to see how our tardiness on the editorial side would set off a domino effect on other parts of the operation -- in particular, production and distribution. One of my late predecessors, in fact, even had a column with the proud title, “Making the Deadline.”

That experience has carried me through writing novels. I know not making the deadline is going to affect my editor and everyone involved in polishing and editing the manuscript, sales, etc. So I don't consider asking for a writing extension a minor request.

But with my last mystery manuscript I needed to see I could get one. As I was balancing a nonfiction book-length project with this mystery one, I carefully timed my writing schedule, I knew that I somehow could get produce the volume of pages. On one crucial day, I wasn't feeling well, not necessarily healthwise but in my head. I had labored with this manuscript and its very big and personal themes and all that was taking a toll on me. I knew that some of middle sections were rushed and the action sequences needed more rewriting. I had to finally take a breath and slow the writing machine down to address these issues. So what did I do? Immediately e-mail my editor/publisher.

One thing I've learned over the years is when I need to deliver unwanted news is take care of it as soon as possible. Whether I'm late to an appointment or need to have a difficult conversation, I don't postpone. That helps no one. So when I feel I'm having problems with my manuscript, I don't wait to the very last minute to contact my editor, I do it as soon as I sense a problem. It's always good, however, to devise a compromise.

In this most recent case, I knew that I could easily complete the whole manuscript aside from the final chapter by the deadline. I promised to turn in the last chapter a week later. So while I know that's a very important to meet deadlines, I also know that it's possible to renegotiate them, too. Just make sure that you keep the lines of communication open. It seems so obvious, but for some, that's the hardest thing to do.

(A version of this essay was first posted on Naomi Hirahara’s Facebook Author Page as part of her Writing Wednesday series. https://www.facebook.com/NaomiHiraharaBooks/

For more information, go to her website, www.naomihirahara.com.
And yes, she did meet her negotiated deadline! The seventh and final Mas Arai mystery will be released in March 2018 in conjunction with Left Coast Crime Reno, in which she will be an honored guest with William Kent Krueger.)







3 comments:

Sybil Johnson said...

Hi, Naomi! Nice to see you here. I have a love/hate relationship with deadlines. Sometimes they cause me to freeze, unable to think. But if I don't have one, then I can put things off so much that I never get a project done. I hadn't thought of something like turning in everything but the last chapter. That's interesting.

Vicki Delany said...

Thanks for joining us, Naomi, nice to meet you on the Internet.

Isabella Olivia said...

This information is impressive; I am inspired with your post writing style & how continuously you describe this topic.


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