Staving off panic

After a week away from my novel (Oh, how I have missed it – what an intimate connection it is for me right now!) I am ready to jump back in!

I have spent the last week researching for an article whose deadline is this morning, and after writing it, and finalizing it I am once again reminded as to how much research goes in compared to what is in the final product. Thing is, how can we know what’s important and key unless we  find out all the secondary, tertiary, etc stuff. The amount of research that has gone into my novel is huge, with more in production, and I know only 0.1% will make an appearance.

I have also spent the last week reviewing the wonderful work done by fellow members of my critique group. I hope I was half as beneficial to them as they are to me – never seizes to amaze me how enlightened I become at one of these meetings (analyzing my own work and theirs.)

Now that the kids are safely packed to school for their respective Valentine’s party, I have about one hour to reunite with my novel! A great way to end the end the week, knowing next week I can return with complete devotion to it. Yet, I am panicking….or rather ensuring I don’t. When I feel it rising I get rid of it, knowing it will only slow me down.

I am running out of time! 13 weeks to go, at most. Between March break, PED days, sick days (theirs and mine), doctor’s apts, and just plain limited energy – Will I make it? I can only try, but I know myself and my process. I cannot rush – I will not rush. My novel deserves much better than that.

Any tips on how to calm oneself down when a looming deadline appears?

Happy Valentine’s day – may your stories be filled with love – but no martyrdom.

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31 thoughts on “Staving off panic

  1. The novel sounds interesting – and it sounds like you have the same experience of writing (novels and short stories) that I do, where you’re walking around with a bunch of characters and situations in your head that are so strong they can almost overtake the real world. Personally I find when I leave something alone because I have another project, it takes a day or two to get back into sync with what they’ve been doing while my back’s turned (which might actually be worth using as a plot device, I’ll remember that one).
    Research – yes, I have the same thing, only tiny bits actually emerge in the writing. I’ve had the experience of researching for days to understand something that might eventually appear as only half a sentence. Classic example, a type of knot for climbing that would have been used in the 1880s – these days I’d use a prusik knot in the situation I’m working through but it so happens the knot details were first published in a climbing magazine in 1931. It turns out loggers and others had a similar knot, a rolling hitch, that’s been in use since the early 1800s. It’s not even a particularly important detail. I could have just said ‘knot’. But it adds some authenticity.
    Your deadline is 13 weeks away and it’s looming? I never think deadlines are looming until the last 48 hours… Depends whose deadline it is. Most publishers only care, in my experience, once they’ve accepted a work, put out the pre-publicity and got the printrun booked!

    • Hi Jon, thanks for stopping in and commenting!
      I tend to forget that new people will on occassion read this….sorry for the mix-up – the deadline for my novel is my own, self-imposed by myself due to life circumstances, such as pregnancy due date. You are right, but for me it feels impending due to significant re-writing I want done before I turn into one of your walking zombies for the next year or so.
      Knots and 1880s, interesting – i love little details like that.
      And yes absolutly!! “where you’re walking around with a bunch of characters and situations in your head that are so strong they can almost overtake the real world” that they do…love it 🙂

      • Well, babies are sometimes premature, though in my experience novels always take much longer than you expect them to. Hope the pregnancy is going well though.
        As to zombies, I remember my then wife describing the early stages of four-hour feeds in those terms despite my New Man act with bottles and expressed milk. She also said it was difficult after a day of being mummy to remember how to have intelligent adult conversation, though as a freelancer tapping away on a keyboard most of the day I don’t have too much of it either!
        OK it’s time to get back to the voices in my head (which opens up a whole other line of comparison between writing and madness, I suppose!)
        Hope all goes well with both baby and book, anyway.

      • Thanks Jon! Yes, they do come early sometimes, but my first two arrived right on time. Adult conversation does become something foreign…I suppose it’s one of the reasons I am so determined to do my best to finish this novel before baby. I am so connected with it, I do not want to loose that…

  2. I guess it’s a bit of a cliche but I heard one novelist sayy research is like an iceberg: one tenth goes into the novel but the other nine tenths isn’t lost, it gives that one tenth stability.
    Gosh, I can’t give you any advice on remaining calm close to a deadline but I’m looking forward to seeing what your readers suggest.

    • Hi Helen – I was reading January’s edition of Writer’s Digest (it’s a good one!), from the article fact into fiction, by Karen Dionne:
      “The common wisdom is that only about 1 percent of a novelist’s research ends up in his or her book,” says Gayle Lynds, The New York Times best selling author of eight international espionage novels. “In my experience it’s even less – closer to a tenth of a percent.”

      • Helen comments that she should be doing more research – it’s true I can go off for days finding out some trivia that I think adds atmosphere but then it tends to get re-used time after time. Once I discovered that gaffer tape was invented in World War II for sealing ammunition boxes, that piece of information became contextual detail in three or four short stories, in different contexts each time. Equally when a publisher asked me to do a coffee table book on ‘ultimate cars’ some of the bits and pieces that came out of that ended up lodged in a couple of stories as the kind of detail that adds authenticity.
        Some authors also come across a good idea and re-use it time after time. Jeff Noon, for example, writing SF stories about Manchester (UK) in the near future, reuses places, ideas for fictional products, and other material repeatedly in his work and does so to good effect. If you take other writers (B S Johnson’s surrealist novels are examples) there’s little ‘research’ as such but a lot of personal experience and autobiographical elements in there that have to do with his having studied architecture. Personal knowledge of anything from places to recipes to, I dunno, musicology or chainging diapers or experiences of being drunk end up posing as facts in all kinds of fiction. Life experience can be research too…

  3. I love a deadline. Otherwise I’d allow myself distraction. And like Jon above, I don’t really kick it into high gear until the last 48 hours.

    Whenever I set a goal, it will inevitably fall apart due to life getting in the way. And if you are like me about last minute motivation, you might want to set 48 hour goals. Achieve success in small spurts.

    P.S. I just made that tip up. I never gave myself 48 hour deadlines before so I’m going to use it. Baby steps.

    • 48 hour deadlines!
      It’s a good idea, Tricia! I usually try to go by week, and then divide it per work day per week. Like you say “success in small spurts” .
      Have you tried it yet?

  4. I’m a procrastinator, so like Tricia and Jon, I often find myself with a short time to finish something, but I guess that’s reflective of how my mind works. I start with a story/novel idea, then think about it for a while before I can actually develop it. So, there’s usually “work” going on while I delay.

    BUT that does not directly answer your question. The way I calm myself down is simply by starting to write. Like the Flannery O’Connor quote: “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

  5. It’s great to hear that you won’t rush, it’s such an important thing to learn and keep in place, even with a large and looming deadline ahead!

    I was so near the end of a novel when I had Lauren, I could see a way to end it earlier, but decided that it was more important to end the book the right way than to have the draft finished before baby came along. Thankfully I found a way to keep working on it and managed to write 10,000 words to get it finished within a month or so of her arrival!

    This time around, I’m clear of novels, though there are lots of short stories just begging to be written. Good things take time though, and as long as we remember that somewhere in the future we WILL have that time again, we’ll make it through sane!

    • Thanks JC.
      With my other pregnancies I wasn’t writing, so this is very different for me. Well, not true precisely, I was writting my thesis when I had my first, but that was a whole other thing.
      Yes, somewhere in the future there will be time. I am amazed at where I am with my two now…
      Good luck with your shorts!

  6. Yay, you had a date with your book! 🙂

    “I am running out of time! 13 weeks to go, at most. . . . Will I make it? I can only try, but I know myself and my process. I cannot rush – I will not rush. My novel deserves much better than that.”

    Your novel does deserve much better than that–and you don’t think that Baby 3 will be the end of your writing. You’ll find a new schedule.

    “Any tips on how to calm oneself down when a looming deadline appears”

    Valium? (Oh, wait, right . . . you’re pregnant. ;-). No, seriously–what works for me. Count up how many writing days you have. Subtract two (or three) days for the end of edit read-through. Divide the chapters by the remaining days and you’ll have how many chapters you need to rewrite per day. Use the Internet as a reward for AFTER you’ve gotten through the day’s chapters and don’t go on to check e-mails, blogs, or boards until after you’re done your work!

    Happy editing! YOU CAN DO IT!

    🙂 Ev

    • I did have a date with my book, Ev, and it was terrific!
      I love your advice – I have actually applied it, but by pages instead of chapters. I was doing that, but in my panic haze I forgot! Thank you so much!
      I know that with my first two I literally did not sleep for 2 years straight, and then just a little bti of sleep for another year (my first actually only began sleeping the night when he started K last year), so I am assuming I will be rendered in the same brain dead state….but then again, I cannot imagine staying away from writing where I am with it now. I am hoping to do something like, dare I say chic lit? most likely YA fantasy. I have so much floating in my head. Ah well, I’ll see. Time will tell.

  7. Oh, the nail-biting anxiety of deadlines. Thirteen weeks is a lot of time, meaning you’ll have plenty of time to stress closer to the date. Right now just enjoy the writing process, it’s the only way it’s going to work for you. Take your time or you will resent the process.

  8. One of my friends is a bestselling author. That should make me listen to her advice, but when she tells me that I worry too much about research, I want to cry out, “How can I know what’s too much?” I’d rather take half of forever to finish a novel than to embarass myself with a misplaced detail.

    Regarding deadlines, I’m most certainly not the best person to give advice.

    • Hi Ann – nice to see you around! Hope all is well!
      What a wonderful thing – a friend who is a bestseling author! I am envious!

      I love research, and I know I need it to make the novel as realistic as possible, but I suppose the trick would be to ensure I don’t get carried away into the www. That can happen from time to time when I am not careful and I try to stand up and my legs are cramped from sitting forever. Somehow, I don’t become so uncomfortable when I am writing (i don’t connect my lapptop to the internet,).
      This morning I was listening to an author on CBC (I forget who!!), who said that fiction is a lie, and in order to do it well it must be filled with details, otherwise the lie is unbelievable.

  9. Hi,

    I tend to get stressed when the novel writing takes longer than anticipated, but I think the key is to relax and let the story tell itself. I’ve set a deadline for early March to get my manuscript back to the editor.

    Hope all goes well with your writing,

    Lawrence

  10. I calm myself in the face of a deadline by focusing on the small piece in front of me in this moment: the sentence, the paragraph, the page.

    For me, the panic comes when I’m slipping behind and thinking of all the work ahead, my typical pace and the finite number of hours remaining. When I can get myself to focus on the work right in front of me, I often find that the piece that’s taking more time than it should gets worked out, despite taking more time, and later sections don’t take as much time as I’d estimated.

    • Cathryn, this advice or yous was put to good use this morning.
      Focusing on my writing is the only thing that truly calms me down. When I would begin to panic this am because of how many pages are left, I would tell myself to focus on what is in front me, otherwise there is no point to doing it at all, is there?

      Did I mention that I love you guys?? Well I do! Wonderful group of supportive bloggers – thank you all!

  11. I find the best way to stave off panic is to move the deadline. You are quite right not to rush. When someone reads your novel they won’t make allowances for how little time you spent on it or what other pressures you had in your life. They won’t flesh it out with their brilliant insights and well-turned phrases. If there’s something lacking, it will be glaringly obvious and that’s what they’ll see and remember. On the other hand, panic can be good for your work. So go ahead and panic about the novel and allow time for having all your priorities and preoccupations overturned 13 weeks from now. 13 weeks? Better call that 10. Or, since I’m late with my comment, 9. Don’t forget to leave time for a final read-through. And some last-minute alterations. So we’re probably talking about 7 weeks realistically, aren’t we? Or 6 if you want to allow for doctor’s appointments and so on. Can’t you aim to finish it by mid-March?

    • Oh, be nice, Joseph! Are trying to send me into a panic?? lol.
      I have been working on convincing myself that not finishing before the baby comes is ok. I am worried that my connection with my novel will be broken after the baby – baby`s in my life consume me whole. But, I tell myself, perhaps it will only tighten it.

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