Thursday, July 8, 2010

Freedom From...You Fill in the Blank

KAYE: I've been mulling over this blog entry from Dystel & Goderich agent, Michael Bourret.

In fact, I've already blogged on it once.

What I'm thinking about now is--deadlines. Here's a sample of the deadlines we pre-published writers (more on that later) strive to meet: We enter contests, we exchange chapters, full mss, we keep up with blogs and webpages, we hold down full and part-time jobs while doing that, we engage in email discussions, facebook, twitter, these last to make our presence known. And we generally answer emails.

KD: Well, there's a song, right? "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose"? Janis Joplin, the same troubled woman who wanted a Mercedes Benz.

Apparently, the stress of deadlines is...stressful. Okay. Fine. How about the stress of thinking nothing I do matters to anyone? That nobody is going to read it anyway? That other people will leave their grandkids beautiful embroidered whatchamacallits, and my own grandkids will have to deal with boxes of manuscripts under the bed? What about that?

KAYE: Add in the stress of not meeting those deadlines that I mentioned, too. For instance, you and I are VERY late in our ms swap and my ms is nowhere near done right now. I haven't had a chance to write on it since April!

Here's my typical, planned day Monday through Friday (not that they ever go as planned): emails for an hour starting at 8:00 or 9:00, daily pages for fifteen minutes, then get dressed and try for some exercise. The rest of the morning is for errands, hair appointments, doctors appointments, stuff like that. I work on my work in progress (WIP) for 3-4 hours in the afternoon. Break for Jeopardy! During the ads I critique hard copy for the two manuscript critique groups I belong to, or one of the two short story critique groups. After dinner I write for blogs, usually ending up posting on Facebook and Twitter between 11:00 and midnight or 1:00. Except every other Monday, when my cross-genre writers' group meets, a fifty-five mile drive. And Tuesdays, when Austin Mystery Writers meets, a seventy-mile drive. Fridays I send out ten queries, five for each project I'm seeking publication for at the moment. In spare moments I look over critiques I've received and implement changes I think I need, think about plotting a sequel to the one project I'm querying. The current WIP is a sequel to the other.

Weekends are for short stories and trying to catch up on what I didn't get done. I don't know when is the last time I took a day completely off.

But occasionally I have a day when I just can't do it. What's the use? I don't ever hear back from most of the agents who receive my meticulously crafted query letters. I've taken several courses in how to write them and I get each one critiqued. I tweak each letter for each agent, looking up their attachment requirements. Then I get a request for a partial, or a full, and I come up fighting my black moments.

KD: Well, of course we fight it. We fight the feeling it is all worthless by having writing buddies. We write blogs, enter contests, send out manuscripts and query letter, all that stuff. We build our own support groups, set our own deadlines, read someone else's manuscript in the
hopes they will read and be interested in ours. We rejoice at any sign of hope (she requested a partial!) and eat cyber or real chocolate when confronted with despair (So I got this form rejection on a full. Can't believe it.)

KAYE: I've gotten those form rejections, even a Dear Author once, on a request for a full. Those are bad days. I never seem to get that free feeling. Funny, ain't it?

KD: Look. Somebody wants their freedom? You know, you always HAVE
your freedom. Start another book under another name. Refuse to write
the sequel. It's all up to you.

What the published have, what I WANT and the published HAVE, is the
knowledge that somebody believes in them.

[[picture provided under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation]]


  1. Kaye, great post and interesting take. I suspect strongly that there's three different stressors at work here. The stress of trying to make it--which is HUGE, the stress of arriving and showing you have professional staying power and making those deadlines, not those we self-inflict in our unpublished lives, and three staying on top and scratching our way through the competitive maze.

  2. I know, Donnell, that there is tremendous stress after publication--you're absolutely right about that. I hear about it from friends and it's nerve wracking. But the striving author isn't stress free, which was the point we wanted to make. Thanks for the post--and for making me think!

  3. I understand that being published entails stress. As a pre-published writer, however, I wouldn't mind exchanging my pre-published stress for some of the post-published kind.

  4. This is definitely timely for me. I'm "on vacation" this week, meaning I'm not going to the day job. But I'm definitely stressed out over my writing! I have missed my self-imposed deadline of completing the first draft of my current WIP by June 30th and am insisting that I finish it this week. Couple that with the feeling that most of this draft is absolute crap when I had such high hopes for this story, and I'm going through the whole self-doubt thing about ever writing anything worthy of being published.
    Unlike you, Kaye, yesterday, since I was so discouraged, I took the entire day off and read and watched movies, telling myself that I was on vacation and the hell with pretending I was a writer. (This week is also kind of a trial run at what it would be like to write full time, so, with things not going so well, I'm also depressed over that.)
    A day off seems to have worked. Today I'm back in the saddle and what I've written is better than what I wrote earlier in the week. But I still have that little voice in the back of my head saying things like "Must finish draft", "Can I revise this mess in the next few months?", "When should I start on the query letter?", "How do I find time to research agents?" and a million other things to meet my major goal for this year, which is submitting this novel by December 31st.
    Who says we don't have deadlines?

  5. I hear you, Kathy!

    Elise, I need to take more days off! I read on a blog somewhere that most writers only actually write 3-4 hours a day, more than that and the brain stops working. I've missed so many deadlines lately. Sigh.

  6. Wow, I hear what you're saying! Like maybe I've wasted all this time and will have nothing to show for it. I haven't learned to knit, play tennis, the piano, speak Italian, take good photos or any of those other things I might have done!

  7. Ah, I see, Peg. That's my problem. I CAN knit and play piano, even speak a smidge of Italian. My photos, though....I obviously haven't been working hard enough at writing. I must say, though, my knitting and my piano playing aren't that good either.

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