Sunday, February 13, 2011

On Deadline

Every once in a while, a published writer will apologize for not blogging or posting to one of the writers' loops because she's been "on deadline." In other words, she has a deadline to turn in a novel or revisions or a proposal for a new book to her editor or agent. You can hear the "phew!" in their post and see an arm and a head bobbing up to the top of the waves in your mind.

As an unpublished writer who is only responsible for herself for her writing, I've never had the experience of being "on deadline". . . until now.

At the end of last year, when I didn't make my goal of starting to query agents about my WIP and, moreover, wasn't even close when I was honest with myself, I decided that I needed to do something to validate my desire to become a published writer. Since my experience with setting a deadline for querying hadn't worked out very well, I decided on a smaller goal. I would enter the first chapter of my WIP into both the Daphne and Genesis contests.

With that in mind, I joined the American Christian Fiction Writers to get my writing read by someone other than myself. I got lots of critiques, mostly positive, and that encouraged me to go ahead with my plan.

Both contests have similar criteria and similar due dates for submission. The Daphne, given by Kiss of Death Chapter of RWA, requests no more than 5,000 words and a short synopsis of approximately 600 words. The Genesis, given by ACFW, has a limit of fifteen pages plus a one page, single spaced synopsis. The Daphne has a deadline of March 15th; the Genesis has a deadline of March 1st. ACFW recommends you make your submission by February 15th just in case something goes astray in email land. KOD has a limit of how many entries they'll accept.

Last month I set this weekend as my personal deadline for submission. Although February 15th is two days away, I know that I don't do my best work on weeknights after eight hours at the day job. I also had a feeling that the ACFW web site would be jammed with writers trying to submit on that day and I didn't want to be the victim of a web jam.

It was interesting to see the transformation in myself from amateur to serious writer. It's not that I haven't been serious about my writing before, but it hasn't always been my first priority. With a deadline, my office has accumulated a layer of clutter. There are papers strewn on my desk, a stack of new printouts with pen marks, slashes, and "stet" scribbled on them stacked on top of the thesaurus on the tray table next to me. There's another stack of reference books on a cardboard box by my side.

The yard looks awful, with dead plants from lack of watering and the hard freeze we had last week. The kitchen counters need a good going over with Chlorox to remove the paw prints from the cats. I finally pulled out the vacuum a half hour ago and did a half-hearted job of removing some of the accumulated dirt.

And I'm tired. I feel like collapsing in my recliner with my nook and a glass of sherry. But I still have to put the kitchen back together after washing the floor and move the laundry from the washer to the dryer.

And the thing is, I'm not really done with the contests yet. If I should get a good score or, miraculously, final in either one of them, I need to finish up my editing on the rest of the book. There's always the chance an agent or editor will want to see the rest of the manuscript. I wouldn't want to miss that chance by not having it ready to send out.

So what is it like to be "on deadline"? Glorious! It's what I was born to do.
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