The Deadline Learning Experience™

My personal deadline for finishing Pigeon has passed. 

 I do not have a completely typed draft.

I didn’t make it.  I’m not done.  I didn’t get to spend my birthday watching Doctor Eleven or the third season of Leverage.

But as usual, I did learn some stuff along the way:

One—  I edit as I go.  Perhaps it’s the OCD in me, but I spent a considerable amount of writing time this past month re-writing what I’d just written, squaring it away before I could bring myself to go on. And even though I didn’t get the whole draft completely done, I think I’m comfortable with that.  It’s just how I roll.

Two—  This isn’t a huge surprise, nor unique, but I spend waaaay too much time checking e-mail, my feed readers, YouTube, etc., when I should be working.  I’ve just downloaded the Freedom program that Victoria Strauss recommends, and I’m going to use it until I’ve typed everything up. 

Three—  Setting a personal deadline is just begging the universe to send me exciting little story ideas to distract me from my goal.  Sometimes I can ignore them.  Sometimes I have to pin them down on paper to make them shut up.  But I can stay focused.

Four—   Having said all this, breaks are essential for me.  I know, or know of, a few writers who claim that they can lock themselves in a room over a long weekend and come out Sunday night with a novel.  But the limit of my productive, consecutive writing time seems to be around four hours.  At that point, I need to stop and stretch, or my imagination cramps up and I end up wasting even more time.

Yesterday, after going at it from 7am to noon, I lost traction and started writing my own version of Dick and Jane Develop Aphasia.  Despite my stubborn protests that I had seven chapters to finish before midnight, my husband convinced me to take a break.  We split a pizza and ate it on the floor while watching the latest Star Trek movie, which I hadn’t seen, yet.*  I felt guilty about it, but only until Leonard McCoy showed up.

And afterwards, I completed one chapter and got a good start on another before the kids came home.  After another break—for Chinese food, birthday pumpkin pie,** and presents—I completed that night.  I didn’t manage seven—but what I did finish wasn’t total crap, or so my First Reader assures me.

Five—  Two hours after midnight, maximum, and I’m useless.  My fingers go numb, my brain misfires, and I doze off, only to find a page filled with ‘g’s and ‘h’s, all touch-typed by my nose, which has an admirable work ethic, but never learned to spell.    Likewise, there is a point where trading diet Pepsi for sleep produces a negative and somewhat surreal return.  Shocking, but true.

Six—  I wrote three times as much under this deadline as I had in the previous month.  So deadlines are a good thing . . .  with some tweaking.

And Seven—  Support, not to mention a certain amount ofconstructive nagging,   is essential.   Thanks to everyone who cheered me on and told me to stop replying to their comments and e-mails of support, already, and get it done.  Without you, I wouldn’t have made it as far as I did. 

***

So, I don’t have a complete draft of Pigeon.

But I’m not ashamed.

Because what I do have are twenty-two typed chapters and the raw wordage to finish the rest, scattered over three notebooks, a couple of envelopes and several e-mail drafts.  It’s all there—I scribbled the final piece at Janie’s softball game this morning and assembled my notes this afternoon.

And a learning experience™ that’s going to help me the next time.

This may not count as a win—but it still counts.

___

*Resisted seeing, actually.  And okay, I’ll admit, it’s good. It’s a little more slap-sticky than I’d like, and it still seems wrong that no one on Earth tried to attack that drill, no matter how powerful the bad guys’ futuristic equipment was—because desperate and futile heroics are the true essence of humanity, as was clearly shown in Independence Day—but I thought it was going to be Star Trek 90120, and it wasn’t.  Plus, you know, Karl Urban.

**I love pumpkin pie.  I love pumpkin everything.