Monday, February 21, 2011

A Twelve Step Program for Writers

I was thinking the other day how much harder writing has gotten since I started dealing with the dreaded "D" word. And no, I don't mean divorce, although sometimes the man pushes the limits. I'm talking about a deadline…that one little day marked on the calendar that reminds me every time I look at it how much I haven't written.

Per my contract, I have nine months to write each book in the series. You'd think that would be plenty of time even for a snail writer like me. So why am I in panic mode two months before I have to turn in the manuscript?

It's that damn "P" word. I don't know about you, but for some reason when I know I HAVE to write, I find everything under the sun that has to be done immediately. You know, the important things like the closet that needs organized, the twenty episodes of 48 Hours that need watched, and oh yeah, I can't forget the pictures on my computer that have to be labled and catalogged. I can so relate to the PROCRASTINATING animals who missed the boat.

And yes, my closet looks amazing… all in the name of NOT writing.

So, I sat down and interviewed myself about why I do this, and I thought you might like to hear what I had to say.

Me: So, Liz, is there anything more important to you than your writing?

Procrastinating me: Of course, silly. There's God, grandkids, family, friends, strangers, TV characters, pets, starving children in India, and how many cans of Rotel I have left in my pantry.

Me: So, do you hate writing?

Procrastinating me
: Of course not, you ignoramus. I love writing. Sometimes I can't sleep at night because I'm creating dialogue in my head or planning who will die next in my story. Sometimes, that’s all I can think about even when I’m supposed to be paying attention to the Sunday sermon. (God understands. He has kids!!)

Me: Then why do you wait until the last minute to really get your writing juices flowing? Why do you let yourself get into that crisis?


Procrastinating me: Hi, I'm Liz, and I'm a CRISIS JUNKIE.

Why has it taken me so long to see this? I love feeling the rush of the deadline… love the pressure it puts me under. I do my best work under these conditions. How crazy is that?

Even crazier is that admitting it lifts the weight off my shoulders. Now, instead of worrying that I'm losing my love for writing, I know I'm simply gearing up for the very thing that sends endorphins pulsing through my veins.

My deadline for Book 2 is April 1. As of January 1, I had less than 100 pages written. Every week since then I have written and edited 25 pages. Not a lot to some of you guys who spit out chapters like cherry seeds, but it’s huge for me.

And you know what? I love the story I’m weaving. I have about 30 more pages before I type "the end" with enough time left for an entire month dedicated to editing and beta readers. I won't miss my deadline, but my book won't get to the editor one minute too early.

So, for the past two months while I've been working like a maniac, I’ve sacrificed e-mails, blogging, Facebook, and even my daily Sudoku while I write like a woman possessed.

Thank God I got that stupid closet cleaned out! Now, all I have to do is find time to haul all the junk to Goodwill.

So, tell me – how do you deal with deadlines, either your own or industry-generated ones? Do you need to go to a meeting with me?


Tonya Kappes said...

It's not the writing the initial draft where I drag my feet, it's the edits. I can knock a book out in a couple months, but the edits are like pulling out my eye lashes! So nine months would be hard for me too, but look at it this already have the characters and town:)

Anyways, I make myself sit down with no tv, email, internet, anything until I get those words on the computer. Usually 3k a day.

Liz Lipperman said...

Tonya, that is so weird that we are so different. I absolutely LOVE edits. When my editor sent mine, I had them back to her the next day.

I'm going to take a wild guess here and say you're a pantser. See, that's the thing. You guys spit out the words (3K a day - OMG!!), but then you have to spend more time editing. As a plotter (and I think I probably speak for all of us) it takes more time for the first draft, but the editing is a piece of cake. I guess it all evens out in the wash. (Geez - cliche alert here!!)

Tess said...

Liz, what a wit you have!!!! Good luck, dear!

Vicki Batman said...

Girlfriend, I'm having a hard time thinking of you as Procrastinating Me. The story will be fabulous. So butt in chair and get to work.

Cassy Pickard said...

Liz: I loved your post today. When I was writing my doctoral dissertation we had no dirty laundry, no dust bunnies and the dogs were often walked twice a day. One of my friends in my group confessed to alphabetizing her and her husband's CDs, just in case.... I get it.

I too love the edits. But, like you, I'm a plotter.

Anita Clenney said...

I so needed this today, Liz. I'm in dread deadline mode myself. I was totally panicked about book three's deadline, which is June 30, and I have barely started the manuscript. I've kicked myself so many times for letting all those other things get in the way so that I'm in panic mode. I think I'm a crisis junkie too. It must be something subconsciously causing me to do this. I'm trying to get more structured.

I got lucky on this one. I turned in book two and the editor says it has too much suspense and to revise might push back the pub date. Sounds like a bad thing. Right? But she said it would also push back my pub date on the third book. Hallelujah! They were too close together. (6 months). So I'm taking out some suspense and I'm working so fast that she said we'll probably make the date. I'm thinking, oh crap. Book three is in trouble. Then she says not to worry about book three's deadline, that I can give her a new one after I'm finished with book two. Yay! So, that takes some pressure off, but in the meantime I have to work on getting more structured. And apparently not writing so much suspense. I've discovered that between plotting, writing, revising and editing, I'm not a fast writer.

Liz Lipperman said...

Hey, Tessy, good morning. It;s good to see you here, but where's your confession? Do you need t come to a PA (Procrastinators Anonymous) meeting with me?

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Love this post, Liz! I too love edits. That's the most exciting part for me. It's this damn first draft that kills me. And my deadline is May 1st. I've barely started, but plan to write the whole drive home from Florida to kickstart the book. I always get a ton of writing done in the car, and then I get excited to keep going once I get home.

By the way, I read your first book LIVER LET DIE on the way down to Florida, and OMG I LOVED it!!! So witty and so much fun. Your characters rock, and the mystery was fabulous. I was sure I knew who the killer was, but you totally surprised me in the end.

People are going to love it!

Trust in that and finish book two so I can read that too!!!!

Liz Lipperman said...

Hey, Vicki, you know the story will be good because you helped me plot it!!

Thanks, BTW. It is turning out well. I should be finished by the end of this week...just in time to plot Book 3!!

Liz Lipperman said...

Cassy, that's funny about how clean your house was when you were supposed to be writing your dissertation. As a fellow plotter, I know you get "me".

And for the record, my CDs are organized, too.

Liz Lipperman said...

Anita, I can't wait until Book 1 comes out. I pre-ordered on Amazon. And I love it that you had too much suspense. Most of the time you hear people say they have to add more suspense. Like you, I know you love big plots.

Keep plugging away.

Liz Lipperman said...

OMG, Kari. Will you marry me????
Coming from an author whose writing I love so much, the kind words are even more appreciated.

As for you not knowing who the killer was, I did a blog not too long ago about that - Jenga, I think - anyway, it kills me when people say they knew who the bad guys was before the end. So, yay, I must have done something right.

Leigh Michaels said...

Hey, Liz, when you get round to sending out invitations for the Procrastinators Anonymous meeting, please put me on the list!

I've got three books coming out this year. I wrote the first one just for me, with no contract and no deadline -- and I found myself sneaking away from everything else so I could retreat to 1815 London and The Mistress' House just to see what my characters were up to.

Then I signed a contract to write two more Regency historicals, and suddenly 1815 London was the thing I wanted to escape FROM, not TO. Everything else in the world sounded like more fun than writing. :-(

The funny thing is that each of the three books took just about the same amount of time to actually write. It's just that I drove myself nuts in the process.

Yeah, I'm Leigh and I'm a chronic procrastinator!

Liz Lipperman said...

Leigh, please don't take this wrong, but I find it oddly comforting that someone like you who has--what 80 books?- under your belt still has a problem making their muse put out!!! (Ooh, that sounds naughty!!)

Anyway, thanks for sharing. It is encouraging to know that a procrastinator usually gets the work done, though.

And here's your 24 hour chip!!

Lindsay said...

When I get around to it I'll nominate Liz as the next president of the Procrastinators Club. And Cassy as CD organizer.
Do I have a second?

Mary Martinez said...

Still laughing, Liz. Well I would be if it were not so dang true! I swear you could have been interviewing the procrastinator in me.

Thanks for the post!

Jonispice said...

OMG!! This soooo hits home with me, but then, being my CP, you know this. The first draft is killer for me, like squeezing blood from a finger to write it. However, LOVE editing!

I'm a pantser/plotter hybrid (mostly pantser)and tend to edit as I go. So, along with all the 'organization' and 'sidetracking chores', editing tends to be a procrastination tool for me as well.

I usually start my writing time with a quick read (and edit) of the chapter I'm working on. Sometimes it just goes downhill from there. LOL

Good to know I am not alone in this department...

Liz Lipperman said...

Lindsay, are you a member?

Liz Lipperman said...

Mary, ha ha! I thought you were a cherry pit spitter? I'm really surprised.

Liz Lipperman said...

Oh Joni, you have no idea how hard you'll be working the next few weeks as the chapters come flying your way!!

And that's why I love you so much...misery does love company.

Now get your butt in gear and finish your paranormal. I'm dying to find out how it ends.

Lindsay said...

Very much so a member Liz.

Kris Yankee said...

Great post. No deadlines here, so they're only self-imposed. Both writing and editing are the same to me - I love both. Because of no deadlines, there's a lot of time between writing days, so I tend to edit while I re-read what I'd written before.

Maybe someday I'll have deadlines and feel the same as you all. For now, it's just me and the keyboard. Neither of which are making me feel like I have to finish anything at the moment.

Mary Moreno said...

Ok, Liz, first of all, what is Rotel? Secondly, if it weren't for my procrastination habits, my apartment would never get cleaned!
That said, I believe that deadlines are what keep me productive. I find it difficult to write without them.
And thanks for the entertaining blog. I'm moved to go write something now.

Tiffinie Helmer said...

Hello, my name is Tiffinie and I'm a procrastinator.

Every year I participate in NANO and write 50,000 plus words in a month. Then it takes me the rest of the year to finish and polish that same book. Why? I love deadlines. NANO is a deadline. The stress, the pressure, they are like highs. Creativity sparks through my fingertips like a live wire and words are written so fast that I'm reading them on the computer screen before my brain registers that I've actually written them.

As for my excuses not to write. Currently its Criminal Minds. I'm fascinated on what motivates people, so the show is like candy to me. I never use cleaning to pull myself away from my writing, quite the opposite in fact. But I will use the excuse that my muse needs a green tea frappuccino before I can write.

Great post Liz. Let me know when the meetings are to be held. I’ll bring brownies.

Rochelle Staab said...

Liz, PLEASE save me seat at the next PA meeting. You should see my closet. And my drawers. And how about me lazily spending this lovely early morning blog-commenting instead of writing? Hello guilt, nice to see you again today. Lunch?

I crossed the 70K milestone on Saturday and took Sunday off. Writing this novel one sentence at a time. And literally some days it IS one sentence.

First drafts=not fun. Edits=love them! There must be a bit of Henry Higgens lingering in my psyche.

I have full confidence you'll make your deadline and deliver a brilliant novel, Liz. Meanwhile, loved this post. You inspired me!

Donna Cummings said...

Well, I'm glad to know that it's not just us pantsers who are procrastinators! I love doing the drafting, and the editing is a lot more exhausting. But hey, I can find ways to procrastinate no matter which stage I'm in!

Liz Lipperman said...

Kris, thanks for popping in. You will have deadlines, I promise. How could you not with Christine pushing for you?

And remind us when you post someting new on your blog so we can check it out.

Liz Lipperman said...

Mary, glad I moved you to go clean the house. I swear mine gets really clean when I first start writing, then everything goes to pot when I'm in crisis mode.

And I can't believe you don't know what Rotels is. I use it in just about every recipe that calls for tomato products. It's diced tomatoes with diced chile peppers, and it gives a "bite" to everything. Yum!

Liz Lipperman said...

Ooh, Tiff, I love brownies!!

I am in awe of all you guys who do nano. I've tried, but since I write long hand and I can't seem to turn my internal editor off, I suck at it. I find it interesting that you do it, then perfect what you wrote in the following months.

I guess whatever works for you.

Speaking of brownies, I just got this great recipe. Take a boxed brownie mix and spread half the mixture in a pan. Layer that with some kind of flat chocolate candy (Hershey's, Heath, etc.) then put the other half on top and bake. Another Yum!!

Liz Lipperman said...

I'll definitely save you a seat, Rochelle. Tiff's bringing brownies!!

And look at you go girl - hitting 70 K. You are heading down the road. Since I write so much dialogue and very little descriptive, I don't use computer word count. The last book had 310 pages but right at 70K words.

I'm still waiting to get a peek at your masterpiece.

So, I gauge myself with pages and I have 30 more to go. Woo hoo!!!!!

Liz Lipperman said...

Hey, Donna, I guess procrastination is a disease for all writers. Oh well, guess God made us procrastinators to keep the dust bunny population under control.

Lindsay said...

Tiff or Liz save me some brownies. Please

Tiffinie Helmer said...

Since we're talkin' brownies, here is the easiest, most decadent recipe ever. Box of brownie mix, mixed to the directions, dump a bag of (unwrapped) chocolate Hershey's kisses in and bake. Seriously, best brownies EVER!