Missing the Deadline

Image credit: Mohamed Hassan on Pixabay

I set a deadline for completing the second draft of my novel: I would finish Draft #2 by January 31.

As of today, February 2, I have not finished it. Nor will I be able to do so this week, or probably next week.

In all fairness, I’ve had many things to do this week, primarily work. Still, when I set the deadline, I knew I’d be working, and it seemed reasonable anyway.

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m a huge fan of things like planning, scheduling, and setting deadlines. Having a deadline is what lights a fire under me. Otherwise, I’d meander along life’s path, talking about how I’m going to do this or that “someday”—which, of course, rarely comes.

So why didn’t the deadline work for me this time?

I could point to a number of causes, but probably the main one is the simplest: I failed to plan for delays.

Draft #2 isn’t merely line editing of Draft #1, deleting extra words and adding punctuation. I should have known this. That’s how my first book went: after Draft #1, I identified significant holes that required overhauling a large amount of the book. For example, in that first draft, my narrator was one of two partners in law firm with her best friend. On reading that draft, I realized this could never work, because one of the major issues centered around whether her job was at risk, and her best friend would never kick her out of the firm. So I created an entirely new workplace for her, complete with additional lawyers and new cases so that by the time her job was on the line, it was not only plausible, but inevitable because of the personalities of all involved. In fact, Draft #2 of State v. Claus was a complete rewrite of Draft #1, adding thousands of words with new scenes, new characters, new conflict—and a new resolution.

To a certain extent, Draft #2 of the current book has operated the same way. Draft #1 had gaping holes, both in time and in logic. Important events were alluded to that had never been written. Sometimes, Draft #2 has been simply a matter of adding a brief paragraph creating a smooth transition from one scene to the next; other times, it involves starting almost from scratch to lay groundwork for what will come later. Some scenes from Draft #1 have been pulled out; others have been reworked or moved around. The scenes leading to the ultimate climax have yet to be written—or even imagined beyond a few rough sketches.

I finished Draft #1 on time, i.e., October 15, 2022. Normally, three and one-half months would have been plenty of time to complete Draft #2. This, however, was not a normal three and one-half months. Among other things, most of it fell during the holiday season when I was busy setting up, preparing for, and appearing at holiday markets. Still, I was planning to devote serious time writing over the holidays, and I’d scheduled a nearly-unprecedented two-week break with the intention of spending most of my time on Draft #2. I figured this would make up for the time I’d devoted to the holiday markets instead of the new book. Except then came covid, which meant I spent my two-week break sleeping, reading, and watching (more like sleeping through) television. The recovery has taken much longer than I expected. Even now, seven weeks later, my energy levels haven’t returned to pre-covid levels. Coupled with the resumption of work, chorale rehearsals, and other regularly-scheduled obligations, it’s been a challenge to gather the time and energy to create.

Mind you, the manuscript hasn’t lain fallow all this time. In fact, several scenes were handwritten during lulls at holiday markets. (I probably should have put up a sign: “See the writer writing!”) I have ideas for the remaining gaps in Draft #1. I came close to meeting my goal. I just didn’t get there.

Of course, it’s not as if this deadline was a life-or-death one. Some definitely are, such as a statute of limitations for beginning a lawsuit. If a lawyer fails to get the suit started in time and blows the statute, it’s malpractice per se. Luckily, this wasn’t such a deadline. On the other hand, with a tentative release date of November 2, 2023—a mere nine months away—I don’t have time to dawdle. In addition to the actual writing and my own editing, I’ll need readers and editors to weigh in on both the content and writing, and I need to have the book in decent shape so I don’t waste their time. One well-known author (not disclosing names yet!) promised to provide me with a blurb for the cover, which means I’ll need to have a final draft in plenty of time for this busy person to turn it around. Once the text is final and the blurb has been received, I’ll need to arrange for the cover and interior formatting.

Ideally, these tasks won’t be nearly as grueling as they were for State v. Claus, if only because I have a slightly better idea what I’m doing this time. On the other hand, three years have passed, and people’s lives change. I’m assuming my cover designer and interior formatter will be available, but who knows? In the same way, it’s anybody’s guess whether those who commented and/or edited the last book will want to do it again. So I need to build time into the schedule for all these items, and blowing deadlines for next drafts is not a good way to start.

Yes, I missed the deadline for Draft #2. No, it’s not the end of the world. Yes, I need to finish very soon in order to get back on track. Originally, I planned to finish Draft #2 by January 31 and Draft #3 by February 28. If I push both of those back a couple weeks, the schedule should still work.

And so, I hereby announce my revised deadline for Draft #2:

February 18, 2023

Wish me luck!

Photo credit: Fabien WI on Unsplash

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