Deadlines and Dreams


Fifty-five days ago, I received an email from my agent, the amazing Kate McKean, and in it she offered a deadline. I say offered because the deadline did not have to be met, but if I wanted work to be considered this year, she needed it by 6/1. She is due with her first child in September, and I know the extent to which this impacts your life. I understood that she was doing me a solid, so I got to work. 

For the past fifty-five days I have been working my tail off on the revision of my Work In Progress that I had intended to submit to Kate sometime this summer. We’ve already been through two drafts of this story, and so far I have not succeeded in telling it well.

Before the email,  this revision was already planned as not a tweak of scenes or a hashing out of characters or setting, or an expansion of the conflict. No, this was to be a completely new story. I was to begin from scratch, and so I did. And then 55 days ago, I realized just how fast I was going to need to write.

I estimated that the story would be 280 pages or so. Enough that I could manage, yet also enough for a solid story. Yet, my limitations were stupid. The story had more to say, and in spite of the deadline, I had to listen. If I’ve learned anything about writing over these years, it’s that you cannot force it. The draft I am writing has its own path, and I have to follow it.

So, 350 pages later and this draft is complete. I am not so foolish to believe it is done. In fact I watched an interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates the other day that summarized the situation of writing and being an author very adeptly. To paraphrase: To be a writer you have to accept that what you write is awful. But then have the ability to go back and revise until it’s less than awful, then revise to okay, and then revise to less than good, and hopefully continue to revise until you know it’s good.

I will read through this manuscript over the next few days, tweak what is necessary and then submit to Kate by 6/1, just before my 38th birthday. She might hate it, and then it’s back to the drawing board. Or she might love it. Or most likely, she’ll feel something in between. I’ll count that as a win.

So if I have seemed completely distant for the past seven weeks, this is why. There has been one goal in my life, and that is to finish this novel. I think right about now my wife is less than thrilled with me, my kids wonder why dad keeps talking to himself, and my colleagues might be concerned over my more-than-usual disheveled look. That doesn’t mean any of these things will change, but at least there’s a book that came out of all this 🙂

Going forward, I am preparing to launch Look Past. Some family and friends have already read and have reported what I expected: minds blown. This is yet another book that I had to completely scrap and rewrite from scratch. If you’re on Goodreads and would like to win an Advanced Reader Copy, go here. If you want to wait for the real deal, no worries. But advanced orders are always nice. They make my publisher think we’ve got a winner on our hands. Come fall, I’ll have a lineup of signings and events.

Until then, well, I’ll probably start writing something else, but with much less pressure on me. That is until  it’s this time next year, and I’m a worn out mess from finally getting that manuscript right.

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