I must be an anomaly because I’ve never had a deadline before. Both the books I sold to Baen had already been written. I was given a delivery date for the second, but it was more of a ‘stop tinkering with the ms’ date than a real, sweat-inducing deadline. So this month has been a new experience for me – a real deadline for a book that hadn’t been written. And I had a month to write it in.
I must qualify that last sentence by saying that it’s a short book, but it still had to be written, illustrated, edited, proofed, formatted, blurbed, and into readers’ hands in a month.
How did I get myself into this situation? Well, it started as an idea for an April 1st blog post. It was mid-March and we (BVC) were discussing possible themes. I think it was Sherwood who hit upon the idea of spoof book covers. The idea took off, and I came up with ‘The Noro Diet’ a spoof diet book by Brick Crapper, M.D.
While working on the cover blurb, I was thinking about other books he could have written, and came up with ‘How Possession Can Help You Lose Weight.’ This was quickly promoted from ‘other books by’ to a post of its own. I looked for a cover for it, found a really brilliant over-the-top horror photo, worked on a blurb for it, and realised… I had enough material to actually write the book.
But it had to be written fast. Once the blog post came out, the idea was out there, and someone else could write it. So I enrolled the book in Librarything’s Early Reviewers for April, promising 150 copies of the book to the lucky winners.
I had my first deadline. 30 days to take a cover and an idea, and turn it into a published book.
I must say I really enjoyed the pressure. I’m basically a lazy writer who doesn’t enjoy the actual process of writing. I love coming up with ideas for books, outlining, editing, formatting, doing covers, and the feeling of ‘having written’ a book. But ‘sticking words onto a blank piece of paper’ is often hell for me. I don’t know if it’s a form of writer’s block, but I’ve developed an internal editor that sits on my shoulder tutting and shaking its head whenever I write anything it regards as second rate. Some days it hates everything I write and everything I wrote the day before. Those are the days when anything is preferable to writing. And the older I get, the more of those days I appear to have.
Maybe it was the deadline, maybe it was the subject matter, but I only had one such day writing this book. A little wobble two thirds of the way through when I began to question my ability to hit the deadline. I got round it by spending a day doing something else. I moved up my search for interior art for the book and spent a day trawling through the stock art sites. Again I’m not sure if it was the distraction of doing a different task or the boost of finding some amazing artwork for the book, but, when I returned to writing, everything started flowing again. What had appeared problematic the day before, became simple and fun.
Then, just to throw a little confusion into the process, I received an email from an actress/film producer. She wanted to option the film rights of Resonance. For me, an offer from Hollywood trumps deadlines every day! So I took several days out of my schedule to research both her and film rights contracts. Luckily several BVC authors have had books optioned or worked as screenwriters, so I received a lot of useful information. I can’t announce anything yet, but negotiations have been friendly and fruitful. I doubt I’m going to make much money out of the deal, but this is all a new experience for me, and I want it to succeed.
So, there you have it – a writer’s life – deadlines, distractions, and hope.
How Possession Can Help You Lose Weight comes out next week. Brick Crapper thinks it’s the best thing he’s ever written. It’s certainly the funniest.
Chris Dolley is a NY Times bestselling author living in France with a frightening number of animals. His novelette, What Ho, Automaton! was a finalist for the 2012 WSFA Small Press Award for short fiction. More information about his other work can be found on his BVC bookshelf .
An Unsafe Pair of Hands – a quirky murder mystery set in rural England charting the descent and rise of a detective on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Which will break first? The case, or DCI Shand?
Medium Dead – a fun urban fantasy chronicling the crime fighting adventures of Brenda – a reluctant medium – and Brian – a Vigilante Demon with an impish sense of humour. Think Stephanie Plum with magic and a dash of Carl Hiaasen.
What Ho, Automaton! – Wodehouse Steampunk. Follow the adventures of Reggie Worcester, consulting detective, and his gentleman’s personal gentle-automaton, Reeves. It’s set in an alternative 1903 where an augmented Queen Victoria is still on the throne and automata are a common sight below stairs. Humour, Mystery, Aunts and Zeppelins!
French Fried – the international bestseller – true crime, animals behaving badly and other people’s misfortunes. Imagine A Year in Provence with Miss Marple and Gerald Durrell.
International Kittens of Mystery. If you like a laugh and looking at cute kitten pictures this is the book for you. It’s a glance inside the International Kittens of Mystery – the only organisation on the planet with a plan to deal with a giant ball of wool on a collision course with Earth?
Resonance – “This is one of the most original new science fiction books I have ever read. If it is as big a hit as it deserves, it may well be this book which becomes the standard by which SF stories about … are judged.”