My deadline for this new Luna book isn’t till next year, but I’m writing madly away, focused on getting the book done.
This is strange, because I’m one of those people whose picture you will see in the dictionary next to the definition of “procrastination.” I am a grand champion procrastinator. I have a little spiral notebook that I keep handy where I list my “To Dos” for the day. (Those fancy dayplanner books and Blackberries are too complicated for me. The spiral works just fine.) And I move jobs from day to day to day for weeks on end. It takes an average of two weeks for me to get round to calling for an appointment to get a haircut, for example.
But I don’t do this with the writing. Part of it is the priority thing. I’m fortunate enough that I am able to write full time. It’s my dayjob, so it’s a priority for me. It doesn’t come behind anything but family (and the old dayjob came behind family too.) However, I also think it’s something I learned when I was back in college and in the early years afterward.
First, I learned to write research papers. I had an instructor who broke things up into reasonable bites. I learned to pace myself and do a little bit at a time so that I wasn’t frantically trying to do 3 months worth of work in one week.
And second, which sounds almost contradictory, I learned how to crank the material out. I majored in journalism, and worked on the college newspaper. I’m much happier making stuff up these days, thank you, but I enjoyed gathering the news and writing it up. I’d spend the afternoon running around talking to people, calling them on the phone, or maybe head off to a concert they wanted me to review, then before deadline, I’d rush up to the newsroom, sit down at a typewriter (yeah, I’m that old. We still used typewriters–though we did the copyedits on computer) and bang out the story.
Several years later, I worked on various small-town weekly newspapers. Most weeks, I would have spent two or three days running around town getting the stories, taking notes, and on Wednesday afternoon, I would dash into the newsroom, sit down at the typewriter (and we’re talking REALLY OLD, sucky typewriters) and bang out five or six stories in a row. Some of them would be no more than four or five graphs, but some would be half-page, five-column things.
Applying these things together to the novels I’m writing these days, I know that I can get more than one page in a day, and I know that I have to start early enough that I won’t be frantically rushing to get it done at the last minute. I have friends who can’t seem to do anything else. They’ve tried and tried, and they just work better when they’re on a frantic, last-minute writing binge. This doesn’t work real well for me, though I have come right down to the wire on at least one occasion. Which is why I’m starting so early on my hard push this time. I don’t like that panicky “will I make it?” feeling.