Putting the Dead in Deadline

Limbo: an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition.

We don’t need to discuss the religious or ethnochoreography* definitions. (*the study of dance. Now you’ve learned a new word. Good luck pronouncing it and using it in conversation. How low can you go?)

I am writing, but I have no deadline. Yes, I’m out on submission, a fraught place for any traditionally published writer to be. When Farewell Blues came out a year ago, I was prepared to follow it up with another 1920s-era mystery series. I wrote a proposal for three books and several sample chapters. Alas, my publisher (who had acquired my original publishing company, thus inheriting me) passed, claiming historical mysteries were not selling well enough for them to buy any more at the moment. I got the best kiss-off e-mail. They loved me, loved my work, but business is, indeed, business.

What could I do? Continue to write, of course. But. Very. Slowly. It took me forever to finish the first book, and it’s taking me another forever to write the second. I have a little over 52,000 words, and as I have referenced in past blog posts, I feel mired. Not blocked, exactly, but as no one is holding a poison pen to my head, why worry? Why hurry? Apart from the fact I’m not going to live forever, I can write at my leisure and get the books out whenever if I decide to self-publish.

Which I really, really don’t want to do. So many of my writing friends tout its benefits, but I feel unequal to the task. The writing/editing part is fine; it’s the promotion and distribution angle which defeats me. I’ve been to workshops on algorithms and advertising and keywords and networking and have wanted to run screaming from the room.

So, I’ll continue to peck away anyhow and hope my agent finds a home for the series eventually. I’ve had around 25 books published, which is nothing to sneeze at if I have to rest upon my dubious laurels. I even have a couple of ideas for some Maine mysteries, which I am not allowing myself to explore further until I get through the current swamp. Only 20,000 words to go.

I’m wondering—instead of dawdling, should I set my own deadline? Is Christmas too far away? Halloween is entirely unrealistic. Thanksgiving? Valentine’s Day, just to give myself plenty of time to procrastinate? I need someone to tie me to the desk chair and crack that whip.

If you write, how many words a day do you aim for? Do you work better under pressure? I won’t tell you how many times I woke up at 4 A.M. in college to write a paper for an 8 A.M. class. And yes, my scheduling skills were really deficient. 8 A.M.!!! What was I thinking?

If you’d like to check out my latest amorphous idea, click here. Lady May and the Memoir of Death | Maggie Robinson



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4 Responses to Putting the Dead in Deadline

  1. jselbo says:

    Vagaries of dealing with publishing companies who are making general (and I would bet, faulty) decisions with their pocketbooks. Hate it. And I loved the photos you chose to put with your essay – made me think of the times (do I see them through rose-colored glasses) when publishers made decisions because of the talent/story-sense/point of view of the writer.
    Deadline: here’s one for you. Jan 31. No matter what. That means you can enjoy Christmas morning.

  2. kaitcarson says:

    Maggie, can we start a support group, you and I, and maybe others? I’m in the same boat, needing the pressure of a deadline, not having one, and performing the dosie-do with the thought of self-publishing and all that entails. Still, it’s an exhilarating time to be a writer. We have a plethora of viable options.

    PS – Many of my college papers were completed on the same timeline!

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