Posts Tagged ‘Deadlines’
Posted on January 3, 2012 - by Shannon Vannatter
When I started writing, I just did it. I wrote 6 books without ever attending a writer’s meeting or conference. I’d hear about such things, but think why spend time learning to write when I can just do it?
But it doesn’t work that way. Writers have to learn to write. They have to learn to put what they see or hear in their heads on the paper where the reader can see and hear it too. After I’d been writing for a year or so, I met a fellow writer in the office where I worked, Peggy Stirling. The first thing she asked was if I’d joined a writer’s group.
Peggy wasn’t published, but had won some writing awards, and was related to Catherine Palmer. How cool is that? Peggy even sent my first chapter of my first badly written book to Catherine to see what she thought of it. That makes me shiver now. I really hope Catherine didn’t read it. She sent me a nice letter saying that she’d long ago had to set up a policy of not critiquing other writers simply because she didn’t have time. Last month, I signed with Spencerhill Associates, the same literary agency that represents Catherine Palmer. How cool is that?
Anyway, it took another year or so for me to actually follow Peggy’s advice. By then, I’d had a very badly written book Print on Demand published. My sales were dismal since the book was overpriced and not in stores. I finally took Peggy’s advice. In fact, she went with me to my first writer’s meeting and conference.
I’ve lost touch with Peggy and I have no idea if she knows I got published or not. I did name my hero in my first contracted book (White Roses) after her, Grayson Sterling–a perfect name for a pastor. If not for Peggy, I might still be cranking out badly written, very telling stories—instead of taking my reader along for the ride and showing how the story plays out.
My second profound piece of advice took place years later. I’ve talked about Kaye Dacus and writing my second contracted book (White Doves) before. Once my editor asked if White Roses could be a series, I threw together two one page synopses using Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. With a few changes and tweaks, I had a verbal promise of a three book series. But then I had to expand the synopses into chapter by chapters before the other two contracts could be signed.
I’m a pantser. When I begin a new book, I know the main characters, the beginning, a couple of big issues or problems, the black moment (but not necessarily how to resolve it) and the end. That’s all. I have no idea what will happen in chapter two, eight, or thirteen.
Writing that first chapter by chapter for White Doves was TORTURE. I used the Snowflake Method and eked out every possible thing that could happen with these characters. I expanded a word at a time, a paragraph at a time until finally I had three pages of exactly what would happen in the book I hadn’t written yet.
It was enough and I signed the contract for book two of my series. I then had eight months to write the book. But I already knew what was going to happen in every chapter, what had to happen in every chapter. With no room for creativity or pantsing. And I had a deadline to get it finished.
I couldn’t do it. For the first time, I realized writer’s block was real—not a myth. I tried going for walks, taking bubblebaths, mowing the yard—all things that free my mind and usually get my creativity and ideas flowing. But I couldn’t be creative with the book. I’d already told my editor exactly what would happen.
I attended my monthly writer’s meeting excited when I heard we’d managed to land Kaye Dacus in Little Rock. I think Kaye taught on editing. We’re talking 2009 and I’ve slept a few times since then. What I do remember—I knew Kaye wrote for Barbour which meant she had to write chapter by chapters pre-book.
After her workshop, I asked if she was a pantser or plotter. She said she used to be a pantser, but since she’d learned to write chapter by chapters, she’s part pantser and part plotter. I told her my dilemma. She said she writes her chapter by chapter, then puts it away and writes something else, or reads a book, anything but think about the book she has to write. Once it’s totally off her mind, she writes the book. Then if she gets stuck, she looks at the chapter by chapter to jog her memory.
I followed Kaye’s advice and it worked. Before long, the words were flowing from my fingertips. Since then, I’ve made a point to write my chapter by chapters several months in advance of when I need to turn them in. By the time, the contract is signed, the chapter by chapter is out of my head and I just start writing.
Six chapter by chapters later, my words are still flowing for the most part. Some books have been harder to write than others, but I’ve met all of my deadlines so far. So, if not for Kaye, I might still be stuck with the motherlode of writer’s block and only have one book published.
BTW: The picture is actually the cover of a book. Years ago, when all I had to prove I was a writer was over two-hundred rejection letters, my husband believed in me enough to buy me this nifty little book. The book is in the shape of a cube and is chock full of pictures and prompts to inspire writers.
We’ve discussed this before, but we probably have new readers since then, so here goes: Writers–are you a pantser or plotter?
Posted on December 20, 2011 - by Shannon Vannatter
Every year, my husband wants the tree up early. I’m talking practically Halloween early. I love Christmas. Love my tree, but if it goes up too early, it’s in the way and gets on my nerves. I held him off until the week of Thanksgiving. He brought it in and put it up himself.
But I’m the decorator. I didn’t have the time or the energy this year. I’ve had to really focus on the book I’m writing in order to meet my deadline amidst countless distractions. So the tree sat there for almost a month with no decorations. Thank goodness it’s pre-lit, so it still looked pretty and every night, my husband plugged it up.
I wanted to finish my first draft before my son got out of school for Christmas break. I was on schedule with two and a half days and four thousand words to go. But then he got sick, so I had to keep him out of school. I stayed up until three AM the other morning and finished the book.
It took all my energy and brain power, so now I’m catatonic. But my son and I finally decorated the tree last night. Why bother when it’s only six days before Christmas? For this blog. How could I talk about what we do for Christmas when our tree stood bare?
So about the tree—it’s white. You see, I have matching issues. Green just doesn’t match my house. Two years ago, I saw it. Beautiful, white, pre-lit with multi-colored lights. The lights look pastel against the white branches and I love pastels. I know that red, sage, and gold are the in colors. But I’m a pastel kind of gal even when those colors aren’t ‘in’. But I’m cheap. So I wouldn’t buy the tree.
The next year, I went out to the shed to get our green tree out and to my delight I found the white pre-lit tree. For a few minutes, I couldn’t imagine where it came from. Then I had a vague memory of snapping it up for twelve bucks the day after Christmas the year before. I don’t know how I forgot that. I usually remember when I get a steal of a deal.
Anyway, my living room is mauve, thistle, pale aqua, and off white. Thistle is my favorite color and no one knows what color it is. It used to be in the Crayola coloring box. It’s like a mixture of mauve and lavender. So guess what color my ornaments and decorations are. Yep, they match the living room, plus some gold thrown in just because I love gold.
Other than typical ball ornaments, I have gold ribbons and iridescent nativity scenes, stars, and doves. But remember, I’m cheap. I’ve bought ornaments after Christmas at half of half off for years until I finally got enough to cover the tree to my satisfaction. My son really doesn’t get why we decorate the back of the tree. I even got a gold tree skirt last year for $1.50. It’s so pretty, I almost want to wear it, like Berniece from Designing Women. It’s way too pretty to cover up with gifts.
I try to make our tree reflect what Christmas is really about. Right down to the wrapping paper, which has Bible verses, nativity scenes, or angels which is increasingly hard to find. So each year when I find it, I stock up. And I’m willing to pay full price for it. That way for the years I can’t find it, I’m still set.
There’s only one slight problem. It happened last year. We bought new furniture. I love my pastel flowered couch, which was hard to find since that style is so out of style. But it’s bigger than the furniture we had before and there’s no room for the tree.
We ended up putting it in the dning room and I like it in there. But my dining room is peach and off white. So my ornaments and thistle garland match my living room, but the tree is in the adjoining dining room. I’ve put up with it for two years now. Peach is out or I would’ve hit the stores after Christmas last year. No peach this year either.
By next year, I’ll either have to rearrange the living room to make the tree fit or buy new ornaments. Maybe peach will be in by then. Maybe I subconsciously put off decorating the tree this year because my everything-has-to-match psyche just can’t take it.
As far as traditions, we attend the Trans-Siberian Orchestra each year. It was as awesome as usual. And we put one of their CD’s in the stereo when we decorate the tree, even when we do it six days before Christmas. At some point during our family gatherings and church services, my husband reads The Tale of the Three Trees and he always cries, so others always join him. I love that Christmas is on Sunday this year. It just feels right to be in church on Christmas.
We don’t have any dinners at our house. I do my best not to cook the main meal and so far I’ve gotten away with it. I’m a side dish and dessert kind of gal. Other than the tree, I don’t decorate. I did when we first got married, but I soon realized it’s a pain to store and a pain to put up and take down each year. So the tree is all I do and I’m happy with that. Or I will be once I find some peach ornaments.
I even have shopping left to do and I haven’t done my Christmas cards yet. At least I know what I’m buying for the few remaining gifts I need. I just have to get it done. The Christmas cards have to wait until we get our annual family picture taken. We’re scheduled for that tonight. They’re supposed to be back on Christmas Eve and Christmas is Sunday, so we can pass out cards with our pictures inside at church. Can you say cutting it close?
Maybe next year, I’ll be more ready. With my peach ornaments and Christmas picture taken in November and my cards mailed on December 1st. But I doubt it. I’ll probably fly through by the seat of my pants like I always do.
I threw in the picture of my shoes just for fun. More of my matching issues. I just don’t feel put together unless my shoes match my outfit. In my defense, about half a dozen of my shoes were given to me, several in black. I don’t often buy black. Why get black shoes when you can buy orange, gold, yellow, pink, peach, aqua, and red? And the majority of them were on sale or I had store coupons. Hmm, I wonder if I’ll get any shoes for Christmas?
Do you have all your shopping done? Do you have matching issues, or is it just me?
Posted on December 6, 2011 - by Shannon Vannatter
Our Christmas season is even more stressful and hectic than usual this year. My husband is transitioning from bi-vocational pastor to full time pastor. This transition affects our finances, our lifestyle, and his mental peace. It’s scary to put your finances in the control of a hundred people. Christians are just people. Humans. Our finances are in the control of a hundred humans. Yes, I earn a little with my books now, but publishing is very inconsistent. My income would get us on food stamps fast.
This was our plan. We had some spendable money in savings. Grant needed time off after leaving the dental lab where he’s been a technician for 26 years. We planned for him to have two weeks between his last day at the lab and his first day at the church. Two weeks with spendable money. At the time, since Heartsong Presents was ending in December, I didn’t have any deadlines. We were going to relax, spend some time together, and enjoy ourselves.
We planned a trip to Texas for Thanksgiving. In Rodeo Dust, my hero’s ranch is in Aubrey and he rodeos at the Fort Worth Stockyards. We decided to stop in both places for book signings. It was perfect timing since Aubrey was having Christmas on Main—a festival with booths, crafts, and lots of people milling about. Aubrey’s city secretary got all excited and put my signing in several newspapers. It was during the day, so I could be at Fort Worth that night. Then we’d go on to San Antonio to see family. We wouldn’t have to worry about funds and we’d do some Christmas shopping when we got back.
Reality turned into a mixture of good and bad:
- Heartsong Presents extended the line.
- My car went kaput. The bill $1200.00.
- The booksigning in Fort Worth didn’t come together.
- Grant ended up with three checkless weeks off instead of two.
I’d cried over my two seemingly dead books, so miraculously having them resurrected was a blessing. Suddenly, I had a deadline, plus edits. But I had to work during Grant’s time off.
Our spendable money had dwindled. At least we had the money to get my car fixed, but we had to limp to Aubrey since it had already been in several newspapers that I was coming. We couldn’t afford to go on to San Antonio.
In the two weeks after we got back, we couldn’t Christmas shop or even eat out much.
How it turned out:
It was an awesome day in Aubrey. Nancy Downes, the city secretary had outdone herself with a 4′ by 8′ poster of me and the book. It was much bigger than it looks in the picture. The people treated me like royalty. My signing was in Moms on Main, the restaurant where my characters eat after church in books 2 and 3 of the rodeo series. I got to eat a yummy Philly Cheese Steak sandwich there and see where the peanut festival is held, which is in all three books.
For Rodeo Dust, I’d written blindly, since I’d never been to Aubrey, so Nancy critiqued my scenes to make sure I had Aubrey right. It was great meeting her and the Murrays who own Moms. They bought 30 copies of Rodeo Dust to sell in their restaurant and a small Christian bookstore bought copies also. In the end, I sold 58 books, some at full price and some for resale.
Though I sold books, the trip cost way more than I made. But the research was priceless. Actually being in Aubrey was so worth the trip. I can capture so much more for book 2 and 3 since I’ve actually been there. The Christmas tree decorated with American flags at the top of this post was in Moms. It’s definitely going in book 3.
The family member we were going to see in San Antonio ended up in the hospital during the very time we’d planned to be there for our visit. It would have been nice to be with her in the hospital, but it wouldn’t have been a very good visit. She’s fine, but still tired and sore, so having company would have been an added stress once she got home.
My contact from the Stockyards e-mailed me the week we got back. She’s missed my e-mail, but said I was welcome any time. Oh the irony.
We spent the two and a half weeks after the Texas trip with me working and Grant bored. But every year, our son gets a week out at Thanksgiving. With Grant off work, we got to share it as a family this year. And I worked after they were in bed at night, so I enjoyed the week with them both.
An added bonus, Saturday was the annual Christmas parade where we live. Our church always enters a float.
In 2009, our huge, 8′ by 16′ King James Bible won second place. In 2010, our blue lit city of Bethlehem won 1st place. This year, we had a live nativity in blue lights on one end. An empty cross, Roman soldiers and mourners in the middle with red spotlights. Then a red carpet leading up golden stairs guarded by sword wielding angels at the foot of the throne where Jesus sat. We won first place again. Our prayer is always that we touched souls with our message. The banner along the side of the float said, “Believest thou this?”
Our horizon isn’t any less hectic. Grant went to the church today for his first week as full time pastor. I still have half a book to write by January 16th. I’m trying to get the first draft done by the 20th when our son gets out of school for Christmas break.
- Tonight is our church association pastors and wives dinner.
- Tomorrow night is our ladie’s prayer group Christmas party.
- Wednesday night is church.
- Thursday night, we’re loading up in the church van to drive 45 miles and see a live nativity and city of Bethlehem.
- Friday, my family is going to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas concert. Our 7 year tradition.
- Saturday, my guys are going with the church to Branson to see The Miracle of Christmas. I’m going 45 miles to a book signing I’d already committed to before the church trip came up.
So things aren’t perfect in Arkansas this year. But life is good. We’ve prayed for Grant to go full time at the church for several years and never dreamed it would happen this soon. I have two more books coming out in 2012. We should have more family time since Grant only has one job. And in the end, we have to put our finances, stresses, and peace on God’s shoulders and trust Him to handle it all for us.
Posted on July 19, 2011 - by Shannon Vannatter
1. The dishwasher smells like there’s something plastic on the element, but there’s not. Dishwasher is full of dirty dishes and so is the sink.
2. A water pipe under the house burst.
3. Hubby hit a 8 point buck, smelling up the neighborhood and causing $2600.00 in damage to his truck.
4. Book deadline (Rodeo Hero) – August 1st.
5. Page Proofs deadline (Rodeo Dust) – July 27th.
6. Speaking engagement at writing conference in Springfield, Missouri – July 23rd.
See how everything’s closing in at once?
But I have victory!
1. I still have water and Palmolive.
2. Over the years, hubby has become a master plumber. He fixed the pipe in no time.
3. Hubby didn’t get hurt and we have insurance.
4. I finished Rodeo Hero last night.
5. Tackling Rodeo Dust today. Plan to finish by Friday and I’ll have a few days for final read through of Rodeo Hero before I turn it in.
6. It will be a nice getaway before I tackle the final read through on Rodeo Hero. Two night stay in a hotel, meeting new writers who get me, and I love sharing what I’ve learned with others. Plus the conference set up a signing at Barnes & Noble, so I get to meet readers as well.
My main victory:
“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39)
Posted on August 24, 2010 - by JerriLynn
I remember discussing a phenomenon with other writers a decade or so back that we called the “Suddenly Syndrome.” Your house could have been a wreck for ages, and your errands could have been postponed for weeks, and maybe there had been nothing even remotely interesting on television in the past millennia. And then you get a deadline.
Suddenly, you must clean your house or it’s going to drive you insane. And suddenly, the errands can wait no longer, because if they aren’t done this minute the whole world is going to end. And the television? Why it’s suddenly displaying the most amazing and wonderful of programs…of course you have to watch them, because that’s vital creative input, right?
Suddenly, everything in the world is pressing for your attention and the deadline that’s looming gets more and more daunting with each passing hour.
That’s me to a tee, still today. I suffer from Suddenly Syndrome so badly that my favorite coffee cup says “What Deadline?” And if I don’t guard my time very closely, I can land right on top of a deadline without a single word written.
When I wrote articles, that wasn’t so much of a problem. I can knock out 400-2000 words in a few short hours. But when I started selling books and suddenly a deadline consists of 30-50 pages, that’s a bit more challenging to accomplish in 24 hours or less.
Let me explain that my book deadlines are the non-fiction kind. And non-fiction works a little differently than fiction. With non-fiction books (at least in the technology sector), you’re given incremental deadlines. My most recent project requires that I write 1-3 chapters a week, for a total of a little more than 36 pages. It doesn’t sound terribly daunting, unless of course, you have to write it. Then it’s a whole different story.
To deal with the pressure of getting something written I have to monitor myself pretty closely. It’s nothing for me to spend a few hours a day online researching something. But at some point I have to make myself pull away from the research and get to work.
I’m also prone to fits and starts. I start working on a project but if I can’t sink right into it, I’m up putting in a load of laundry, washing a few dishes, taking the dog out…whatever little something I can do to take me away from the words that won’t flow. Then I’m back in front of the computer, wrestling with the muse.
Self-discipline is hard for me! I wish I could give you some magic formula that would show you how to discipline yourself to sit in front of the computer and put in whatever number of words or pages you have scheduled for that day. I can’t. What works for me is simply the repeated liberal application of my backside to the seat and my fingers to the keyboard. Eventually, the writing brain kicks in and I focus and the words start to flow easily.
It might not work for you. You may require a brisk walk, or a music regimen. Or maybe it’s just sitting down in the right place, whether that’s your office, your favorite writing chair, or a coffee house. Whatever it is, I can be sure of this much…it’s unique to you. Just like my forcing the muse to come out to play is unique to me. Given enough time (and a quickly approaching deadline), and I can force the old girl to cooperate. In fact, that’s usually the only way she’ll join the party.
Posted on March 2, 2010 - by Shannon Vannatter
- Publishers will foam at the mouth over my very first book and want to publish everything I ever write.
- Write when I want to, go shopping, run around, and have fun.
- Future books will flow from my fingertips.
- Teach workshops and help other writers.
- My books will take very little editing, nary a comma out of place.
- Zap out a book in a couple of weeks.
- All books go through three edits and mine will be easy.
- Write nine books in nine years. Sell a three-book series based on one completed book. Within two weeks, come up with two other books based on characters only mentioned in book 1. Despite being a confirmed pantser, write a one-page synopsis and a more detailed chapter by chapter before writing each book.
- Write from 8:30 to 2:30 every weekday during the school year and grab snippets of time whenever possible during summer break, while consistently staying up as late as 2:00 AM, without being tired or grumpy the next day and maintaining fun-mom energy.
- Deadline stress kills creativity. And writing a detailed chapter by chapter gave this pantser writers’ block.
- Attend a workshop by Kaye Dacus, a pantser, and receive advice on getting past synopsis-induced writers’ block that worked. Besides, it was my turn to submit for critique, so I had to write something.
- In the midst of struggling with book 2, receive content review for book 1. Stressed to the max, take one month to rework my timeline and two major story threads, then put it all back together seamlessly so the reader would never know changes had been made. Thank you Lord, my editor approved the changes and the line edit was a snap, but reiterated I still have no clue what to do with a comma.
- Take every nano-second of the entire nine months allotted to finish book 2. The week before deadline, change the black moment and revise very pivotal scenes a half a dozen times. Brenda and Lorna read each version and gave me pointers and advice. Thank you Lord, for my patient critique partners.After taking so long to write book two, I only have four months left to write book three. But in two weeks, I’ve written 17,000 words. At this rate, I can have the first draft finished in a matter of weeks, which leaves me more time to revise and change my black moment a dozen times on the week before I have to turn it in. Thank you God, for letting this book write itself.
- Two weeks before turning in book 2, get an urgent e-mail. Cut 3,000 words from book 1. Even though it was just under the 50,000 word count, it wouldn’t fit on 176 pages. And all Heartsongs are 176 pages or less, so that four of them will fit into the box for book club members.
- Take editor’s advice and combine my chapters. Cut 500 words and mark two beloved scenes to be cut if needed. The longer chapters made fewer breaks and we got to keep my two scenes. Thank you Lord, for my brilliant editor.
- Still not completely finished on book 1, I recently received my first galley proof. It made me cry—in a good way. It’s all set up like a book. My picture, bio, dedication, and acknowledgments are all there. It’s really going to happen. I have until the eleventh to make minor deletions, looking for any typos or mistakes. Then White Roses will go to press and be on sale in two months.
So, what I have I learned?
- With God’s help, I can do this author thing.
- Persistence pays off. If publication is your dream, don’t give up. Keep learning and striving.
- My hat’s off to the writers who have kids, a spouse, and a day job too.
- Writer’s have to be jugglers.
- Deadlines aren’t daunting.
- Chapter by chapter synopses are a handy dandy tool to have if a pantser gets stuck in the middle of a book. For a pantser, that’s like the Fonz admitting he’s wr… wr… wro… wrong.
- Writing as a career is a full-time job and hard work.
- But what a ride!
What about you, done any juggling lately? Do you remember the Fonz? Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Posted on January 5, 2010 - by Shannon Vannatter
It snowed Sunday. In Arkansas.
Every year, the weather man tells us it’s going to snow and everyone scurries to stock up on groceries. If it snows, it often doesn’t reach the central area where we live. Usually, when everybody else in the United States is getting snow, we get rain. We’ve already had two false alarms and lots of rain this year. But by jukies, there’s snow on the ground. Only an inch, mind you, but still snow. And in Arkansas, an inch shuts things down. Every church in town cancelled services, including ours.
The snow kept falling. Hubby and I took our son for walk in the woods. Later, my son and I walked again with my mom. Kids throughout our area got a reprieve. After a two-week Christmas break, no school on Monday.
All this to say, with life slowed down, I’ve had a lot of time to think about my resolutions for 2010. Every year, I make resolutions. I keep some, but don’t beat myself up about it if I fail. As a result, a few of my resolutions are annual favorites.
A. Lose weight and exercise more.
I’ve got my handy-dandy weight watchers charts and food all ready. After reading about a treadmill desk and seeing the price, I enlisted the help of my own eight-year-old McGyver. We rigged a desk on the treadmill I already had, at absolutely no cost, with a shelf I found in the closet and some shoestrings. Okay, this was months ago, and I’ve only used it a few times, but if school ever starts again, I plan to read my daily blogs while treadmilling for an hour on weekdays. Doable.
B. Rely more fully on God.
Since getting a book contract, I definitely rely more fully on God. Doable.
C. Meet my deadlines.
Book 2 in my series is finished. All I have to do is revise, spruce up, and tighten my timeline. Since receiving my content review for book 1, I’ve learned I stink with timelines. I had the timeline all worked out in my head, I just didn’t get it on the paper, leaving the reader lost. I have the month of January to make book 2 shine, with a timeline readers can follow, and turn it in on time. Doable.
Book 3 scares the pants off of me. My deadline is in June and I already finished the chapter by chapter synopsis. Sounds okay, I know the story, and I’ve got six months. Right? Wrong! I have to use January to polish book 2, so I won’t actually begin book 3 until February. Then I’ve got two more edits to go through on book 1, one in January. And I want to have book 3 done by mid-April, so I can put it aside, clear my mind and revise, spruce, and tighten in May, so I can turn it in by June. So, I figure with the other edits still pending and life interruptions, I’ve got February and March to write book 3. Yikes!
I know it’s doable. I wrote a book in three weeks without a synopsis once. But, it’s different knowing I have to write this book by a certain time, and it has to be good. So, what’s a new author to do? Rely more fully on God. Doable.
D. Don’t stress over deadlines and edits.
After reading resolution C, it’s obvious I’ve already failed this one only five days into the New Year. So, what should I do? Rely more fully on God. Ahhh, that’s doable.
Once I gave it to Him, I wrote the first chapter of book 3 a few nights ago. Hmm, anybody see a pattern here? I think all I need is resolution B.
And if any of my editors should happen upon this blog, I’m okay. Really. I have mega help from God. “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.” Phillipians 4:13.